Title: Stairway To Heaven (pt. 5)
Author/Artist: Amethyst Hunter
Fandom: Get Backers
Theme: #22 – “cradle”
Rating: PG-13 (language, m/m)
Warnings/Spoilers: Minor ones for basic canon.
Notes: The tarot used is the standard deck; I tweaked it a little to provide suitable drama for Himiko's reading. ;)
Disclaimer: Don’t own ‘em. Akane Akabane though, is my own invention.
Summary: Himiko reflects on the mysterious no-man’s land that brought Ban and Akabane together, and a new path revealed sets into motion a revolution that will change everyone’s lives forever.
The first card she turned over was the Ace of Swords. “Well damn, way to start off a reading,” Ban muttered as Himiko moved her hand away from the card so everyone could see it. Swords were a harbinger of aggression and this one was no different; its reversed position from where Himiko had overturned it meant that caution would be a wise option. With the forces of Babylon City aligned on Brain Trust's side, any attempt at wielding power against them could have disastrous consequences, if that power was not carefully utilized.
Himiko thought over her next question as she put her hand on the second card. Minor arcana were not to be taken as absolutes. Rather, they suggested possibilities that could be expanded upon. But when she spoke her question, turned over the second card and laid it sideways atop the first, the horizon beginning to unfold ahead of her took on personal focus.
Ban's eyes connected with hers, but neither of them said anything. The Wheel of Fortune was a significant major arcana card, representing none other than the great spin of fate. Himiko wasn't sure how she ought to interpret this one, for its upright placement could be less benevolent than it appeared. Unexpected events, she knew, could go either way, and unusual losses were something she'd come to expect in her life.
Perhaps it was fitting that this card, in honor of the two men for whom fate held the most turbulent of revolutions, bore the insignias of both. On its left side, the infamous serpent twined round in its arrogant grace; on the right, Anpu-Anubis, the Jackal-Watcher of the Night, kept silent guard.
Ban made a noncommittal noise. He didn't seem terribly worried, so Himiko chose to let it pass without further comment. She spoke the next question, drew the next card.
“What part must I play in this crossroads?”
Interesting, she realized a second later, that she'd used that word. Crossroads. Great omens of both ill and good portent occurred here. The Seven of Wands she'd drawn and placed into the crucifix-pattern formation might appear to bolster her faith.
Ban seemed to think so, for he nodded approvingly. “Not bad. So long as you watch your ass,” he added. The card was resting upright, but it, like its kin, held a multitude of meanings that could be narrowed to fit the scope of Himiko's particular situation – and some of those hints carried a decidedly unpleasant aspect.
“I have to fight them,” she said slowly. “In the end, they're Yamato's killers. I have to challenge them on their own turf so my brother can finally be at peace.”
“Well, you're not doing it alone,” Ban said flatly. “Not unless you want to rest in peace.”
“Or pieces,” Ginji put in unhelpfully. “Ban-chan's right, Himiko-chan. Brain Trust is way too big and dangerous to take on all by yourself! We'll help you.”
“You think I can't do it,” Himiko said, glaring at the both of them. “How many times do I have to say it before it finally bores through your thick skulls? I'm not some helpless little girl anymore. I can handle the battles I choose.”
“I know that. We know that,” Ban grumbled. “But you fell prey once to the illusions the first time we screwed around with Divine Design, remember? Brain Trust isn't stupid. They've been keeping tabs on us the whole time; they'll have evolved just as we have to cope with any threats. You march in there with a chip on your shoulder and an ax to grind, they'll pick you off just like a ripe zit, make no mistake.”
Stung by the memory of the fake Yamato's deceit, Himiko felt her face redden. “We know the secrets of Mugenjou now. We have an insider with Makubex. Now that we're aware of the fortress's manipulative abilities, we can counter that.”
Akabane spoke suddenly. “I wonder. Do we really know all the secrets of that place?”
She looked at him, a silent demand for elaboration. But he did not oblige. He didn't have to, for Ban was on the same wavelength.
“Jackal's right, kid. That place spooks me up the hide more than I ever care to admit. The farther away we stay from it, the happier I'll be as far as I'm concerned.”
“Me too,” Ginji said. “All that ever happens there are bad things! People getting hurt, and death - “
“Hmm. Perhaps that is what makes it so interesting,” Akabane mused. “Maybe we ought to go there.”
“Are you nuts?!” Ban almost shouted at him, at about the same time Ginji shuddered and yelped, “No way, Akabane-san!”
Akane raised her brow at the two; it was an effective enough silencer. She looked to Himiko. “I hear sometimes of this Mugenjou. What is it?”
Ignoring Ban's growl of “it ain't no damn Disneyland, that's for sure,” Himiko tapped her fingers on the deck of tarot cards as she thought for a minute. “You've seen the enormous complex at the city's ground zero?”
“Aa. It is this tall building?”
