See Chapter One for Disclaimer Faith continues to resist my attempts to establish a proper Watcher/Slayer relationship. Whatever progress Ms. Northam had made with the girl initially seems to have eroded under the decidedly unprofessional and haphazard methods of Mr. Giles.
In order to create maximum focus on her Slayer duties, I have insisted that the girl remain in the lodgings where she has been living since arriving in this town. Strangely, she has only asked to move once, and accepted my refusal with nothing more than a look.
Quite a strange look, actually….
Regardless, the lack of social distractions should serve well to temper Faith into the precision weapon the Council requires. Buffy Summers, on the other hand, remains willful and insolent; she simply will not heed my demands that she not interact further with Rupert Giles. At least Faith is mindful of that requirement. It seems that she seldom sees Giles, or even any of the other children, any longer….
--From the journal of Wesley Wyndam-Price
March 3, 1999
The mood in the Citadel had changed dramatically in the hours since the word had gone out. There was now a sense of… anticipation, which made Taryuu smile despite himself. Clan soldiers by the score were gathered in the echoing cavern of the first floor chamber, checking the weapons they'd been issued for the coming confrontation. They all had firearms of their own, of course; that was practically a basic article of clothing in this country. However, their leaders, the underbosses called Kumichou
, had made it clear that in a situation like this one, a gun was more likely to kill one's ally than one's enemy. To address that, the soldiers had each been given a melee weapon. They ranged from Tui-fa
, the simple club that American police batons were derived from, to Dosu
, the short blade traditionally ascribed to the Yakuza clans. The more skilled individuals bore Nunchaku
or any of several other weapons that were taught as part of the various martial arts.
Taryuu actually thought it unlikely that things would go as far as an actual battle; either the girl would realize the hopelessness of her cause and surrender, Nagasu would cast his spell and bind her will, or Dai would simply shoot Faith through the heart. No, the two hundred and fifty soldiers that would be present would actually be there to witness events, and to spread word of the Storm's victory to the streets. After tonight, one way or another, the spirit warrior would no longer be a threat.
A movement above him, up on the mezzanine level that encircled the central atrium drew his attention. Nagasu, along with three of his students, was walking along the balcony towards the rooms set aside for their use. Taryuu frowned. The Sorcerer had been closeted with Lord Akamori in his chambers on the third level for well over an hour. He also knew for a fact that Nagasu's full surviving complement of eight lesser sorcerers had accompanied him upstairs. That left him wondering why the other five seemed to have remained with the clan lord. Perhaps this was part of whatever 'resources' the young man had thought to invoke, here in his stronghold.
The man shook his head, suddenly feeling all of his forty-nine years. However things resolved themselves, Faith was doomed, and the Thousand-Year Storm would emerge victorious. Looking around him, at the still-gathering might of the Clan, it was impossible to envision any other outcome. Despite what he had seen this morning, he could almost feel sorry for the girl. It went beyond bravery, for one person, however gifted, to battle so many. He found himself hoping that she met a clean death this night, rather than a lingering servitude, bound by chains of magic.
No one deserved such a fate, not even an American madwoman.
* * * * *
"Hey man." The soft voice made Alex lift his head and look around. Scott stood in the doorway, backlit by the light from the hall. "How's she doing?"
Turning back to where Kelly lay, the young man shrugged listlessly.
Alex hadn't moved from her side for hours now; he'd slowly begun to fear that somehow, if he left for even a moment, then the girl on the bed would lose her fight to live, and he'd return to find her dead. It wasn't a rational fear, but it felt so real that he hadn't dared test it. A faint scuffing across the carpet reached his ears, and then the other man's hand was on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry. If we'd been able to get there sooner…."
Scott's voice trailed off helplessly, and Alex's hands clenched into fists.
"Better yet if she hadn't gone out where they could get their hands on her. If she hadn't been driven out by that-"
Scott let go of his shoulder and took a step back.
"Alex, she's trying to make it right."
That made him look around and stare up at his friend. Despite being only a few years older, Scott's face was lined, his eyes shadowed. The events of the last few days weighed visibly on him. Things are tough for everybody.
Alex thought. But the one who's most at fault is the one who's suffering the least. She's probably off on the vacation she was telling me about, right about now.
He found his voice at last.
"I've got news for you, buddy. Helping us find Kelly doesn't make it right. Her saying she's sorry-
" He put as much sarcasm into that word as was humanly possible. "-that doesn't make it right. The only thing she could possibly do, to make this all better, is to never have come here in the first place."
Scott watched him for a long moment, then shook his head slowly.
"I know a lot of this is her fault; I know that. But a lot of it isn't. Some of it… there was no way for her to know what was going to happen." He had a look in his eyes that Alex couldn't quite place; a sort of grim sadness, but there was something buried underneath it, something like excitement… or hope. Whatever it was, he didn't want to hear about it. He just wanted to be left alone with Kelly. If he stayed focused on her, if he kept whispering to her over and over how much he loved her, how much he needed her to stay with him, then maybe-
"She's going to fight them tonight."
Lost in his own thoughts, that didn't penetrate at first.
Scott crouched down beside him, so that they were on the same level. When he spoke, there was an intensity, and an excitement there that were unmistakable.
"Faith. Tonight she's going to make it right." Alex looked at his friend, and saw the reverence in his face as he said it. "She's going to go to their headquarters, and she's going to kill every last one of them."
He actually looked as if he believed it.
"You're as crazy as she is." He felt a sudden stab of concern, and he had to ask. "Please tell me you're not going to be in there with her."
That made Scott grimace.
"No. She says she doesn't need that kind of help." He was feeling guilty, Alex realized. His friend was feeling depressed because he hadn't been allowed to go commit suicide with the insane woman.
"Well." There didn't seem to be much to say on that subject. "I hope she gets to kill a lot of people before they blow her brains out." He looked down at where his fingers were picking at a frayed spot on the bed sheets. "That's what she enjoys most, after all; killing."
Scott waited for a minute or so, apparently waiting for more, but Alex didn't have anything else that needed to be said. The other man finally stood.
"Okay, I've got to go. I just came by to check on you two, and to get Faith's backpack. She said you had it here." Alex nodded mutely, not looking up. A sigh came from behind him. "She… she wanted to know how you both were, too. She told me that."
He didn't look around; he just stared at Kelly's pale face.
"Tell her we're fine. Tell her anything you want."
There was another pause, and then the sound of retreating footsteps. They were alone again. The girl on the bed was still now; but it wasn't sleep that held her. She was fading, as if she'd been too badly hurt to even begin to try and heal herself.
"Please Kelly." He took her hand in both of his, squeezing it gently, trying to reach her. "Please, don't give up."
She gave no sign that she heard. Against his will, Alex found himself wondering what Faith thought she was doing, taking on the whole Yakuza organization at once. It was strange; the girl beside him had given up the fight, and the other girl didn't seem to know how to give it up. Both paths seemed to lead to the same place, though. Faith was beyond his help, whatever his feelings for her might be. Kelly might be just as far out of reach, for all that she was right there in front of him, but he could still pretend.
He did the only thing he could do, and held her hand.
* * * * *