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. 5 – “Reflection”
Fiery orange and crimson clouds bled across the expanse of the western horizon. Mirror-windowed skyscrapers reflected the Sun's flaming sphere as it plodded its gradual decent into nothingness. But until the blazing orb set behind Tokyo's steel and glass high-rises, the world would remain immersed in its benevolent, golden glow.
Jade eyes peered out from behind lowered eyelids as twilight slowly approached. Robin rested her pale forehead against the cool glass of the car window while Amon maneuvered the black sedan through rush-hour traffic. Neither of them spoke. Their decision had been made; to discuss matters further would do little to change their predicament.
They'd left it in Doujima's charge to deliver their answer to Kosaka, but, regardless of the blonde's many objections, they did not return to headquarters with her. Instead, Amon explained as he placed Robin's messenger bike in the sedan's trunk, they were returning to Nagira's office. His young partner wondered why there was a need to see Amon's half-brother again. Hadn't they just decided against investigating on their own? Nevertheless, it would be useless to invite the man's annoyance by questioning his intentions.
After a seemingly endless drive through the busy city streets, Amon pulled the vehicle to an abrupt stop at the curb in front of the law-office. The partners climbed out of the car and Amon pressed the buzzer to alert Nagira to their presence. Robin plunged her hands deep into her trench coat pockets and waited silently by the somber hunter's side for the door to open.
The heavy door creaked open, revealing an exhausted and irritable Mika. She pushed them inside and up the stairs, chastising them for their vanishing-act. Nagira did not appear concerned about their long absence in the least as he sat at his desk absent-mindedly checking his text-messages. Perhaps he'd left the job of worrying about them to his secretary as he'd done with almost everything else.
An hour later, Nagira observed while the hunters assembled, stoically, on the office couch. With eyebrows raised in interest, he handed Robin a cup of coffee, which she accepted thankfully. Despite having changed out of her drenched courier outfit upon arrival at the office, she still felt soaked through and through. And something other than the cold rain shower had chilled her to the bone. She cupped the coffee mug in both hands and breathed in the comforting aroma, hoping the familiar warmth would melt away her reservations.
“Gather any new info?” Nagira asked, a lit cigarette wagging from between thin lips as he spoke. He propped his feet up on the coffee table before him and folded his large hands over his stomach, waiting patiently for a response.
Mika hissed as she walked by, smacking him on the head with a manila folder in passing. “Nagira, don't put your feet on the table! You'll get dirt all over it!” she scolded, threatening to bop him with the folder again. Nagira noticeably recoiled from the menacing secretary, removing his feet from the tabletop. “You have a meeting in thirty minutes with Mrs. Masuda, so make sure and look over her case-file again.” The telephone rang and, pursing pouty red lips, she turned in a huff to answer it.
Masuda … A shiver traveled up Robin's spin as the name echoed in her mind, taking her mind off of the decision to return to STN-J, if only for a moment.
Amon's eyes followed Mika until she disappeared behind a cubicle wall. “Apparently, Solomon has dispatched hunters in the Tokyo area. Their opinion seems to be that STN-J has become ineffective against the witch population with the loss of Factory and the orbo supply. We have confirmed that much.” He glanced at Robin momentarily, probing her mind for any reaction. “It also appears one of the STN-J hunters is currently MIA.”
The fire-witch met his gaze, shifting uncomfortably as she swallowed a mouthful of coffee. She had not yet resigned herself to believing Sakaki had betrayed STN-J. To her recollection, the rookie hunter had never shown signs of being a Solomon sympathizer or operative. But, then again, neither had she.
Nagira nodded slowly. The information concurred with what he'd bribed out of his Walled City informant. “What about this missing hunter?” With Solomon's hunters prowling around Tokyo, the two witches may have to hide elsewhere. Nagira was steadfast in his protection of the Seeds and witches under his supervision; he didn't want his half-brother and the girl compromising the safety of his clients. The lawyer felt he'd already brought enough attention on himself by aiding STN-J at Factory.
“We don't have enough information yet to determine what happened to him, but we have an idea.” Amon left it at that. As much as he trusted Nagira, he deemed it wise to keep the most sensitive intelligence close to the vest.
Robin sipped her coffee and considered the guiltless individuals whose lives had been manipulated or ruined by Solomon. Some of those people had become her friends; others had treated her like she was family. She would not forgive the murderers of innocent witches and Seeds.
