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"A Sequence Of Mysterious Events"
'One - Meeting Henry Porter'.
A Gentleman Of Leisure.
The Story So Far:
'Kyuuketsuki to Shikeishikkonin'
'Kyuuketsuki to Shikeishikkonin - Tsuishin' ( - Postscript)
'Sticks and Stones'
'All You Need Is Love'
"The Sun Also Sets In The East"
'Snapshots of St. Trinian's'
"What are we looking for?" asked Chiyo again, a little plaintively.
Dawn didn't answer - she was too busy consulting the paperback book in her free hand, while at the same time trying to manage several bags bearing such names as Harrods and Harvey Nichols with the other.
"Second hand bookshop, scruffy pub, record store," she muttered.
After their clothes shopping had been satisfactorily completed, Dawn had insisted that they cross central London to Charing Cross Road, by 'Tube', as the British called their subway rail system, rather than the sensible way in a taxi, to look for a place referred to in her book.
"Humour her, Chiyo. At least we're getting to see some of the less touristy parts of the city," said Bibi who also had an armful of loot to manage. She shook her head.
"I suppose so," the Japanese girl said tiredly. She was beginning to droop a little, like a plant in need of water. It had already been a long day, and she too was laden with shopping bags, as well as a rather large pull-along suitcase they'd had to buy purely to carry some of their purchases.
"Oh my God! Look - there it is!" Dawn exclaimed, glanced quickly to her left, and then suddenly went charging across the road, before either of her friends could stop her. There was a sudden screech of brakes. Chiyo shrieked, and covered her eyes with her hands, expecting to hear a heavy thump. After a few seconds she cautiously opened them again, and to her astonishment and great relief there was Dawn on the opposite pavement, still in one piece, apparently talking excitedly to a strange looking couple in their mid-to-late thirties.
"What the...?" Bibi exclaimed. "Here, follow me!" and she too shot across the road in front of the taxi that had just skidded to a halt. Its driver was leaning out of his window, loudly using a fluent and extensive vocabulary of words Chiyo barely recognised, in a way that was entirely novel to her. From his manner it was obvious that they were not intended to be at all polite. Not unreasonably, most of them seemed to be aimed at Dawn, who seemed to be blissfully ignorant of what was going on behind her. The two people she was speaking to seemed to have just come out of the pub opposite a moment or so before. Trembling with shock, Chiyo cautiously looked both ways, and as the traffic was now at a complete stand-still, she crossed the road as quickly as she could, hauling her overladen suitcase along as though it was a large recalcitrant dog.
"Bloody tourists!" the cabbie was shouting. "Think you've all got flaming charmed lives, don't you? Bleedin' Yanks! Look the other blasted way when you cross the road you stupid..." The last part was fortunately lost in the sound of car horns from the queue of vehicles that had immediately built up behind the stationary cab.
"Narrow squeak for the girl," the man was saying to his companion, as if Dawn wasn't right there in front of him. "These tourists never seem to remember that traffic comes from their right in England."
"Yeah. Sorry, I just forgot," Dawn said. "I was just so excited at actually finding the pub." She waved her paperback at him. "It's almost exactly like the description in the book. I was always sure it was based on a real place, but I never had a chance to come and look for myself before."
The British couple both looked sharply at her, as if surprised that she'd spoken to them, and then back at each other. Puzzled, despite the shock she'd just had, Chiyo studied both of them carefully. The man was tall and thin, slightly above average height for a westerner, and the woman nearly as tall. He had untidy dark brown hair in need of cutting, round glasses, and a small pale scar that cut straight through his left eyebrow, apparently the mark of an accident from long ago. She had red hair, darker and stronger in tone than Chiyo's, though not worn as long. They were both wearing what looked like academic gowns, just like those old-fashioned illustrations of school masters she remembered seeing in old books about England, or as worn by University students at their graduation ceremony. She'd already been told that Giles sometimes wore his old one to welcome the latest intake of girls at St Trinian's - it helped to make a strong impression on the new arrivals.
"I saw what happened," said Bibi in a quiet, intense voice. Frowning, she held up her free hand and snapped her fingers crisply. "Just like that. What was it - what did you do just then? How did you do it? Magic? It looked like Magic to me! "
Dawn looked round at her in surprise. "What? Bibi? What's up? What are you talking about?"
"They did something, some sort of magic, I think - well, he did. Right now you should be lying dead in the road under that cab."
Bewildered, Dawn looked at the two Britishers, at the taxicab, then back at Bibi. "What? What are you talking about?" she said again. "Are you serious?"
