Seeing Red 8

Aoshi’s theatrical announcement that a woman was what held the ghost in the living world failed to make much of an impression on Hajime. And perhaps Aoshi was a little disappointed that he didn’t gasp and draw back, wide-eyed, in response, but when Hajime instead asked, “What does she look like?” he answered calmly enough:

“A beautiful Japanese woman. It was more a general sense than a visual. I believe she’s in her mid-twenties. She may be a mother. He wants to go to her, and it’s clear he won’t be free until he does.”

“Why doesn’t he just do it, then?” wondered Sano in frustration. “Where do I come in?”

“She probably can’t see ghosts,” Hajime reminded him. “Maybe you were the first person he ran into who could tell he was there.” Though he had to think there was more to it than that.

Sano apparently did too, for he glanced at the ghost with a pensive scowl. Interestingly, it had started drifting around the young man again as soon as Aoshi fainted; Hajime wondered what had been holding it before.

Finally Sano said, “But if he’s so mad at this woman, why doesn’t he go do the usual thing? Give her headaches and make her pissed at the whole world and all that?”

Hajime rolled his eyes. “Because he’s not just a shade, idiot. Most people want the people they’re angry at to know why they’re angry.”

“She probably killed him,” Sano said, and, in the midst of the ire he was suddenly giving off at being called an idiot, it was difficult to tell whether or not he was serious. “In which case I’m sure she’d know why he’s mad.”

“Maybe,” Hajime pondered, “because you’re so good at getting angry, he thinks you’ll be willing to carry out his revenge for him.”

“Well, he’s got another think coming, in that case.”

Aoshi, who had been sipping his coffee in silence through this exchange, finally said, “We’ll never be able to communicate with him as long as he’s so violently angry. At least some of that intense shade has to be cleared up first. And obviously this mysterious woman is the key.”

There was a rare edge to his tone, a sharp indicator of continued interest and some of the dangerous disappointment Hajime had idly predicted earlier. The statement had also been something of a command: Aoshi wanted to talk to the ghost even more than Hajime did, and at this point was essentially ordering Hajime and Sano to find the mysterious woman and get the dead man’s anger dealt with. Reminding himself of Sano as he did so, Hajime bristled at this. Unlike Sano would have, however, he didn’t let it show. The ghost had to be dealt with one way or another, after all, and finding the woman and dispelling the shade energy seemed the logical next step.

“If we do manage to find this anchor of his,” he told Aoshi, “the result will probably be him moving on. I can’t promise you’re going to be able to talk to him.”

Aoshi fixed him with a piercing stare in which were all the same emotions and concepts contained in his earlier tone. “What you can promise,” he said, “is to relay anything you learn from him to me.”

Hajime stifled a sigh. It was true they had new information and a new avenue to follow, but he almost regretted bringing the ghost here. Aoshi was a trifle obsessive, and wasn’t going to let this drop until he’d either learned something interesting or been incontrovertibly convinced that he wouldn’t be able to. Still, it wasn’t as if Hajime didn’t understand the desire, even if it wasn’t the first ghost Aoshi had ever met. After all, he, too, was determined to get answers out of the dead man… and there would certainly be no harm in passing those answers along to someone that had assisted him. “Of course,” he said. “Anything else you can tell us that might help us?”

Aoshi shook his head.

“Hang on…” Sano was obviously a little confused. “Are we going after this woman? Is that the idea here?”

Hajime stood. “That’s the idea here,” he confirmed. “Thank you for your help, Aoshi.”

Aoshi nodded.

Sano rose, face set in a scowl of annoyance and lack of understanding. “But how the hell are we supposed to know where to even start looking for her? She could be anyone, anywhere — she could be in Japan for all we know!”

Hajime didn’t bother answering the question or pointing out how unlikely it seemed that the woman was in Japan. He just turned away from Aoshi’s desk and moved toward the door, saying, “Do you want to be haunted forever? This is the next step to dealing with your friend, so come on.”