Yet, memories from a few months before appeared before her. Something the Inquisitor had hinted at in their last conversation. “You seem to have finally awoken as well... The pleasures of using the Craft.” Those words had disturbed her, had forced her to question her own motives over and over again. But now Solomon had shown its true nature. It no longer mattered what the Inquisitor or her grandfather thought of her actions. And even if the Church backed Solomon's directives, Robin would not yield in her fight to protect the countless innocents the organization threatened to eliminate.
An ash fell from Nagira's drooping cigarette to his shirt. He flinched as it seared a hole in the fabric and he frantically patted his chest to extinguish the tiny ember. Clearing his throat as Amon and Robin eyed him, he straightened and asked the question whose answer plagued Robin the most. “What are your plans now?”
A moment of silence passed until Robin looked up from the coffee swirling in her cup. Her emerald eyes held an aura of resignation, as if it were painful to speak the required response. “We are returning to STN-J, Nagira. Solomon is killing innocent witches and Seeds and we must put a stop to it,” Robin explained quietly. She placed the coffee mug on the table and folded her slim hands in the rumpled, linen skirt of her black dress. Why should she be having second thoughts? She trusted Doujima and the others. And Amon would be with her.
Amon glanced from Robin to Nagira, adding, “We'll stay here for tonight and return to headquarters tomorrow morning.”
The doorbell buzzed, followed quickly by Mika's exasperated voice complaining, “I swear, if it weren't for me, nothing would get done around here.” A door swung open and slammed shut; after a moment it reopened and Nagira's secretary escorted a weary-eyed woman into the law-office. The stout woman hugged her purse protectively to her chest, glancing anxiously about the room. “Mrs. Masuda, Mr. Nagira will see you right away,” Mika said, casting an impatient look at her boss. Mrs. Masuda eyed Amon and Robin nervously for an instant and then followed the secretary into a small, private conference room.
Masuda… Could she be…? Amon remembered clearly the heresy inquisition conducted by Koushon. He had witnessed other inquiries, but Masuda's response to the questions asked had been the most violent in recent memory. Masuda's Craft had been powerful. Powerful enough to pique Solomon's interest. Was that why he wasn't on STN-J's list, because Solomon wanted to use him? It was plausible, given Solomon's manipulation of hunters and craft-users in the past. But, why was Nagira meeting with this woman? Amon turned to Robin, knowing that she recognized the name as well. The girl would undoubtedly be concerned about a connection, since she'd reduced Masuda to embers shortly after the inquisition. It had not been a pleasant experience for anyone involved, Amon recalled. He'd felt keenly enough the crushing effects of Masuda's Craft.
“Robin,” Amon murmured as Nagira left to attend to his client. Frightened green eyes met his. A liquid gleam shone from beneath her lowered lashes as she broke eye contact a brief second later. Setting his jaw, he stood up from the couch and offered an outstretched hand to the girl. It would be best if she didn't encounter Nagira's customer. Even if the woman had no connection to Masuda Shiro.
The fair-haired witch placed a slender, pallid hand hesitantly inside Amon's, her cheeks blushing faintly. She was suddenly profusely glad that he was here with her. She didn't expect any form of comfort from the brooding hunter, but just the cool touch of his hand was enough to steady her fraying nerves.
He gripped her hand firmly in his, careful not to squeeze too tightly. She had always seemed fragile. Certainly not the type to be a hunter, even if she'd been bred precisely for that occupation. Despite having proven her worth in the hunt countless times, despite her strength in times of danger, it was hard to think of her as anything more than a child. Amon led her to the room she had claimed as her own, closing the door behind them. Perhaps it had been that very same youthfulness and naïveté that made him feel protective of her. Or maybe it was because now he was just like her, at least in Solomon's eyes. He was a witch and deserved the same fate as Robin, the same fate as all witches who openly displayed their Craft. It seemed only that they were delaying the inevitable. But neither Amon nor Robin was willing to give up so easily.
“Amon, is that woman…?” Robin's timid voice trailed off, her eyes glistening with mixed emotions. The thought of confronting someone close to one of the witches she'd hunted…no, it was too much to bear. How could she explain or justify her actions to Mrs. Masuda? Closing her eyes, she pressed her back against one of the coarse, concrete walls of the room and slid down to the floor, pulling her knees up to her chin.
Amon leaned against the door, arms folded across his chest. He stared up through the window at the darkening sky, seeing the first stars as they peeked down at Earth from the vastness of space. “I don't know, Robin,” he replied, continuing to pierce the heavens with a slate-grey gaze. He could delve into Mrs. Masuda's mind if he tried, but his conscience prevented him from doing so. He found it odd that he couldn't bring himself to look into a complete stranger's mind, but he had often attempted to reach into Robin's. Why did he justify one and not the other?