Chiyo, who was still trembling slightly, nodded and said, "I also think so, Dawn. You looked the wrong way - in Japan we drive on the same side of the road as here. I was quite certain the taxi would hit you - there was no way it could stop in time. I covered my eyes, and then suddenly you were on this side of the road."
Dawn looked at them all. "It missed me, didn't it? Nowhere near me - loads of room. Must have been." She shrugged. "Anyway, no big deal. I'm just naturally lucky!"
"Stupid girl!" Bibi said forcefully. "Didn't you hear what I just said?". Chiyo was startled by how angry she sounded. "One second you were only three feet from the hood of that cab, which was driving straight at you going at least thirty. Then this guy just snapped his fingers, and instantly you were on this side of the road."
"Magic?" said Chiyo softly. "Like Miss Willow?"
Dawn looked from one to the other. "What? Seriously?"
"Yes, Dawn. Magic. Seriously!" said Bibi firmly.
"She actually saw that! How was she able to see that?" said the man to his companion, still not speaking directly to any of the girls. He shook his head, apparently confused. "It's impossible."
"I think it's because they can all see us," said his companion quietly. She looked at the three girls. "You can see us, can't you?"
"Wha...?" "Yes, of course." "Why ever not?" came three baffled replies.
"And could you all see the pub from across the road?" the woman asked them.
"Huh? Why not - it's not as if it's really invisible, like in the book or anything, is it?" said Dawn, surprised.
"Sure, no problem," said Bibi, and Chiyo nodded her agreement.
"I'm quite surprised you managed to find it. Very few people ever do," said the woman quietly. "And you obviously have no problem seeing us, do you?"
Puzzled, all three girls shook their heads.
"Of course not!" Bibi said sharply. Despite having been in the country for some months she was still naturally suspicious, and beginning to wonder if these apparent British magicians might be having some sort of a joke on unwary tourists.
Then Dawn gave a squeak, and excitedly waved the book about under the man's nose.
"Oh my God! The book - it's just like in the book! She means the story's real! That's what you mean, isn't it? We're not supposed to be able to see the pub at all, are we? Or maybe see either of you either?"
The man, who during this exchange had been staring mutely at the three of them with a baffled expression, looked carefully at her for a moment, then turned to his companion with a rueful smile, and shrugged.
"So, it seems you were absolutely right then, Gwenny - and I suppose I now owe you five Silvers," he said quietly. "There were indeed some non-Muddled people about after all. I don't understand how, though." He looked sternly at the three of them again. "I'm pretty sure none of you are magicians yourselves, are you? You don't seem to have any of the normal magical abilities like ours, not of any sort I've ever come across before, at any rate."
Dawn was almost jumping up and down with excitement. "It's true then, isn't it? It's all true!" she exclaimed. "The whole book's real. And it's you, isn't? You've even got the scar - you're actually him!" Her voice had gone up nearly half an octave in pitch with excitement.
The man sighed.
Chiyo reached out and took the book from her friend's hand to see what the title was. It said 'The Sorcerer's Stone'.
"Are you a fan as well, young lady?" the man asked politely. Chiyo studied the cover thoughtfully, mentally translating the title into her own language.
"Oh, yes, sir. I recognise it now," she said after a moment. "I remember reading it when it was first translated into Japanese a few years ago. I can read it well enough in English now. I'm sorry - I know there are several volumes, but I've only ever read this one."
"No need to apologise. To be quite honest, I haven't even read all of this first one myself, let alone any of the others. I found it was so dreadfully inaccurate that it was unreadable, and not particularly well written either. Goodness knows where the author gets her material from," he added.
"The blasted woman's deliberately changed some things, like names, but a lot of other stuff is simply wrong, or even just made up out of thin air. I suppose that's what being an author is - writing stuff to entertain rather to tell the facts. I've been told that the later books get more and more fictional, and further away from the truth." Now he sounded quite irritated. "I can't even imagine how she's going to finish the series. Really, the woman's a... an absolute menace, a serious pain in the... "
"H!" the woman said firmly, interrupting him. "That's why it's called fiction, dear. He does find the whole thing rather irritating," she added quietly to the three girls.
"But you're both still real, and there really is a school for magicians like it says, though, isn't there?" Dawn asked earnestly.
The man opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted.
"Henry," said the woman he'd called Gwenny, "Something's just occurred to me. If none of them have any actual magical abilities of their own, why and how can they see us?"
"Henry?" said Dawn. "And Gwenny? Are those your real names?"
