Not for the first time, Trowa had a distinct feeling of deja vu as what he did today in pursuit of answers about Quatre’s condition echoed poignantly what he’d done decades ago in pursuit of answers about Duo’s. The room’s furnishings had mostly changed, as had the room itself — in fact it was a different house in a different state — but the books were the same, and thus far had provided the same amount of useful information as they had the last time he’d read them.
Seifert was about as close to a friend as anyone during the long years had become — which wasn’t to say Trowa would have referred to him as anything more than ‘an associate,’ but he had, at least, informed Seifert when the curse had broken, and received cordial congratulations in return. Thus the perusal of Seifert’s collection of books and documents concerning magic was the least uncomfortable of all Trowa’s available options. He would move on to the more uncomfortable if he had to, but he was starting where he could work his way up.
Though he’d maintained a sparse but unbroken correspondence with first Seifert’s father and then Seifert himself — letters succeeded eventually by emails, almost exclusively about magic — it had been sixty years since he’d actually visited and read the texts. The first instance had been at the offer of Seifert senior, he having just fled Germany with his wife and young son and thinking that, in the post-war atmosphere, having an ally like Trowa might be extremely useful. This second instance was Trowa’s request, to which Seifert junior had been happy to accede.
That the experience was so distinctly different did not lessen the deja vu. He approached the information presented in a completely different way — because he knew so much more these days and had a greater context to fit it into; because the problem he was trying to solve was so different from the previous, and might even have to do with a practically alien (to Trowa) branch of magic; because he also saw it now from the perspective of someone looking to write a comprehensive guide to magic, even if that was really the last thing he should be thinking about at the moment — but it was the same information he’d searched for answers so long ago. His frame of mind was not identical to what it had been then, but there were still a number of negative emotions and a driving need to find the truth and the potential solution. And it remained just as frustrating that half of this stuff was in German.
Though in his present frame of mind it could not engross, what he was able to read could certainly interest. Despite the worrisome nature of the situation with Quatre, and somewhat to Trowa’s chagrin, that proposed book of his hovered frequently right at the edge of his consciousness, and he often found himself considering how to word certain concepts he encountered for an audience less thoroughly familiar with them. Some shame did arise as he considered that his scholar’s brain seemed to find this equal in import to the Quatre issue, but as it didn’t prevent him in any way from continuing to seek answers, he didn’t waste much effort trying to break out of that frame of mind.
Seifert’s ancestors had mostly been diviners, though the talent had been watered down over the generations to the point where Seifert himself was even less skilled in that branch of magic than Trowa was. Hazy memories of records primarily on the subject of divination were borne out now in Seifert’s collection, but the fact that the Trowa of 1947, looking for information that might be pertinent to a command-based curse, would probably have ignored any necrovisual references or any description of symptoms that had no bearing on Duo’s condition gave him hope that there might still be something here he could use. But this was his second day in Seifert’s compact little study, and he was reaching the end of the material for which he didn’t require Seifert’s services as translator, and he’d yet to find anything even remotely related to what he was looking for.
At home, things were equally uncertain. He’d known perfectly well that, given the type of people he interacted with and the types of questions he’d been asking, he shouldn’t expect a load of quick replies to the emails he’d sent a few days ago… but he’d been expectant nonetheless, and therefore had been bitterly disappointed at the lack of results. Well, that was a misnomer; he’d actually received fairly prompt responses from some of his contacts saying that they would look into it for him, and for this he should be grateful. But nobody had provided him with any actual information yet, and from the person in whose knowledge and necrovisual experience he had the most faith he’d heard nothing at all. Which meant his own research and experimentation must continue.
Some of this divination information in Seifert’s collection might prove useful in the long run, since it approached a branch of magic at which he wasn’t very skilled from an interesting perspective. The long run concerned him very little right now, but he did feel that it might be a good idea to pay Seifert another visit at a later date when he was less agitated and better able to take notes on some of this for his own project. It might be worthwhile, actually, to volunteer to type all of this up for Seifert — all of it that Trowa could read on his own, that is — since Seifert had never gotten around to that task in all these years but would undoubtedly appreciate its being done. At the moment, Trowa employed a method of reading not much better than skimming — paying just enough attention to the old print and handwriting to be sure he wouldn’t miss anything that might be relevant, but not properly absorbing what he read when it wasn’t.
He heard the door open behind him, and, dragging his eyes from the sheaf of papers on the desk, looked around to see a little boy hanging from the handle and peering curiously at him.
“Opa wants to know do you need him yet,” the child announced when Trowa met his gaze.
Trowa was reminded not so much of Seifert, much as this grandson resembled him, as of a niece of Quatre’s he’d recently been introduced to: there was a similar air of seemingly contradictory blended hesitance and confidence. The niece, Emma, had initially shied from approaching him with a question she wanted answered, but had dropped the reluctance entirely at some cue or realization Trowa hadn’t even recognized, and dove into conversation with the typical Winner resolution.