“But if we find the woman, this ghost is probably going to start doing horrible things to her with his stupid shade, and she’ll suffer, and it’ll be our fault.”

It was interesting to find Sano evidently so interested in the situation itself, and the anonymous people involved, beyond merely as it affected him. There were a number of ways Hajime could have responded to his protest, and most of them would probably have to be brought up eventually in any case, but the one he chose at the moment was, “Didn’t you say you thought she killed him?”

“I was joking!”

As they passed across the open space where Aoshi had made the best contact with the ghost of any of them thus far, Hajime glanced down to where the previously-unidentifiable object had fallen to the floor when the medium had fainted. On sight of the slightly tapering surgical steel handle and small detachable blade, he nodded slightly; that made sense.

Outside Aoshi’s office and the little hallway that led to it, they were immediately the subject of scrutiny of every eye in the place. It was clear that the cashier had been gossiping to the other customers about who was in the boss’s office right now, and the effect certainly wasn’t lessened by Sano’s saying, as they walked out of the room, “I don’t want to just sic this angry ghost out of the blue on some innocent woman!” This statement would surely be enough to pique the interest of anyone that overheard it — and, by the looks of it, most of them had.

Even if Hajime had been planning another round of posing, equivocal ghost-talk, however, Sano wasn’t having it this time. He said clearly, “Heel!” and then… well, Hajime hadn’t been expecting it and didn’t quite catch what he did. But in response the ghost moved quickly over to Sano and followed beside and behind him — indeed, very like a dog coming to heel — as Sano, scowling faintly, stalked out of the store. Hajime, fighting not to look startled and immensely curious, hastened to follow.

Outside, Sano took several steps away from the shop entrance before he stopped walking and turned to face Hajime. Whatever hold he had on the ghost he did not release — it maintained its motionless position at his side — and Hajime realized that Sano must have been doing this before whenever the ghost had seemed unaccountably still. Moreover, it probably meant he deliberately hadn’t been doing it while Hajime had been looking silly following the ghost back and forth and back and forth through his living room on Saturday. Brat.

But at the moment Hajime was more interested in how Sano was doing it than why he’d neglected it two days ago. This undoubtedly answered the question of why Sano’s anger had been so steadily rising in Aoshi’s office: whatever method he was using to hold the ghost still probably siphoned shade energy off into him, more gradually than if he were purposefully absorbing it but eventually to the same effect.

“So where are we going to start looking for our mystery lady?” Despite the fact that Sano had asked the question relatively calmly, Hajime could easily see and sense that he was still annoyed in general; the young man could probably do with releasing some anger.

So in a tone skeptically derisive Hajime asked, “You really can’t think of a single idea?”

Sano flared and scowled, but instead of an irate retort he gave a surprisingly frank answer. “No! Unless by some weird coincidence she happens to go to my school and I run into her and ghostie-guy here reacts, I have no way of finding some random woman I don’t even have a name or description for! She’s Japanese? How’s that supposed to help? You know what kind of Asian population this city has! I mean, look at us — we were three Japanese guys in one room there; four, if you count him–” he jabbed a thumb toward the ghost– “pretty much just by coincidence! What are we supposed to do, just walk the Asian district until some woman comes running out and says, ‘Hey, is that my ghost that I lost?'”

The unspoken but overwhelming complaint behind this rant was, “I’m going to have to deal with this ghost forever. The one way to get rid of him seems impossible, and he’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life.” Hajime honestly felt sorry for him, and couldn’t help giving him a less condescending smile than usual.

“Fortunately,” he said, “I do have an idea.”

The startled, open, hopeful look Sano gave him was rather gratifying. “What is it?”

“First, tell me how you’re forcing the ghost to hold still.”

Now Sano appeared a bit surprised, as if he’d forgotten he was doing it at all. “Oh, uh…” He raised a hand and gestured. “I just sort of… reach in there… same as how I reach to absorb the shade… only instead of doing that…” He twisted his hand as if he were wrapping a mass of something malleable around it and drawing it back toward him. “It sort of opens a channel for the shade energy again, so it’s a pain in the ass to keep doing it… but at least I can keep him from bugging other people that way.”