The man nodded. "I'm Henry Porter," he said, "and my wife, Gwenny."
The three young foreigners said they were very pleased indeed to meet them, Dawn with particular enthusiasm, and Chiyo bowing politely.
"Well, this is all an extremely strange situation," said Bibi. "Do you think perhaps we could find somewhere off the street to sit down, and at least let us all introduce ourselves properly? If I understand the situation correctly, ordinary people may not be able to see you, but we three could be getting some very strange looks from passers-by, since we might seem to be talking to thin air!"
"Point taken. Would in here be OK with you?" Henry indicated the pub behind him.
Dawn looked up at the sign over the door, which read 'The Leaking Barrel', and gave a little squeak of delight.
"We can get soft drinks for you two youngsters," Gwenny offered. "You really look as if you could all do with a sit-down," she added, looking at Chiyo.
"Shopping is very, very tiring," Chiyo agreed wearily, looking across at Bibi. "It's even worse than Tokyo!"
"Then I think some lunch for everyone too," the woman said understandingly.
Dawn sat in the gloom of a dark corner of the old pub, with the remains of a large plate of sandwiches in front of her. Every now and then she would put out her hand and touch the table, or the wall, or the chair she was sitting on, as if to reassure herself it was real and that she wasn't dreaming it all. Bibi was casually leaning back on the old high-backed settle, looking very much at her ease, as if it was something she did every lunchtime, while Chiyo kept staring round anxiously at all the strange old pictures on the walls, and taking cautious sips from her soft drink, as if unsure she wouldn't suddenly turn into a pumpkin or something. Despite Bibi's reassurance, she was also slightly concerned by the fact that back at home in Japan she was still several years too young to even be in a drinking establishment of any sort, and she was half afraid she might be hauled away by the British police for just being there. Gwenny had already reassured her several times that the police couldn't even see the pub, which was of course also protected by magic, let alone enter it, but she still didn't feel entirely convinced. The rest of the pub's clientele were studiously ignoring them.
"Normally we don't interfere in the workings of the Muddled world," the man was saying. "I'm still not sure what prompted me to save you from being hit by the taxi - I suppose it was instinctive. Maybe I subconsciously detected the influence of magic about you, without being aware of it. Have you any real idea, Dawn?"
Bibi and Dawn looked at each other. Their problem was Chiyo - Dawn's origin was just one of a number of things she hadn't been told about yet. Neither had she been told anything about Bibi's origin. All she, Chiyo, 'knew' was that Dawn was Buffy's 'little' sister, despite already being a good nine inches taller than the Slayer. As for Bibi, she was simply Buffy's slightly younger cousin, and she'd spent time living in Sunnydale. Then she'd gone travelling for a year and a half, arriving back to find the town had just been destroyed by the 'Great Sunnydale Earthquake'.
"We can't really talk about it, but we two have both had personal involvement with strong magic," Dawn said cautiously. "That's really all I can suggest."
Henry nodded. It seemed as if there were things they might have considered telling him, but the presence of their little foreign companion made it difficult. He deduced that she was not privy to some of their secrets. That, however, didn't explain what was strange about the youngster herself.
"What about you, Miss Mihama, er... Chiyo? You had no problem seeing us either. Are you perhaps some sort of oriental magician in disguise?" he asked, only half-joking.
Chiyo smiled shyly at him. She liked this strange tall Englishman with the round glasses, perhaps because he seemed to have a taste for redheads.
"No, I don't think so, Mr. Porter - Sensei... er... sir. So far as I know the only contact with magic I ever had was when I was attacked by a Japanese vampire demon, a Kyuuketsuki, in America, about six months ago. That was when I first met Bibi and Dawn and all the others. Bibi saved my life," she said simply. "Before then I had never imagined they could really exist, although in my country there are many folk tales about such things."
She started to tremble at the memory. Gwenny gently reached out to touch her, and leaned across to murmur something in her ear. Chiyo suddenly relaxed and nodded, looking more like herself again almost instantly.
"It was trying to eat me," she continued after a moment, almost as if she'd never stopped speaking. "It had just bitten into me when Bibi arrived and attacked it barehanded. She pulled me away, actually dragged me out of its mouth and saved my life, and then she hit it again and again and again. Bare handed! Eventually it couldn't move any more, and by then the others had arrived, and Buffy and Bibi chopped it into pieces and staked it and destroyed it."
"Just like that?" said Gwenny. Chiyo nodded once. Even now the memory was startlingly vivid. "She's very, very strong. I don't remember much after she pulled me free, but someone took some photographs, so I know it wasn't all a bad dream. And the scars, too." Unconsciously she put her hand up to touch her neck and left shoulder. "I still have them to remind me."
