Trowa had been casting spells on an axe all day, but, though slowly feeling his way back toward the level of divination skill he’d had before, he was almost ready to declare this particular endeavor a lost cause and a waste of time. Just like yesterday’s examination of the broken pieces of the artifact.

He’d been sure the tool would be able to tell him something if he could just get the divinations to work, since the energy must have traveled up the haft from the artifact to get to Quatre. But whether his own limited divination abilities were, as they often had in the past, barring him from getting answers, or whether he was encountering interference produced by the protective spells he’d cast on the axe to keep any potential discharge of energy from harming Quatre on the artifact’s destruction, or whether he was simply on the wrong track and there were no answers to be found here, he didn’t know.

In the face of his total lack of success thus far, his thoughts kept returning to Heero’s suggestion that this might be a necrovisual issue. The very fact that the energy involved was perceptible to the completely non-necrovisual Trowa and Duo seemed to contraindicate this avenue of research, but different branches of magic could coincide to create complicated problems, and Quatre’s symptoms were very similar to those of red shade possession.

Necrovisua was the branch of magic Trowa had least investigated over the years. As a matter of fact, having no skill in it himself and having been aware that the curse he’d laid on Duo did not partake of it, he’d almost completely ignored it. Never having encountered a situation in which he would need necrovisual magic, he hadn’t even added anyone to his list of contacts whose primary talent lay in that area. If Quatre did turn out to have some kind of red shade that somehow resembled artifact energy, Trowa wasn’t entirely sure what he would do about it.

Well, actually, that was incredibly obvious: he would need to email his contacts to find out which of them had necrovisual skill, whether any of them had heard of a condition like this, and whom they would suggest to help remedy it. At least one of these questions, Trowa reflected, was something he should already have emailed them about. He didn’t really believe Heero’s theory, didn’t think this was a necrovisual problem… but it was a theory, which was more than he had. Heero had relayed it on Sunday night. And now it was Tuesday afternoon. Trowa should have set inquiries in motion long before this.

But he hadn’t emailed anyone yet. In his inbox, full as it always was of requests for assistance and magical insight, there were even several messages to which he could easily respond with a casual return request for information on the one branch of magic he wasn’t intimately familiar with. And someone had come to his door just yesterday. He hadn’t answered, but it wasn’t impossible that he could have initiated an inquiry if he had. Why was he so reluctant to contact anyone about this?

Cowardice, probably. Quatre had pointed out with unpleasant accuracy that Trowa was afraid of losing the huge levels of power the artifact had provided him, and Trowa was sure that, now he’d actually suffered this loss, he was afraid to admit even to himself how far he’d fallen. Admitting it to anyone else must be just as bad. But was that all there was to it?

He didn’t enjoy being a celebrity. He didn’t enjoy being bothered by fans and amateurs. He didn’t enjoy the awareness that many people he’d never met knew his name and even where he lived. He was mentioned in books, looked up to as an authority almost ultimate, and often the first resort when people wanted complicated spells they couldn’t cast for themselves… and he’d never enjoyed that.

Or so he’d always believed.

But this was all a result of his known history. The magical community, at least in the U.S. and sometimes beyond, knew he was immortal, knew he was extremely powerful… some of them even knew he’d long been researching curses and looking for a talking doll. That much of this had changed most of them did not know, and Trowa found himself oddly averse to the idea of telling them.

He was no longer immortal or astonishingly powerful. The lengthy period of obsessive pursuit had ended. And though he was still an expert on at least the theory of three branches of magic, still he somehow didn’t like the thought of admitting to a new problem he couldn’t deal with in the fourth. That he, the authority almost ultimate, had encountered something beyond him and was now at the mercy of other magicians a fifth his age with less skill and knowledge than he’d already had sixty years ago.

He’d believed himself almost entirely devoid of pride. Apparently he’d been wrong. It seemed he enjoyed his celebrity more than he’d been aware. And what kind of terrible person did it make him that he was allowing such feelings to keep him from seeking assistance in a matter where someone he loved was being hurt and hurting others?

Probably, to be honest, no more terrible a person than he’d long considered himself. Which meant there really was no point standing around here dwelling on it. Grim-faced, he took the axe back to the shed and headed inside to the computer.

It wasn’t a lot of fun. Whether cowardice or pride was the cause, he found the process of asking for information as unpleasant as the prospect had been, and just to keep his fingers moving on the keyboard he had to hold tenaciously to the awareness of Quatre’s condition. Had to remember phrases like, “Nobody thinks I’d ever get tired of hanging onto all their secrets for them,” and “What are you trying to do, turn me into a doll or something?”

Quatre had come to Trowa’s house, as he often did, after work yesterday, and spent a few hours ranting about the state of Winner Plastics and the breakdown of reason and order among the people there. He’d been trying not to take his anger out on Trowa, and had instead channeled it into this set of complaints about his co-workers; even Heero and Duo had not been exempt, but at least they also hadn’t been present.

Obviously Quatre had been aware of his mood. He’d apologized (for a certain definition of the term) multiple times for his grouchiness, but it was interesting that he hadn’t made any more specific reference to his own state. Evidently he wasn’t aware of the full extent of his mood, how far it was affecting him.

This seemed incredible, that effect being so readily apparent to anyone that knew Quatre, but there was such a thing as denial — a thing Trowa didn’t think Quatre generally given to… but if kindness, a predominant characteristic and integral part of the self, was being repressed or circumvented in a manner impossible to combat, even the most rational person might respond in the only way he could that would give him any feeling of control by subconsciously pretending it wasn’t happening.

Trowa hadn’t wanted to make inquiries to confirm these ideas, and perhaps this was another instance of cowardice keeping him from something he needed to do. But his faith in the value of self-reporting in such a situation was not great enough to make him eager to risk what Quatre might say in response to questions about his mental state. Emails, therefore, were a good option — possibly the best option, if Trowa wanted to admit that to himself. If anyone replied with any definitive answers, he would happily admit it; if not, he might continue to resent the necessity forever.

Previous (Part 11) | Chapter Index | Next (Part 13)