Hajime nodded slowly. “You do realize that exercising any type of control over a shade like that is conjuration.” That is to say, a totally different area of necrovisual magic than the one Sano claimed solely to be skilled in.

“Yeah, I guess it is.” Now Sano’s tone was equal parts pensive and indifferent, as if this might be a good deal more interesting later when he wasn’t as concerned with how they were going to get rid of the ghost that had been haunting him for weeks. “So what’s your idea?”

At this moment, a couple of customers emerged from Forest of Four. One of them elbowed the other and made what he probably thought was a surreptitious gesture toward Hajime and Sano. A few seconds longer and they would assuredly walk in this direction.

“Let’s go,” Hajime murmured. “It’s too early for lunch, but I wouldn’t mind some coffee.” The smell in Aoshi’s office had been suggestively pleasant, even if Aoshi did take his coffee with insane amounts of bizarrely-flavored additives.

Sano, who had also observed the gawkers at the shop’s door, nodded.

“And I need to make a phone call,” Hajime added.

Previous (Part 7) | Chapter Index | Next (Part 9)

8 thoughts on “Seeing Red 8

  1. Ooo Ooo Ooo!

    So, my biggest question is: what’s up with that Xact-o knife?

    I think it’s cool both that Sano has some other powers, and that he’s not overly concerned about them. Also, that Hajime wasn’t able to pick up on those powers (though, to be frank, i kind of forget what Hajime’s magical bag is XDDD)

    I do which Sano had blurted something along the lines of “Being as I’m gay and totally have the secret hots for you, I wouldn’t know where to find a lady” which would have totally blown that wide open for both of them, instead of the “he probably heard my thoughts, but, being thoughts, we can both happily ignore how sexy I think Hajime’s voice is” and get on to the pining. OH, pining!

    Finally, I think it would be fabulous if Heero’s mother ended up being the woman in question…except that that might not work time/age-wise.

    The plot thickens.

    1. You know, I had originally intended to provide an explanation later for the knife, but the way things have worked out it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, so I will just explain it here. A big part of magic is psychology: things work because you believe they work, pentagrams have magical significance because people believe they do, and that sort of thing. So Aoshi was using something that signifies “cutting through” to enhance his effort at getting through the
      shade energy to the ghost underneath. Essentially it was a symbol that created real power.

      Hajime’s primary talent is communication magic, but he’s chosen to go into necrovisua instead and therefore only has rudimentary communication magic skills. We’ll get more into that later. And as for Sano… what is Sano? We’ll get more into that later too :D

      Though one thing that I’ll tell you Sano is right now: bisexual. He can find the ladies! He can find all the ladies!! But of course when Hajime is around, who could think of ladies??

      Maybe Heero’s parents will make a cameo appearance at some point :D Probably not, though. I had originally intended Mariemaia to have a cameo, but that also seems to have been worked right out of the story XD I guess I’ll just have to wait until people properly meet each other later to have teh interactions.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      1. The symbols make sense, then, with that description. it’s sad reading how powerless symbols have become…or rather, how often everything is just spelled out instead of using a clever symbol (I know I am guilty of enjoying Cliffs Notes Life). You know, how like back in The Day in China, you’d get executed for wearing certain shades of yellow (or purple? or both?) because it was a royal color. That’s pretty gross example and one that I think the average joe could still hear and be like “oh, yeah, I’ve heard/read/seen something about that.”

        Sano Sano Sano. Personally, I prefer Sano to Hajime (don’t strike me down for blasphemy!) Hajime’s character design is just so…severe. And, honestly, I have to wonder about those…antennae-like bangs hanging down in front of his face. Was there something in the actual series that made them seem like a good ship? Based on pictures, I’d be more inclined towards Aoshi/Sano but sometimes, their backstory/circumstances is/are all it takes to make one pairing sound ridiculous and another totally work.

