This had been a day of mixed frustration and anticipation for Trowa. Lengthy discussions with his insurance had lasted practically all morning, with results ambivalent at best. They were in touch with the police department, of course, but when an assessor eventually went out to examine Trowa’s house, discrepancy was sure to come to light. No aged wiring had caused that fire, and Trowa didn’t know how to fake the signs. No more could he brainwash the insurance agent into a perspective that would match that of the police. He still didn’t quite know what he was going to do about this.
In the middle of it all, however, Heero had called to inform Trowa that a co-worker of his had confirmed the presence of red shade in Quatre’s condition, and that he’d made an appointment with an exorcist. Since this appointment was for tomorrow evening, Heero could easily have waited until he came home from work tonight to tell Trowa this, and Trowa appreciated that he’d called the moment he had the news in order to improve Trowa’s day with the prospect.
He tried not to hope too fervently. He didn’t want to be let down. But he was so ignorant of the solution to Quatre’s problem that he had to make do with hope in place of knowledge. And under the influence of that hope, after he’d talked to Heero and still between insurance conversations, he had — perhaps foolishly — engaged a real estate agent to take him on a tour of houses on Wednesday. It had been an impulsive decision, and there were a number of ways he could be bitterly disappointed in its outcome, but he hadn’t yet decided to cancel.
He was trying not to think about the possibility that Quatre, newly friendly again, would join him looking at houses; he was trying not to think about the future. He felt he walked a high, narrow wall that stood between great happiness and great sadness, and which direction he would eventually fall was largely beyond his control. But even if Quatre’s cooperation in this matter turned out to be impossible, Trowa ardently longed for a new home of his own as soon as he could get one.
Until its destruction, he hadn’t realized how attached he’d been to his own house. It wasn’t anything specific about the structure or his setup therein; it was the very simple circumstance of having his own space, a retreat from the tiresome world, a place that corresponded with himself. Now he was like a hermit crab without a shell: he felt exposed and very uncomfortable. He was out of his element, imposing on friends, and unable to orient himself properly. And to this discomfort had been added distinct embarrassment at the snatch of conversation he’d caught last night:
“We really… can’t do that right now. Not with Trowa here.”
“What? Why? It’s not like he doesn’t know.”
“Yes, but you’re… kinda loud…”
At that point, of course, hot-faced, Trowa had moved away so as to hear no more. But it was clear he wasn’t the only one that would prefer him elsewhere as soon as could be managed. So he would look at houses the day after tomorrow regardless of how things stood or how he felt about them.
Now it was lunch time — or perhaps well past, depending on which time zone he was judging by — but as usual, despite Heero’s repeated assurance that he was welcome to anything in the kitchen, Trowa couldn’t muster a great deal of interest in eating. It wasn’t just that he was accustomed to not eating: he was accustomed to feeling active hunger and still not eating. He was accustomed to eating with Quatre; in fact, he rather associated food with Quatre in its entirety — far more than he associated it with satisfaction or survival (except as far as Quatre represented those conditions to him as well). But since he had finally finished all his phone calls (for now), he needed something else to do — though at the moment anything he chose would merely function as a time-killing technique until tomorrow evening when, hopefully, everything would be set right.
Of course research was his usual fallback at such a moment. He did have his books and papers right here in Heero’s apartment, but they were stacked in tall piles consecutively leaned against the bookshelves, and not at all convenient. Internet research was probably a better idea. And this reminded him also that he hadn’t checked his email since Friday morning before he’d gone to Seifert’s house; perhaps by this dreary Monday afternoon someone might have answered his questions. Surely they must have by now. And those answers might confirm whether or not this exorcist tomorrow was likely to be of any real help.
Heero’s computer took an unforgivably long time to start up, and Trowa sat gloomily in the chair staring around the guest room while he waited, wondering vaguely what the predominantly juvenile contents of the bookshelf said about his host. Then he had to orient himself to a new browser that didn’t have all his logins saved, but eventually he reached his inbox. It was stuffed, as usual (especially after a few days of distraction), and his long experience allowed him to glance over the subject lines and pick out the few he wanted to read right away.
The first, in fact, was compellingly obvious, for it came from the only person among his immediate contacts he specifically knew to be necrovisual. Having a distressing history of dead ends, he’d long since ceased feeling much anticipation or excitement even at the promise of information, but still he clicked on that email fairly enthusiastically.
Trowa’s original message had been somewhat terse, but this reply was even more so, limited to a single question in response to the symptoms Trowa had related: Has the subject recently destroyed a powerful artifact?
Trowa sat back with a faint scowl. This was what he got for being uncomfortable admitting that his primary source of power was gone. He’d already assumed that the destruction of the artifact had contributed to Quatre’s change, and he should have included that information in his description. Failing to do so had merely added an extra step to this process; now he would respond to this email with what he should have said in the first place, and probably have to wait another couple of days for a more informative response.
