Alexis work up in a dazed, staring up at a blank ceiling with bright lights shining down on top of her. There were white walls, and a window nearby, but when she tried to move, her muscles protested and a moan escaped from her lips.
“Your awake!” Suki shouted, launching herself on top of Alexis’s body.
“Suki?” Alexis questioned, pushing her cousin off to get a look at her. Her eyes were red, and checks wet from tears. She wore a t-shirt and pajamas, it was as if the two were about to commence a sleep over.
“Alexis, oh god we were so worried.” Suki cried.
“Mom and dad are…” Alexis started, but she felt her throat contract as her mind went back to the horrific memory.
“We know.” Suki said, brushing the tears aside. “Dad was called just an hour ago. We just got home, Hichiro and I refused to stay behind. What happened?”
“I… I don’t know.” Alexis started, “there were these black vehicles… and we were blocked in.”
“Suki, she shouldn’t talk.” Hichiro said in a hard, but tender voice. Unlike his sister, he did now show his emotion son his sleeve, though Alexis could see the concern in his face. “Dad’s out in the hallway with the Auroras.”
“Auroras?” Alexis asked, attempting to lift herself into a sitting position once more. Her body did not want to cooperate as she fell back down on her back.
“Somethings up.” Suki said. “Everyone seems to be going crazy.”
“Green light.” Alexis said suddenly. Both Suki and Hichiro shared a look. “There was a blast of green light.”
“Damn.” Hichiro said. “The Unforgivable Curse.”
“So it was murder?” Suki whispered. They all knew what the curse was, the green light. “Who… Anami! Alexis you said Mio-chan had threatened your mother, this has to be them!”
“A threat is a long way from murder.” Hichiro put in rationally.
“Could the Anami clan do this?” Alexis asked, still unable to full accept the facts. She looked to her arm to see a tube and wondered if it was just the pain killers and sedatives in her body.
“Well, maybe not the Anami, but there were other more powerful clans who was against this exhibit.” Suki added, “Any one of those could have hired an assassin.”
“But, if it’s about the exhibit, why wait until it’s over?” Hichiro asked, “And why go after the Runes, Aunty was only one, though the most vocal, of a group of five who were making this exhibit a go.”
“It has to be about the exhibit. Who else would want to kill us with magic?” Alexis asked. The door opened and Uncle Tetsu walked in, still wearing his formal kimono from the Gala. He looked exhausted, his eyes red, but dry.
“Alexis… how are you feeling?”
“Fine.” Alexis lied, how do you answer a question like that? Tetsu only nodded, and asked for his children to leave.
“I’ve arranged a Healer from the Northern Wing to come see to your wounds.” He added, though is voice sounded like it was far away, “I assume Suki and Hichiro had filled you in?”
“I already knew.” Alexis whispered, pushing herself back up to a sitting position. She could tell there was something else going on, it looked like her uncle had aged ten years since the last she saw him, his dark hair seemed grayer and he refused to keep eye contact with her for more than a second at a time.
“You’ll stay with us. It’s all being arranged as we speak… the Aurora’s, they would like to speak to you… if you want.” So that was the issue, Alexis peered around her uncle’s frame and saw the short man enter. He wore a muggle suit with a wizard’s dark blue cloak overtop. She nodded her head to her uncle as the Aurora began to ask question after question about what had happened. Alexis told them everything, from the threat from Mio Anami, to the three mysterious men who checked the car after it crashed. The Aurora nodded and wrote her statement down. There was no emotion in his face, no sympathy or concern.
“Three of them?” The Aurora asked. Alexis nodded her head. “But only one car stopped?”
“I… I think I only heard one.”
“Did you get a look at any of their faces?”
“No… I was playing dead and closed my eyes when they came around.” Alexis answered, feeling awkward and disheartened. If she had opened her eyes… even a little, she could have attempted to identify one of the murderers. Instead as the questions continued, she felt increasingly unhelpful in the case.
With no further questions, the Aurora bowed to both Alexis and her uncle, told them they’d be in touch and exited the room. Alexis turned to her uncle, suddenly feeling afraid.
“They will find them, right?”
“Of course, it’s they’re job. After all they used an Unforgivable Curse. The Ministry will be able to track them down in no time.” Tetsu said, though his voice did not reassure the teenager. There were to be no survivors after all… she was lucky to be alive. What if they learn they made a mistake, and came back to finish her off? “Come now, you’ll be staying with us, remember. The temple is the safest place to be, we’ve got enough spells, wards, and magic to keep anything negative away.” Tetsu leaned in and rubbed Alexis’s arm as she turned into her uncles chest and cried. Cried out of fear, loss and the emptiness she now felt in her heart.