She reached over to her friend and put a grateful hand on her arm. Bibi smiled, embarrassed.
"Well, what a very strange morning indeed this is all turning out to be," said Henry quietly. "Demons and Vampires!"
"Weird for us too," said Dawn. "Not often I get to meet the actual characters out of my favourite book. Even if their names are wrong!"
"Changed to protect our secret identities, of course, just like Superman," Henry said, smiling.
"Henry and Gwenny Porter? Hey, fairly easy to spot those," said Dawn, grinning back at him.
"Perhaps for you, who for some reason don't seem to be affected by the overall spells that keep the ordinary world from being aware of us," said Gwenny. "That's why we refer to them as being Muddled - we keep them just slightly distracted to prevent them noticing us."
Henry looked keenly at Chiyo. "Even so, I sense something different about you, Chiyo. I wonder if perhaps you might have been in contact with some kind of powerful magic, or perhaps a strongly magical object, without even being aware of it. That's my best guess."
Chiyo looked thoughtful. "There is a lot of what you might consider to be magic in our culture and traditions, and in our stories in Japan," she said doubtfully. "Do you suppose I might have acquired something magical, perhaps as a gift, without even realising it?"
"That's certainly a possibility. Would that be something that could happen easily in your country?"
"Oh, yes - the giving and receiving of gifts is a very important part of Japanese culture. This is why we were shopping today - all the gifts I brought with me from home for my friends here in England were lost in transit by the airline, so I've had to buy everyone new ones. Dawn and Bibi have been helping me, and doing a bit of shopping of their own at the same time," said Chiyo.
"So if that's what happened, it could have been almost anything at all," said Gwenny.
"Hm. A gift from almost anyone," said Henry Porter thoughtfully.
"Strong enough to fight off a nine foot vampire demon bare handed?" Henry Porter said doubtfully, shortly after they'd finally said goodbye to their unexpected foreign guests. "Unbelievable! She's can't be much more than five foot in her socks - how could she possibly...?"
"Tough girl if it's true," his wife said. "Not someone to have an argument with, certainly. I don't think you'd have time to get your wand out before she'd be all over you, ripping arms and legs off like a freshly cooked crab! "
"Thank you for that vivid vote of confidence," Henry Porter said with a wry smile. "I'll remember that next time we have crab salad! No, I'm just amazed that we haven't heard anything about these people before. I mean, who are they? Are they on their own, or part of a group? They mentioned a fourth person, didn't they, so is it just the four of them, or are there lots more? If so, are they wide spread, or just somewhere here in England?"
"H., you're forgetting! The Japanese girl did actually say 'All the others', didn't she? Surely that would imply that there's an organisation of some sort out there somewhere, even if it's only a fairly small, loose group of vampire and-or demon hunters."
"Gwenny, are you sure?"
His wife nodded, and then added, "They didn't seem to want to talk much about themselves, or where they lived, either. Did you notice?"
"Yes," said Henry Porter thoughtfully. "So now we seem to have made accidental contact with some sort of possibly magical group of unknown size, that we've never even heard of. However, we only know for certain there are two, probably three American women, and one younger Japanese girl, who feels she is in debt to them for saving her life."
"That's Japanese custom, H. I remember reading something about it somewhere. I'm sure Hermione would know," said Gwenny.
"Dear Hermione, the only one of us that damned author woman didn't rename!" Henry Porter laughed at the memory. "Didn't dare, of course - Hermione wouldn't have stood for that!"
"Ron once told me she paid JK a visit in the middle of the night when she heard about the first draft of the book, and demanded to see what she'd done about our names! He wouldn't tell me what she'd proposed to call Hermione, but he did say he'd heard she was in tears when Hermione left, and shaking like a jelly, but Hermione would never tell him what she did to the woman."
"I don't think I'd want to know, quite honestly," said Henry. "Hermione seriously annoyed would probably be like encountering... er... well, perhaps a Japanese vampire demon, by the sound of it! She always could be pretty tough when it was called for!"
They both laughed.
"I think we should give our new young friends an hour or two to get home, and then see if we can trace them in our own way," Henry said, producing his wand from his sleeve and laying it on the table.
"Did you notice, they were all three carrying concealed weapons very like our wands, but not magical," Gwenny said.
"Well, traditionally you stab a vampire through the heart with a wooden stake, don't you? I don't suppose it really has to be a great big thick thing as long as your arm, that you bang in with a hammer, like in the old Dracula films - you'd have a terrible job carrying something like that around in public," said Henry Porter.