It was not an unpleasant memory, but it was also not one he enjoyed having recalled at the moment. He couldn’t imagine how Quatre had been treating his family all week — or, rather, based on Quatre’s complaints about them, didn’t like to imagine — and hoped fervently that none of the relatives that didn’t live in the huge Winner house had visited since the destruction of the artifact. It would be bad enough if Quatre’s mood put a strain only on his relationship with those that were around.
And speaking of relatives visiting, Trowa reflected, it was very kind of Seifert to have so readily allowed him to come while some of his progeny were in the house. He did his best to give the boy at the door a friendly smile. “You can tell him fifteen minutes,” he said.
“OK,” replied the grandson, but did not immediately depart. He was staring at Trowa with calculating eyes. Finally he asked, “How can you see?”
“What do you mean?” Trowa had never been entirely comfortable around children.
“Because your hair is over your eyes all the time,” the boy explained. “Or one eye or the other eye. How can you see things?”
“Oh.” Trowa was so used to his haircut that he barely noticed it anymore, and had long ago adjusted to any obstruction of vision it might present. “My eyes used to be very strange. I had my hair cut like this so that sometimes, when I was turned a certain direction, other people wouldn’t be able to see them.”
“You could just wear glasses,” said the child critically. “I mean black glasses like my mom has.”
“I did that sometimes too,” Trowa nodded.
“OK,” the boy said, as if satisfied — though Trowa realized that his original question hadn’t, strictly speaking, been answered. And without further goodbye the child disappeared, pulling the door mostly closed behind him. Whether he would remember what he was supposed to be telling his grandfather remained to be seen.
In fact Seifert did appear after not too long, poking his crooked nose around the door to see what Trowa was up to. Trowa only noticed because he happened to be between documents at that moment. Setting aside the one he’d just finished, he reached out and put a hand on the stack he’d been accumulating of things he couldn’t read. “Apparently your ancestors didn’t see the benefit of writing magical records in language magicians would understand.”
“German pride, I’m afraid.” Seifert’s surprisingly gentle eyes crinkled with a smile as he crossed the compact room to stand beside the desk.
Trowa sighed. Distant unpleasant memories of his own father’s particular brand of German pride a hundred years ago had long kept him from studying the language as he might otherwise have done. But he did allow, “Not everyone has the talent to write in the magical language. And any relevant information will be just as useful even if it is in German.”
Seifert pulled up the extra chair he’d brought into the room yesterday when he’d been getting Trowa started in here. Even before he was fully settled, his eyes had begun roving over Trowa’s features just as they’d done every time he’d been in the room since then. But when he met Trowa’s gaze, he seemed to shake himself, and, breaking away, reached for the stack on the desk. “Excuse me,” he said. “I’m still not used to your new look. It’s a little startling to see you like this.”
“Just think what mirrors do to me,” Trowa replied.
Seifert chuckled. “Remember that I first met you when I was five, though. A dramatic look like yours was makes an impression on a little boy! You’ve always been a sort of mystical, heroic figure to me.”
Again Trowa sighed. Seifert may have been one of a very few people that had seen his ‘new look,’ but he was one of many people that viewed Trowa as a mystical, heroic figure. It was embarrassing, and worsened by the fact that this regard the magical community had for him should make it easy for him to request information of them. Yet he’d been so cryptic with everyone about his current problem…
Seifert put a comforting hand on Trowa’s shoulder. “I won’t ask for any more details than you’ve already given,” he said kindly. “I am sorry to see that you’re trying to deal with something like this so soon after your curse… as if you were destined to be always dealing with magical problems. Just don’t forget that you are a bit of a hero to many of us, so you’re not alone. Or at least,” he added with a wry smile, “you don’t have to be.”
Trowa was frowning. From someone close to him, this simple advice might not have penetrated, but from someone removed from the situation, it somehow struck home. Right in the middle of his studies, with only a few brief statements, Seifert had suddenly given him a lot to think about — the types of information he did and didn’t naturally volunteer to someone that might have been a friend; the way he viewed and interacted with people that admired and could potentially help him; the possibility that he might be doomed with magical bad luck — and this was a lot to think about that he didn’t have time to think about.
Of course, if he was, as Seifert suggested, destined to deal with magical problems on a regular basis throughout his life, putting off thinking about this kind of thing until such-and-such was over might lock him in a miserable stasis as long as he lived. The only thing he could be sure of at this very moment was that, no matter what time he did or didn’t spend thinking about things later, right now he had something specific to concentrate on.
Seifert seemed to read this in Trowa’s demeanor, for he smiled again and lifted the top item off the pile. “Well, let me translate for you,” he said, “and see if any of this helps.”