This was nothing but Trowa’s fault, and for several moments he thoroughly hated himself for it. So frustrated was he, in fact, with himself and the situation, that he didn’t answer the email immediately; he backed out of it and clicked on the next one he’d determined merited early perusal.
Our esteemed Mr. Barton,
It has come to our attention that action has recently been taken against you, in the form of arson against your home, by certain members of our society as revenge for the destruction of an artifact in your possession. This communication is made to assure you that this was an unsanctioned action independently embarked upon by a small radical element, since reprimanded, and does not represent the attitude or goals, immediate or long-term, of our society as a whole. You are in absolutely no further danger from us. As a collective, we hold you in as high consideration and trust as ever, and we beg you not to believe that your decision to destroy Roussel’s artifact has in any way affected that opinion.
Honored to address you,
Vallis Rheita, La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré
Again Trowa sat back in the chair, mouth slightly agape, breath knocked right out of him for a moment by this surprise.
La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré? In 2010? Emailing him in English?
He’d been under the impression that they had ceased to exist after the French Revolution, that they’d never existed outside of France. He’d been under the impression that they’d been little more than a sort of aristocratic club with no practical use for their magical talents. He’d been under the impression that they’d created the artifact completely by accident, not that they’d had some kind of… reverence… for it. Or for the man into whose hands it had fallen.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be quite so astonishing that La Confrérie was still around and had picked up English (some especially formal-sounding English at that), but Trowa had done so much research on them and never heard a word about it… Of course that had all been in France, so if they had migrated to the U.S. during the turmoil of the late eighteenth century, it was no improbability that no records of that move had survived in the places Trowa had been looking.
As far as he knew, they’d never been a particularly big organization. Had they grown since changing locations? They obviously knew who he was. By the tone of the email, in fact, they knew him extremely well, and possibly assumed that he knew them. Why had he never heard anything from them before this? They must still be fairly small and secretive… and yet keeping an eye on him.
Obviously they knew that Trowa had decided to destroy the artifact… but just as obviously weren’t aware that somebody else had carried out the actual destruction — which probably meant they had kept track of the artifact through some kind of sympathetic magic that allowed them to monitor its existence but not necessarily details thereof. Except that they knew he still owned it.
He wasn’t terribly fond of the thought that this group was monitoring him, however closely or distantly, but it wasn’t too different from most of his other fans, really. Many people knew he drew his power from a particularly potent artifact, and evidently this had never lessened anyone’s opinion of him. None of his other fans, though, however radical, had ever set fire to his house.
This Vallis Rheita assured him that the arson had been carried out by a small subset and he should be in no further danger… but could she or he really guarantee that? Not that Trowa really feared what they might try to do to him — even without the artifact he was still, if not ‘the best’ as Duo had claimed on Friday night, extremely skilled at command magic and extremely knowledgeable about far more than that — but this was a complication he didn’t need right now.
Scattered clouds in a warm sky were something of a surprise to find himself looking at, and it took him a moment to recall that he’d left the computer chair as he pondered and gradually wandered into the hall (much more conducive to pacing), whence he’d eventually found his way out onto the balcony. His brain was so full and his thoughts so engrossing that he barely registered the fact that he’d moved, or the presence of the brown and white bird standing on the railing beside him with its shoulders hunched as if he might give it something to eat if it looked at him the right way.
He wondered suddenly whether or not La Confrérie and their little radical unit had anything to do with Quatre’s current condition. He didn’t see how they could — especially if they didn’t know that Quatre had been the one to wield the axe — but it was a compelling idea. That La Confrérie had shown up in Trowa’s life immediately after Quatre’s problems had started made perfect sense as a total coincidence, and yet was difficult to dismiss as being unconnected. Any connection, though, was beyond his deductive ability at this point.
This at least started to explain the brainwashing. The ‘high consideration and trust’ in which La Confrérie held ‘our esteemed Mr. Barton’ might well lead them to try to help him avoid some of the unpleasant repercussions of the unsanctioned action of their vengeful minority. Though it was a little odd that the brainwashing had started so soon after the fire had.
How would La Confrérie have found out so quickly what their radicals were up to? More sympathetic magic? Or was someone keeping an eye on the radicals too? That seemed more consistent with the speed of the response, but in that case, why hadn’t the arson been prevented to begin with? Still, given that the fire had happened, he appreciated the efforts to make the situation easier for him to deal with afterward. And it was interesting to note that La Confrérie, whatever the size and type of their organization at this point, had such a potent communicator on staff.
Glad he was now that he hadn’t started any actual research or set any particular goals for this afternoon; it would have been disappointing to be unable to accomplish any of it thanks to all the wondering that was all he was likely to get done now. Well, and he could try a few divinations to see if he could figure anything out, though he’d had less and less faith in his ability to get an informative answer to any divination lately. So the frustration and anticipation of this day did not look like diminishing, but at least for a while now it promised to be a busy frustration and anticipation, which was really all he could ask for at this point.