Robin followed Amon's line of vision, glancing up at the growing darkness. She squinted at the stars, recognizing the familiar shape of Orion, her favorite constellation. The Great Hunter. Father Colegui had once explained to her the significance of Orion, though she could no longer recall his lecture on the subject. All she knew was that she desired to have the strength of the Hunter, to be able to withstand whatever trials may come to pass. Sighing, she looked down at the cement floor and began repeatedly tracing onto its rough surface with a thin finger the shape of an Ogham.
Duir… Amon identified the rune quickly, years of training from Solomon kicking in. He had been somewhat of a skeptic in his early years as a hunter, brushing off the idea that witches could magnify their powers with such a simple act as writing a few symbols. But he'd later seen the effects of what just one rune could do. A sudden alarm at what Robin might be doing struck him. He strode over and knelt down beside her to observe her actions more closely.
The girl's white face turned up to meet him as Amon took a seat next to her. She abruptly stopped drawing the rune when she saw his expression, glad that the shadows obscured the flush of red embarrassment on her cheeks. Hesitantly, she opened her mouth to speak, but a finger flew to Amon's lips to silence her.
A noise… Had it been his imagination? No, his senses were too well-tuned for him to be imagining the sound, he told himself.
Thud…shuffle…thud… Again, there it was. The sound of footsteps on concrete. But where was it coming from?
An unspoken question emanated from Robin's widening eyes, but she continued to silently survey her partner. Amon appeared to be listening intently to something she couldn't hear, which further aroused her curiosity.
Then, as suddenly as Amon had been alerted to the noise, the skylight window shattered with a loud crack. Robin cried out as a shower of broken glass rained down to the floor and the two witches raised their arms to shield themselves from the falling shards.
Tiny fragments of glass bounced off of the trench coat Amon had quickly pulled over their heads as a makeshift shelter. It was pitch black under the improvised refuge and he peered through the darkness, realizing he was centimeters from the girl's face. He could feel her breath on his cheek and hear the quickened pounding of her heart.
He lingered there a minute. Two minutes. Listening for any additional noises, Amon slowly lowered the trench coat and backed away hesitantly.
All that remained were stillness and tension. There were no sounds but the unsteady breaths of Robin as she allowed her eyes to travel to the wall behind her.
There, scarcely two inches from her head with a thin trace of smoke still hovering around it, was a bullet hole.
It was an obvious warning. As clear as the bullet that now lay embedded in the cinder block wall.
They were being hunted.
A/N: In reference to my use of the Ogham “Duir” and the constellation of Orion in this chapter, I'll say that my knowledge is limited. Although I have done some previous research on Celtic, Greco-Roman, and Egyptian mythology, I am by no means an expert. My knowledge of Celtic customs/festivals is mostly restricted to having read several of Marion Zimmer-Bradley's books, so, needless to say, I had to do a bit of digging so that I could represent these aspects correctly. Of course, I have chosen them with somewhat of an ulterior motive, and I suppose it is only fair for me to give an explanation for each. The following should clarify their usage for those readers who may be confused.
Orion— the constellation of the Great Hunter. The Greek name for the same constellation that was called “the Stag” by Hindus, “the Strong One” by ancient Arabians, and “the Giant” by Hebrews. In ancient China, Orion was part of a larger constellation called “the White Tiger”. The most common Greek myth about Orion is that he was a warrior who claimed that he could be defeated by no animal. The Greek Goddess of Earth, Gaea, sent Scorpius (the constellation Scorpio) to defeat Orion for his boastful statements. Scorpius stung Orion, defeating him, but in honor of the battle, they were both placed in the heavens at opposite ends of the sky so that they would never again encounter. Orion was also considered to be the constellation of the Egyptian and Phoenician Sun-gods. The name of Egypt's Sun-god was Amon-Ra.
Duir —the Ogham for “Oak”. It resembles this: ¦. It is a sign of strength and endurance, and also the symbol that reveals truth in a very cruel manner. It bestows the power to overcome all tests. Oak trees were considered by the Celtic Druids to be sacred for their durability and strength, as well as many other reasons. The god of this Ogham is Lugh, the Celtic god of the Sun and of Light. Lugh is also the god of Thunder. Robin uses this symbol more so to comfort herself than to enhance her Craft.
I hope these explanations helped! :-) For the sources from which I gleaned this information, give me an e-mail. Apparently ff.net won't let me post the addresses in my story…either that, or something screwy is going on.