        1. I had not heard about people being executed for wearing certain colors, but it doesn’t surprise me at all :D

          Oh, god, Sano and Saitou in canon. I can’t even express how much they seem like a good couple, though of course it’s all about personal preference :D But Saitou and Sano are the perfect fighting couple… the type that seems like they’re never getting along, but underneath all their apparent antagonism have a deep respect for and interest in each other.

          Sano has this driving desire to prove himself to Saitou and get the better of him, and he’s the only one that seems able to get under Saitou’s skin… to get through Saitou’s aloof sarcasm and force an emotional reaction. And then they have some of the most beautiful moments… like when Saitou volunteers to take Sano’s place in a dangerous one-on-one battle, and the very emotional way Sano reacts when he believes Saitou has died (and then when he meets him again later and discovers he hasn’t).

          Yes, Saitou’s bangs are a little silly, and very unattractive to a lot of people at first glance (though those of us steeped in love of him and him with Sano think they make for the Best Hairstyle Ever). They’re not much sillier than Aoshi’s coat, though, and definitely not as silly as Hiko’s mantle, Mumyoi’s tongue, or Fuji.

          Sano and Aoshi are an OK couple. Of course my opinion is skewed by my MASSIVE preference for Sano and Saitou, but I can accept Sano and Aoshi if Saitou’s not around. Aoshi has some of the most interesting emotional hangups in the RK canon, and that always makes it fun to pair him with people. I prefer him with Soujirou, who will not be appearing in this story (though just thinking about him makes me wonder where he is and what he’s up to in this world), or even with Kenshin. I do actually have a story going about Aoshi and Sano, but whether I will ever finish it is highly doubtful.

          1. Oh, yes, fandom forgives hair. I have no idea whoever approved not one, but TWO central figures in GW having ungodly long hair, but there it is. Bones for fans to pick? I don’t know.

            Actually, I have never seen/read anything RK. It was one of those series, along with Utena and Magic Knights, that were among that pioneering wave of Japanime that came over to America that was more accessible than the late-night WTFery of more art-house anime (Akira being the absolute MOST comprehensible of that lot I recall from the Sci Fi channel…it all LOOKED great, but didn’t seem at all coherent to me in my young teenage years…not like…MOON PRINCESSES at least) I never got into those after Sailor Moon (which I love, but never got into the fandom for) and GW (which was the exact opposite, I got into the fandom, but only recently started actually making an effort to KNOW it in the biblical sense XDDD)

            WHich makes me feel sad talking to other fans of GW and SM and all that, because it seems far more common for them to have trolled around for ALL kinds of anime, where I just enjoyed the stories I enjoyed and was content. *sigh*

            Ahh, the good old days of anime.

            1. Gundam Wing hair… I laugh aloud just thinking about it… because there’s not just the ungodly long, but the vision-obscuring, the gravity-defying, and the WTF was Hilde thinking ever taking that hat off. Hair and uniform porn… that’s what GW is, beginning to end. AND WE ALL LOVE IT.

              Shoujo Kakumei Utena is one of the best series ever of all time ever. Of course it doesn’t have Saitou, but it does have mad symbolism and depth. Definitely, definitely worth watching.

              That said, I too haven’t seen a large number of anime series. For one thing, I like manga about a million times better, and for another, I prefer rereading things I already like to plowing through things I don’t know XD Like everyone else, though, I am fond of BSSM. As a matter of fact, I’ve got all the eight million soundtracks in my current playlist, and a lovely Uranus/Neptune theme is playing right now ^__^

              The Rurouni Kenshin manga is quite good. It has action, drama, Saitou, cool psychological conflicts, Saitou, preposterous martial arts, Saitou, and the potential for Saitou and Sano to be madly in love. I believe it will always be my favorite series :D

  2. LOLLLL I always enjoy how you write their dynamic!! Particularly in this part, I liked how Saito recognized Sano could control the ghost’s movements and is annoyed he didn’t bother doing that when they were at his place. They just love needling at each other, don’t they? But frick, we love it when they do too, so… :D

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