The Season of the Witch
By Miss Angel Maxwell

Chapter 10: Entrapment

Mr. Aoki adjusted his glasses and tucked a strand of light brown hair behind his ear as he peered through the small gap of the slightly open front door. For the past ten minutes he had been silently watching the teenage boy who sat recumbent on the front porch, trying to decide whether or not to step outside and speak to him.

"I know that you're watching me," the young man said, catching Sei'ichirou by surprise. "So you might as well come out."

The older man slid the door the rest of the way open and stepped outside into the night air and closed it behind him. Ken was still wearing his Resurrectors uniform making him seem strangely out of place.

"So how is she?" Ken asked. "The girl, I mean."

Aoki sighed and took a seat across from him. "She's understandably shaken. Actually, she's locked herself in her room, refusing to talk to anyone. Subaru won't give up, though. He's planted himself outside her door, and he says he's not going to leave until she lets him in."

"She doesn't realize how lucky she is to have a father who loves her so much," said Ken with a sort of dreamy smile. "Really, very lucky indeed."

"Do you say that because you grew up in an orphanage, Ken?" Aoki asked with no pretense.

The teenager gasped very slightly and immediately turned to look his companion in the eyes. "You know? I lived in a Tokyo orphanage until I was fifteen. But how could you know about that?"

"Because I know your mother carried a heavy burden and would not have been able to care for you," the wind master replied sincerely. "She would have had no other choice but to give you up, no matter how painful it must have been for her."

Ken's face suddenly became pale and ghostlike. He licked his lips several times before speaking, but still the words seemed difficult to get out. "My… mother… What do you know about my mother?"

"Your mother was a woman named Karen Kasumi," Sei'ichirou said calmly. "Am I right?"

"Yes," Ken mouthed, though he barely made a sound.

A wistful smile spread across the ex-dragon's face when he said his old friend's name. "I knew from the moment I saw you that you were hers. You have her eyes." He paused a moment. "And there's something else, too. Karen Kasumi was a dear friend to me. But whenever she would smile, I could see something sad in her face, as if something she loved very much was missing. And when I saw you it made sense. I knew what that something was."

The blonde teenager finally relaxed his shoulders and let out a contented sigh. "I have to admit, I'm kind of glad you figured it out on your own. I guess this means the note was true." Aoki tilted his head curiously and Ken immediately began to explain. "There was a note that was given to the orphanage when I was dropped off as a baby. But they didn't even show it to me until I left at fifteen." Carefully, the boy reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded piece of old paper and handed it to Sei'ichirou. It was soft and torn and wrinkled so he had to be delicate in unfolding it.

After reading the note through, Aoki took off his wire-frame glasses and closed his eyes. "It doesn't really surprise me that Karen would be totally honest in the note. She clearly wanted you to know that the reason she gave you away was because she was someone who would be involved in the End of the World."

"Yeah," the boy said softly. "At first I thought it was some kind of joke. That was until I met Mr. Ishida. He told me all about the Dragons of Heaven and Earth, and the secret war that happened around 1999. He promised to help me uncover the critical bit of information that was missing from the note… the identity of my father. In return, I had to work for him and become a Resurrector. Pretty soon, my duties to him took over my life… He never told me anything about my father… He didn't tell me a lot of things, actually. I didn't even know about the plot to kidnap Mr. Sumeragi until after it happened. I took it as a sign that it was time for me to leave that organization… find people who might actually be able to help me."

"I guess that would be us," said Sei'ichirou, calm despite all the new information that had just been delivered to him.

"I wanted to talk to you surviving Dragons," replied Ken. "But with everything that's been going on I thought it would be best to wait. That's why I didn't want to tell any of you who I really am. I just would have distracted you all from much more important things."

"Well, considering that your mother was a very precious friend of mine, that makes you a friend of mine as well. I will tell you everything I know about her, and I will do anything I can to help you."

As Mr. Aoki was speaking to Ken, a faint sound was growing behind them until it was easily recognizable as the frantic slap of slippered feet on hardwood floors. When the sound reached its apex, the sliding door flew open and a panicked Subaru burst through.

"Midori!" he shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Midori!"

"Whoa!" a dazed Aoki said, trying to calm down his friend. "What's going on, Subaru?"

Subaru was breathing heavily and his voice was disjointed and erratic. "Midori is gone! Outside her room… got a bad feeling, like something wrong… Broke the lock, opened her door… She's gone! Out the window! Gone! She… she must have gone to find Seishirou! She's in danger!"

"Just calm down," Aoki urged. "We won't have much luck finding her if you're in a panic. Now, do want me to go with you to go look for her?"

"I'll come too if It'll help," Ken added.

