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. 4 – Resolution
Raindrops drummed in an odd, syncopated rhythm upon the roof of the black sedan and flowed in rivulets down the slopes of its windshield and windows. A pair of bottomless grey eyes peered through the driver's window, leveled on the two women huddled in the alley. Despite the deafening growl of thunder and the endless drone of rain, Amon knew of what they whispered in the shadows. He also felt their apprehension, for the very same feeling was slowing weaseling its way into his mind.
Through the ripples of water running down the glass, he saw Robin's head lift up, suddenly alert. When he attempted to reach into her mind once more, Amon was repelled by a violent force that rendered him motionless, thrusting him backwards into the leather car seat.
“Uuungh…” he groaned. A trembling hand flew to his forehead as a fierce ache drowned out all thought. After a few moments, he regained his composure, stealing a pained glance through splayed fingers at the two women. He found a pair of angry emerald eyes glaring out from the alleyway. Fortunately, the fierce gaze was not aimed at him.
Behind the drenched tendrils of tawny hair plastered to her brow, Robin's eyes flitted furiously about her surroundings. She sensed something, a presence somewhere nearby. Tiny hairs bristled on the back of her neck; her skin tingled at the perception. Solomon, Father Juliano in particular, had trained her to detect this type of Craft and she scrambled to remember how to protect herself in such a situation. Walling her mind against intrusion, her eyes probed the alleyway and streets in fury and panic. Livid flames flashed in her eyes as she dug in a deep trench coat pocket for her glasses.
Doujima watched Robin's actions anxiously. Placing a shaky hand on the orbo gun at her hip, she tried to brace herself for a confrontation, but her azure eyes betrayed her contrived confidence. She wasn't sure what had sparked Robin's sudden reaction, but she trusted the witch's intuition more than her own. “Robin, what is it? Is someone here?” she whispered rapidly, glancing around the alleyway frantically.
“I'm not sure… Maybe it's my imagination,” the girl replied, tossing aside a strand of wet copper hair that clung to her glasses, only to have it fall into her eyes again. Thankfully, the rain was dispersing somewhat, allowing for a clearer view of their environment.
Both of the women noticed the black car in the same instant. Robin pursed her lips in a frown, her glare becoming considerably less lethal, as she recognized the familiar figure of Amon behind the wheel.
Doujima gasped when she saw him. She quickly, albeit awkwardly, put away her gun, and began to walk toward the vehicle. Robin put out an arm to stay her, in doubt as to how Amon would respond to meeting Doujima so soon; the blonde scoffed at being restrained, but stayed put.
Amon climbed nonchalantly out of the sedan, his mask of stoicism set firmly in place. He strolled over to the alleyway at a measured gate, undaunted by the wind and rain that thrashed the trench coat wildly about his body. His advance was cool, calm, and collected, as always. The women regarded his approach with unease. “Doujima. Robin…” He greeted them with a slight tilt of his head, his tone impersonal. Steel eyes fastened on each of them in turn, analyzing them, it seemed. Doujima stiffened instinctively as her name passed his lips. A few years of working with Amon had conditioned her well.
“Amon… Have you found anything?” Robin, oblivious that it had been her partner's presence she had sensed, refrained from asking why he'd been spying on them; however disturbing, she knew that was just how he worked on cases.
Amon didn't respond, only flicking his eyes from Robin to Doujima, implying that he'd rather not discuss such matters in front of someone he was disinclined to trust. Robin nodded, understanding his reluctance. She was not quick to put full faith in Doujima, either; the blonde hunter's credibility would have to be reassessed. “Doujima says the other STN-J members survived Factory's destruction…”
He didn't try to feign gladness or surprise, just nodded curtly in reply. Robin detected a hint of distraction in his behavior, but said nothing. Why don't I ever say anything that needs to be said? There were so many things, so many questions, feelings she wanted to communicate. But his expression always halted the words before they came tumbling out of her. Never had she felt so compelled to speak, only to find herself grappling for the words to lay her thoughts before him. And even if she did tell him all her fears, hopes, opinions, or asked all the burning questions that nagged at her mind, then what? He'd just brush her off, take her fumbling statements for a grain of salt. Maybe one day she would just say what she felt needed saying. But not today… Not in front of Doujima. Not under these circumstances.
Doujima, on the other hand, hung back, feeling the obvious tension between the other two. She hadn't been gifted, or cursed, with any powers; she possessed no Craft, unless being lethargic was considered a sign of the Craft. But even without such powers, the silence unsettled her. Deciding to break it, she spoke up. “Sakaki is missing, Amon. Miho and I haven't been able to track his movements, and Michael is unable to search for him. Kosaka is very concerned about Sakaki's whereabouts, and told us to find you and Robin as soon as possible.”
Robin's eyes narrowed in confusion. In an almost accusatory tone, she said, “Michael? What happened to him? You said everyone was all right. And Kosaka… Why is Kosaka--?”
Amon cut her off. “Kosaka was second-in-command to Zaizen. He'd naturally become the leader of STN-J if something were to happen to his superior.” He thought it wiser not to mention how Zaizen had met his fiery end, but glanced briefly at Robin, in whose downcast eyes he detected a hint of self-admonishment. Amon had rarely answered to Kosaka; the lead hunter's orders usually came directly from Zaizen himself. Orders to deter Solomon, to watch Robin, and then to hunt her.
The young witch blinked, surprised by Amon's ill-tempered response to her questions. “Well, what about Michael?” she inquired, her voice dropping to a whisper. Her down-turned eyes and folded, prayerful hands completed her appearance of penitence. Ever since she'd been a small girl in her grandfather's monastery, she'd become accustomed to chastising herself. Over the course of time, Robin had become very sensitive to anyone else's reprimands.