“A series of them. Everyone used to think they were just a failed construction project that went bust when the recession hit years ago. But some of us have actually been in there. We found out that it was Brain Trust's experimental zoo,” Himiko said. “They hold the people who live in there hostage. Some escaped, like Ginji or the Threadmaster Kazuki. But others are trapped by means as yet unfathomable to us,” she finished on a lower note, knowing only too well what it felt like to be caged in isolation, no options left. “Some time ago...there was a battle. We managed to free the Lower Town section with all the people who were being used, but to a limited degree. They still can't leave the boundaries of the set perimeters. If they do, they disappear.”
“Forever,” Ginji said, his eyes dimming, no doubt having conjured the reminder of his successor the boy king. “But at least the Brain Trust can't bother them any more...”
“That we know of,” his sterner partner said, his own blue eyes cooling in resolve. “'Cause if you think they've forgotten about your little indoor barbecue when we rescued Makubex, you better get your own head rewired, and fast. The next time they'll go for the kill.” Ban looked at Akabane. “Isn't that right, Jackal?”
Akabane's face creased in a slight frown to match his mother's. “Now, Midou-kun. If you are referring to the time when I approached you and Ginji-kun about a fight, let me reassure you. Kagami-kun cannot distract me again. He has already tried and failed, most miserably I might add.”
“Doesn't matter. In Mugenjou, all bets are off. The place turns your head inside out.”
“Yeah,” Ginji said. “When we had to go in there to get the IL, Ban-chan said that you and I were fighting, Akabane-san. I don't remember doing it, but I could feel something of Raitei still in me that was all angry and didn't settle down for a while. And Sakura told me later that she'd witnessed the fight. We really tore up the underground there.”
Akabane favored him with a smile. “Yes, it was very thrilling. My only regret is that we were interrupted before the battle really began in earnest.” He sensed waves of parental disapproval enveloping him in a flood and gave Akane a confused look. “Heavens, Mama, it's nothing personal. It's just what Ginji-kun and I do.”
Her scowl put one of his arctic glares to shame. “Why do you fight with Gin-ji, Karawan? He is good boy.”
He had the grace to appear somewhat chagrined. “It was nothing, Mama, only a small tussle in the course of our objective.”
“And only a small stabbity with your baby's favorite sword to show for it,” Ban needled. “Which I noticed you apparently have no regret for.”
Akabane developed a pout. “That was your own fault. You shouldn't have interfered with a fight that was clearly intended for others.”
“Both of you, bad!” Akane snapped, making them fall quiet immediately. She'd barely raised her voice, but then, she had no need of volume with sheer force of presence at her command. “Ban-kun says this Mugenjou turns people inside out - “
“Not literally,” Himiko tried to correct.
“ - then you try to do same to each other. That is not good. Not good.” She clucked her tongue. “I raise you better than that, Karawan.”
“He runs with scissors too,” Ban offered.
“Among other sharp things,” Ginji whispered back to him. The two Get Backers shared a muted snicker.
“I most certainly do not,” Akabane said, a dull irritation simmering in his expression. He looked ready to cross the point of knife-throwing stage, but then again, he was a lot less prone to exposing weaponry in his mother's presence. Fear of God, indeed. Himiko had to cover her mouth with a hand to hide the grin she couldn't help at seeing the bulk of Akane's ire directed at her poor erstwhile transporting comrade.
The necromanceress continued. “That is why Gin-ji always shy to visit. Yes? No way for you to behave around guests, Karawan!”
“But Mama - “
Akane said nothing, only gave her son That Look, and he shut up fast. Himiko marveled at the impossible. She'd never seen Akabane – who danced with death in one arm and a bloody sword in the other, smiling through pain that would have crippled other mortals - wilt like that before.
Ban poked her in the side. “Mothers are the kiss of death,” he chuckled knowingly.
Louder, he said to the elder woman, “He can't help it, Akane. Neither of them can. It's that place. It does something to people. Ginji and Akabane just happen to be especially susceptible to it.”
Akane looked perplexed. “Then stay out of there! Foolish boys. No bad place, no fighting.” She looked like she had every expectation of her simple solution to be the one and only answer. Himiko wouldn't have been surprised if, upon learning that this was not how the infinite castle operated, Akane tried to storm its gates on her own using the same penetrating glare she'd leveled her son with - nor would she have been all that shocked to see the elder claim victory.
“It's a little more complicated than that,” Ban said. “Sometimes we don't have a choice. Our jobs take us to just about every place in the book you can think of.”
“And to some that aren't in the book!” Ginji added.
Akane was not pleased. “Always a choice. Choose not to go into bad places when you know they hold danger. You live longer.”
“Quality of life ought to count as much as quantity, don't you think, Mama?” Akabane said. “Mugenjou might not be the most hospitable of areas, but it does offer some rather interesting opportunities, if one knows where to tread...” He broke off when his mother's eyes froze into razor-thin slits of purple targeted on him. “...Mama?”
Ban's sides were shaking from holding in his laughter. He puckered his lips and blew his lover a smug kiss. “Keep talking, Kuroudo, you're just digging your own grave that much deeper.”
Akabane managed to retain his shredded dignity even when flustered. He cleared his throat softly and shifted in his seat. “Mm. Himiko-san, perhaps you would care to continue your reading?”
“Thank you. At least someone else around here knows the value of keeping to good business,” Himiko said, and drew the next spin of fate's fickle hand.