By now Subaru had gotten a bit more control over himself. "You can come if you want. But I can't ask you to. I just have this feeling that this is not going to end well… And that this is a fight I'll have to face alone."

Aoki and Ken were on their feet now and the older man put his hand on Subaru's shoulder. "We're coming with you. Even if it turns out we can't do anything to help. I have a feeling Kusanagi and Fuuma will want to help, too."

"I leave it in your hands," Subaru said. " Whoever wants to help can spread out and search the Clamp school campus. I'm leaving now though. I can't waste any time. I have to find my daughter. I have to pick up her trail."

"That might be difficult," Ken replied in a calm and analytical voice. "Her shoes are still sitting here by the door, so wherever she went, she went barefoot."

"That won't stop me," Subaru growled, determination fueling his words. "I'll find her. And I think I know the first place I'll look." Even as he spoke, he was taking off his slippers and putting on his shoes.

Before the onmyouji ran off into the night, Sei'ichirou looked him directly in his mismatched eyes and said, "good luck, Subaru."

"Thank you," he whispered back. Then he took flight, vanishing into the darkness.

The beating of his own heart pulsed in Subaru's ears, drowning out the sound of his feet as he ran across the campus, heading for Kamui and Kotori's tree. His mind was still dwelling on that sickening, horrifying wave that had swept over him as he sat patiently in the dorm hallway outside Midori's room. The sensation had been even stronger than the vibes he picked up from Seishirou, and he knew exactly what it meant. His little girl was in grave danger.

She'll be out looking for him, he thought to himself. Now that she knows that Seishirou is her father, she'll want to find him and talk to him. But she doesn't have any idea where to find him, so she'll have to stop somewhere to gather her thoughts. And the place Midori will go to think is…

"Right here," he said aloud, arriving at the 'special place' Midori had showed him during the school festival. It was deserted. If Midori had stopped here, she had already left. Subaru scrutinized the area carefully. The grass at the base of the tree was flattened, as if someone had recently been sitting there. "So she was here."

Then the strange wave of ill sensation swept over him again. This time, though, it didn't just carry a message of danger; it seemed to be telling him more, a location. "The Rainbow Bridge!" he gasped. "Where I faced off against the real Seishirou fourteen years ago." In an instant, he was off again.

Midori's feet were sore, scratched and blistered, when she arrived at the bridge where Seishirou told her to meet him. After he'd vanished at the tree, the young woman had run as fast as she possibly could to get to the meeting place he'd designated. Without shoes it was a rather harsh sprint. She looked down at her wristwatch. "I still have a little more time to go," she breathed. Not one car drove past while she was waiting, which was unusual even for this dead time of the night. This place was terrifying.

"Ah, I see you're early too, little one," an icy voice oozed through the blackness.

"Seishirou," Midori called back, gazing off towards where the voice had come from.

A single dot of silver sparkled in the shadows. It was his eye. Soon a black sillouette began to materialize around the tiny twinkle, as the assassin strode purposefully towards the young girl. The moon had retreated behind a dark cloud, so that even as he drew closer, his features remained obscured by the night. "Young Miss Sumeragi," he intoned smoothly. "I've been wanting very much to see you and to speak with you."

"I've wanted to speak to you too," she replied in a trembling voice. "I have so many questions to ask… About the man you once were… and about how you could ever be my father." She immediately recalled the last time she had spoken of fathers in front of this Seishirou and how he had completed broken down. This time he was calm. He extended a pale white hand to her and she took it with both of her own. It was as cold as ice.

"Seishirou," she whispered, as she stared up at his darkened face, the one eye still glowing. He closed his eyes thoughtfully, then he opened them back up and the shine had vanished. Midori drew in a sharp breath. "What?" As if responding to her gasp, the moon emerged from the clouds and cast its light over the entire bridge, illuminating Seishirou's pale face. It wasn't Seishirou at all.

"You're that guy Ishida!" Midori squealed, twisting to get away. But he had already grabbed her wrist in a steal-hard grip.

"You really are a stupid child," he said cruelly, seizing her other hand and twisting both of them painfully behind her back. "To fall into such an obvious trap, it just boggles the mind. This time you really are going to die, you know."

Midori winced at the horrible pain in her arms, as if they were about to be snapped off. "Ow! But… b-but how did you survive the cave in? I thought you were crushed to death."

"I survived the same way you did," he replied. "You destroyed my laboratory, girl. And that's just one more reason why I have to kill you."

"Well, how did you do that thing with your eye?" she asked, seeming alarmingly unafraid. "You looked just like Seishirou… And… why… why didn't you just kill me back at the tree? Why did you have to stage a trap like this?"