Doujima cleared her throat, again sensing the awkwardness between the partners. “Michael broke several ribs and one of his legs yesterday. He's in the hospital recuperating; he'll be out of commission for a few weeks, the doctor says.” A dismal sigh escaped her lips. Doujima was apparently having to accept more of the workload than she desired to.
Robin's eyes filled with sadness. Poor Michael. The first time he is allowed outside in so long and now he's confined again. A hand dropped heavily onto her drooping shoulder. Her lithe frame jolting at the touch, she peered up through damp tresses to find Amon gazing down at her. It was only for an instant, but she detected a softening of his eyes, reminding her of when he'd helped her escape from STN-J. It seemed like ages ago. So much had happened since then.
But then the fleeting emotion in his eyes was gone, his hand quickly removed from her shoulder, as if nothing had happened. Amon was Amon again, his expression unreadable. He was speaking to Doujima, though Robin only half-heard the conversation. She was still trying to decipher the look he'd given her, the sudden breakdown of his barrier.
Amon regarded Doujima calmly as he spoke. “We hear rumors of hunters roaming the city. Foreign hunters.”
“Yeah, Solomon has sent hunters because they think STN-J has been fallen apart. With Zaizen dead and Factory destroyed, I guess that's a good assumption for them to make, since we haven't contacted them.” She paused, and then lowered her voice, talking as if she were gossiping with her girlfriends and was afraid she'd get caught spreading rumors. “As you know, Solomon's hunters kill witches; they don't capture them. Miho thinks they may be after us as well, since we know so much.”
The rain had at last slowed to a light drizzle. Amon considered Doujima's words as he wiped at some of the wet, black locks of hair that stuck to his face. He had worked briefly in Europe and was well aware of how other STN forces dealt with witches. Unlike Sakaki and Karasuma, killing witches didn't turn his stomach. He knew Doujima had worked for Solomon; she had been, in fact, Solomon's agent within STN-J. Why would eliminating witches bother her in the least? Regardless of what STN squad he'd been assigned to, he'd performed his duties with efficiency; it didn't matter what his objectives were. That is, until Robin had appeared.
“And Sakaki? You said he was missing. Do you have any leads?” Amon asked. Kosaka wasn't the only one bothered by the rookie hunter's disappearance. Whatever happened to Haruto could very likely happen to the rest of them.
“Not really. We'd all been knocked unconscious by the blast. By the time we came to, he was gone.”
“So… How do you know he's still alive?” Amon's voice retained the same calculated tone as before.
Doujima swallowed and her voice was strangely ragged as she spoke. “Karasuma and I saw him. Last night. We were on our way back from the hospital. He… Something's wrong with Sakaki. I don't know what happened to him, but something is definitely different.”
“What did he do?” Robin piped in, emerging from her musings to gaze at Doujima in curiosity.
“Well… He shot at us. As we were driving back to headquarters. And he was using the same bullets that Solomon had used when they hunted you, Robin. It doesn't make sense to me, but I'm worried. We really could use your help.”
Solomon had gotten to Sakaki; Amon was certain of it. The witch-hunting organization was more than capable of doing such a thing, and had shown no previous qualms in turning hunters against one another. As in the case of Kate and Amon. Or Robin and Amon. If the whole of Solomon's forces were set against them, there was no hope left for survival if they were to attempt it alone. The two witches would have to join with STN-J to stay alive.
Robin shifted her gaze from the puddle at her feet to Amon. The rain had stopped at last. The sun began to shine through the thinning clouds, drying up some of the excess moisture. Amon's long black hair was beginning to dry; a few untamed strands flailed in the wind, brushing his cheeks, framing his face in a dark halo of sorts. He was very handsome in the growing light, handsome in an unkempt, wild sort of way. Such a mysterious man, so much knowledge kept buried behind those ancient grey eyes. Eyes that could silence someone in an instant or compel one to speak.
Those same ancient eyes glanced under lowered lids at Robin. Her slender frame was hidden under the bulky fabric of her crimson trench coat. Raindrops glistened on her amber tresses, the sun refracting its light in each droplet and creating prisms, like jewels, in her hair. Her pigtails sagged, soaked thoroughly with rain. Amon felt a sudden, unexplainable urge to protect this girl. She was innocent, despite her Craft, despite having hunted witches. Despite even killing a few hunters. She hadn't asked for the burden which had been placed on her, but she accepted it gracefully. “ Hope ”, her mother had called her. Could Amon let this hope be extinguished? Even not knowing what kind of hope she might bring?
Somewhat stunned by his own thoughts, he came to a conclusion. “There was a hunter who tried to attack me last night. A Craft-user. I'm sure there are more hunters on our trail. We have no other choice but to rejoin STN-J for now.” Amon spoke, looking at Robin, but his tone suggested that he was trying to convince himself that he was making the right decision.
Robin nodded. Doujima's pleas for help were enough for the young witch to decide to join forces with STN-J again, even if Amon had chosen against it. She knew they could not survive in opposition to a concentrated effort by Solomon. It would be suicide to even try.
In her mind's eye, Robin saw a vision of Amon lifting his arms skyward; a barrier enveloped him, similar to the rippling of air from a flame's heat. She treasured this knowledge, this memory. Would he keep his Craft a secret from the others? Would he ever divulge the extent of his powers? She'd finally found something in common with him. He could no longer regard her powers with suspicion, for he himself had become a witch.