"Especially if you weren't carrying a bag of some sort," his wife said thoughtfully. "But it does just go to show they were probably telling the truth about the Japanese girl's vampire, don't you think? A slender piece of really tough wood a foot or so long would slip very neatly into the back of a girl's waistband, just the way they had them."
"Hmm," said Henry Porter.
"Can we talk now?" Dawn exploded as they finally got into their own car, which they'd left parked outside the Watchers' Owl Street house in North London. Up until then Bibi had stopped them from saying anything at all that could be overheard by the cabbie who'd driven them back from the West End, and the younger girl had built up a head of steam that threatened to blow the taxi into a million pieces.
"Yes, if you want," Bibi said, starting the car, and making sure everyone was belted in.
"You wanted to be sure we weren't overheard, didn't you?" Chiyo said.
"Yes," Bibi said tersely, looking at the youngest girl in her rear view mirror. "We didn't dare say anything in front of anyone else. As members of the Watchers' Council, we have to follow the same sort of rules of security as these magicians, Chiyo. We don't dare let it get out that there really are such things as vampires and demons, or an organization to defend the world from them. You understand why, don't you?"
Chiyo nodded. It was a strange situation she found herself in. She realised that it was beginning to look as if she was being considered as part of the Watchers' organisation, at least by Bibi and Dawn, whether she wanted to be or not. But then, what with owing them her life, she supposed that from their point of view, it was the best way they could ensure she didn't risk spreading her knowledge far and wide. She wondered if she ought to remind them that she'd already talked about her misadventure in Amerika with her friends back in Japan.
"I still can't believe the books are real!" Dawn exclaimed.
"Partly!" Bibi pointed out, as they turned north and headed for the motorway.
"Yeah, yeah. But just any part of it being true is pretty amazing though, don't you think?" Dawn said.
"Another secret organization? Did the Council have no idea at all?" Chiyo asked from the back seat.
"Not that I know of." Dawn dug out her mobile phone and speed-dialled Willow, and for the next few minutes the other two were treated to one half of an increasingly comical conversation, as it soon became apparent that to start with, Willow had no idea what Dawn was talking about, and then really didn't believe what she was saying about meeting the two strangers.
Eventually, Bibi took the phone from Dawn and spoke briefly and quietly to Willow. When she handed the phone back it was to change the direction they were going in.
"Hey! What are you doing, Bibi? The M1 going north is signposted in the right hand lane. You've just put us westbound," Dawn said, puzzled.
"Willow says to misdirect these people, as they're almost certain to try and track us home. It'll take her a little while to assemble the ingredients for a suitably powerful cloaking spell to put over us, so she wants us to look as if we're heading towards somewhere in the West Country."
"Like the Coven? Yay, Willow! Good thinking!"
And while Dawn turned round and started to explain to Chiyo about the role that the Coven had played in the life of the Scoobies, Bibi drove towards the afternoon sun, waiting for the phone call to tell her it was safe to turn north again for St. Trinian's and home.
"Wherever they're going, we'll definitely be able to find out," Henry Porter repeated confidently to his wife for the third time, an hour or two later.
"I'm not so sure. I'm detecting some strong magical activity around them, H.," Gwenny said. "I can't tell who it is, or where they are, though."
"Right! Let's see exactly how powerful these people really are, then," and picking up his wand, Henry Porter murmured an appropriate spell. Almost instantly there was a loud bang, and he recoiled sharply as bright green sparks filled the room, and swirled round them in a dizzying spiral.
Gwenny quickly grabbed her own wand and declaimed a protective spell of her own, at which the sparks gradually faded away again.
"That was a bit unexpected, dear. Are you all right?"
Her husband nodded, ruefully rubbing his tingling fingers.
"Obviously they're a lot stronger than we anticipated. I think I'd better get onto the Wizards' Council about this encounter, so we can decide just what we ought to do," he said. "I just wish I could talk to Albus about all this. The one really good idea in the books is being able to talk to past Headmasters by way of their portraits. Pity it's not true."
"Well, they know about us, and now we know about them," said Gwenny, sensibly. "So long as they don't cause us problems, don't you think that for the moment it might be better to simply leave things the way they are?"
Bibi and Dawn - 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' by Joss Whedon et al,
Chiyo Mihama - 'Azumanga Daioh' by Kiyohiko Azuma et al,
Henry and Gwenny Porter - adapted from 'Harry Potter' by J K Rowling et al.