Ishida smirked cockily. "You are a curious girl, you are… Inquiring about the details of your own demise. Well, if you must know, that tree you were standing under happens to be protected by two very powerful spirits. If I wanted to attack you, I had to lure you away. And what better place to kill you than here on the Rainbow Bridge? I believe the man who raised you has quite an interesting past with this bridge. Why, if we're lucky, he might even show up tonight."

Midori felt her blood boil and she began to struggle violently against her captor's arms. "You leave Subaru out of this!" she screamed. "Don't you dare hurt him!"

"Don't worry," Ishida chimed. "If he does show up, you'll already be dead. You won't even have to witness it. Now, I'm afraid the time has come."

"Rwarrrr!" Midori roared as she thrashed one last time, and finally wrenched herself from the evil man's talons. "Good luck, you big creep! You've tried to kill me twice before. What makes you think this time will be any different? Especially now that I know I have a special power in me."

The young girl stepped back from her attacker and stared him down hotly. She was focusing all of her energy into her hand in preparation for releasing the sword from her palm. "Get ready to eat my blade," she growled. "I'm going to cut you a new… What the…? The sword! It… it's not coming out! What's going on here?"

Ishida immediately began cackling with wicked laughter. "Ha ha! What's wrong? Forgot your sword? Well, that is a pity, because I have mine right here." Without hesitation he reached behind him and withdrew a large glistening blade. "On the record, I am killing you because your existence has caused a malfunction in Seishirou. Off the record, though, it's because you are a meddlesome little bitch."

Ishida swung his sword, but Midori managed to duck. She sprang back up and lunged at him, raking her fingernails across his cheek. The man flinched, four long scratches marring his white face. Seeing that she'd gotten in a hit, the girl made a triumphant fist. But when she looked at the man's wounds again, she was shocked and disgusted. Oozing from Ishida's cuts was a thick bluish liquid that looked nothing like blood.

"Eww…" she uttered. "What… are you?"

The man didn't answer, but he used his opponent's moment of disbelief to his advantage, readjusting his grip on the sword's handle and swinging. Midori jumped back, the blade barely missing her face. She ducked and weaved as Ishida droved her back. She probably could have continued to dodge, but her bare heel slammed into the concrete curb and she fell backwards, landing roughly on her bottom. Ishida was now hovering above her.

"Ah, your clumsiness just makes this way too easy," he chuckled. His blade was poised above the trembling girl, about to come piercing down into her. Before he could finish her off, a swoosh of black slammed into the side of his face, sending him sprawling onto the concrete. Midori gasped when she saw what it was.

"Dad!" she exclaimed out of habit.

"Midori!" Subaru shouted back. He wanted to run over and scoop the girl up in his arm, but he didn't have time. Ishida was recovering from the mighty kick and Subaru had to keep his guard up. "Run, Midori! Run, get out of here!"

"No!" the girl stammered. "If anyone should run, it should be you! I'm the one Ishida wants to kill. Save yourself!"

"I won't leave you!" he yelled back. "If you won't run, then we'll fight together!"

"Right!" the girl answered, jumping back to her feet.

Ishida was back on his feet as well. His face now had several more cuts, all seeping blue blood. Sword in hand, he lunged at Subaru, who was definitely a bigger threat at the moment than the girl. Subaru sidestepped the attack then swung his fist, landing a swift and direct punch to the assassin's stomach.

"Now, Midori!" he shouted.

While Ishida was holding his bruised stomach with one hand, the girl's skinny leg flew out and kicked the other, sending the sword clattering to the ground. "Grab it, Subaru!"

Both men threw themselves at the fallen weapon, but the onmyouji got to it first and snatched it up. He knew he was at a disadvantage because he was not at all skilled with a sword. Still, there was too much at stake for him to falter. This was the man who had kidnapped him and stolen his blood. Ishida had done horrific experiments to his dear friend Arashi. He had committed the most atrocious crimes against his beloved Seishirou, creating a monster with his name and face. Subaru had to kill him. He had to do it for Arashi and for Seishirou, but mostly for Midori. Of all the sins Ishida had committed, the most unforgivable in Subaru's eyes was trying to kill his little girl.

With the full strength of both his arms, Subaru swung the sword. It hit the side of Tetsuo Ishida's body with a startling metallic clang, but the onmyouji forced the blade deeper, sending a spray of hot blue liquid into the air and all over his face. When the sword emerged from the other side of the man's torso, Subaru's hands were raw and on fire from the shear strength required to slice through him.

Ishida's body fell to the ground in two pieces, and Midori and Subaru stood, staring in awe at what they saw. There was no blood or viscera spilling from the bisected man, only more blue liquid. There were no bones or muscles inside of him, only metal and wire and mechanical components.

"He was artificial," Midori breathed. "Just like Seishirou."

To be continued…