The next few days went by in a blur. Alexis wondered the halls of the shrine as if she were in a dream, or nightmare. Relatives from all over the country had turned up to pay their respects to the memory of her mother. Oddly enough, only a small group of mourners came to pay her father’s respects, colleagues, students – both past and present; but no family. The one time when Alexis thought she could finally learn more about her father’s side of the family, and they were a no-show.
There seemed to be people everywhere Alexis went, all wishing to talk to her… to see how she was doing, if they could hep, or just to say their condolences. The first day it was kind, the second; annoying, the third… Alexis didn’t want anything to do with them. She grabbed her bow and a quiver of arrows and snuck out of the shine when nobody was looking.
The forest was just steps from the Shrine, Alexis set herself to practice. She needed to distract her mind from the nightmares, she needed to do something besides just stand there and listen to family and friends tell her all the good things about her parents.
Pulling the string back on her arrow and letting it fly, Alexis made an imaginary target at a centre of a tree in the distance. Over and over she fired the arrows, some coming close to the centre, but many missing the target all together. Tears of hot anger streamed down her face as she continued to mark the nearby trees up with the iron tips of the arrow.
“Damaging the trees will not ease your pain.” An old woman’s voice said from behind Alexis. The dark-haired teenager jumped back as she turned to spot her elderly grandmother standing a few paces away. She quickly rubbed her wet eyes with the sleeve of her shirt.
“Gomen’nasai… I didn’t hear you.” Alexis said.
“No, neither have your arrows. Child, your mind is in turmoil, as it should be. You need to rest, grieve, then move on.” Alexis sighed, her grandmother was never considered the most tender-hearted of people, but she spoke wisdom where appropriate.
“I couldn’t take it any longer in there… I had to get out.”
“I understand that. But what about your appetite? You’ve barely eaten anything since came.”
“I’m not that hungry, that’s all.” Alexis said, turning her back on her grandmother, a disrespectful gestured, only she didn’t want to make eye contact with the woman.
“There is a funeral feast tonight, and you will make an appearance, and eat.” Her grandmother’s voice was stern, but still filled with concern. Alexis nodded her head.
“I… can I stay here a bit longer?”
“Yes… there is something else I must discuss with you.”
Alexis lowered her bow and turned back around to face the elderly woman, a puzzled look on her face. She watched as her grandmother a seat on a nearby log and patted the spot next to her. Alexis took the seat, but tried not to stare into the woman’s dark gaze.
“Your parent’s will was opened today. There were some unfamiliar elements in it that we were not made aware of,” there was a pause. “It seemed your Guardian is not Tetsu, or myself.” Her grandmother’s words sounded hurt and disapproving. “It seemed, for some unknown reason your father had tricked my daughter into naming his brother as your Guardian.”
“Brother?” Alexis asked, her head raised. “I didn’t know dad had a brother.”
“No… you wouldn’t have. Your father kept tight-lipped about his family and past. Of course before I gave my permission for him to marry your mother, I had his past looked into. I do not approve of his choice. Despite your last name, you are a Takana, and my granddaughter. I would personally have this Guardianship questioned so that you can remain here, safe and continue your studies at Kitsune Academy.”
Alexis was stunned. She didn’t know what to say, her grandmother had made it clear that she intended to fight this bit of legality in order to keep custody of her and keep her in Japan. Part of her admired her grandmother’s determination, she was a strong woman and there was no doubt she would succeed in this ruling. Yet, at the same time, she still feared that whomever had killed her parents will come back and finish the job. She could barely deal with her own parents death, what would happen if Suki or Hichiro died next?
“Maybe this is a good thing?” Alexis ventured towards the old woman. Her grandmother looked taken aback and made a huffed sound under her breath. “I mean… while I’m here, I could be putting everyone in danger. I don’t want that to happen.”
“These grounds have been protected by the spells of our ancestors for centuries. You are perfectly safe here, you know that.”
“So I’m to be locked up here forever? I still have school to return to in a month… and Archery practice and competitions. Maybe… if I leave, everyone will be safer.”
“That is very nobel of you, my dear.” Her grandmother sighed and clasped Alexis’s hand. “It does not mean they would not follow you to your new home.”
“True… but all of you will be safe. Besides… I’ve always wanted to know more about my dad’s family.”
There was a smile, a sad one on her grandmother’s face. “Alright, if that is your wish.”
Alexis wasn’t sure if was her wish, only something she felt she had to do. She nodded her head as the two made their way back to the shrine.