Anemone was smugly satisfied with herself. No injury and Marie was all hers. And she was gonna get ice cream for sure. No, gelato! It was Italy after all. She wasn’t as happy when further adventures were suggested. She could do without that. More chances to get killed, or at best, a delay before she got what she wanted. She followed behind Marie, hiding her annoyance. She had means of dealing with this. Quietly, she pointed out a nice place, out of the way. She picked a table in the back corner. It let her watch the room. A waitress approached and she smiled.
“Hello. I would like your iced tea and a plate of risotto. Thanks.” Very suddenly, she was speaking perfect Italian. As soon as the waitress was gone, she leaned on the table, mask falling away. Her face was expressionless, unmoving as the ancient statues that littered this country. “Marie Archelot.” She switched back to English, this time with only a trace of her formerly crippling accent. “Your father wants you to come home.”
Though Marie had been the one to initiate the impromptu lunch date, it was the other girl who picked out both their place of choice and their seats. Marie obliged her without saying a word, sitting down at the table Anemone had designated as theirs. When Anemone ordered in perfect Italian, Marie's face remained neutral, almost stoic save for a faint smile that curled her lips just slightly upwards.
"I'll have a lasagna and cola please." Marie herself ordered in far less pristine Italian.
It was only when the waitress had left and Anemone switched to English that mild surprised showed on Marie's face.
"Huh, I honestly didn't expect you to have even the slightest accent." she said in a flat tone as the surprise faded from her expression. "I also anticipated playing a round or two of pointless mind games before you dropped the act." Marie continued, not taking her eyes off the other girl. Marie restrained herself from letting out a sad laugh at the girl's demand. Of course her father wanted her to come home, she didn't need some hired blade to come halfway across the continent if not farther to tell her that.
"Well, you know my name. I imagine you know a whole lot more about me as well. I think it's only fair if we even this out a bit. Name please? And profession while you're at it. Feel free to throw in other interesting tidbits you're willing to divulge. And oh before you protest, keep in mind our little lunch break only gives us an hour of time, and how easy or difficult your job ends up being depends entirely on my willingness to cooperate with you."
Anemone felt a mild tingle of surprise when Marie seemed to see right through her act. She wondered how soon her game had been noticed. Marie was smarter than she had appeared. The accent, it seemed, had still stuck with her. She’d keep it up. Anemone had rarely even been to Japan. “Anemone.” She answered honestly. She had a host of aliases, but for mundane work like this, the closest thing she had to a real name was fine. “I’m a private eye. Your father asked me to find you and encourage you to come home. No force.” She raised her hands, palms out. “I apologize for not coming clean earlier. I wanted to speak with you alone and evade notice until I could understand you better.”
Marie eyed the girl in front of her with some suspicion, clearly not satisfied with the incomplete answer as the girl had only offered her a first name but not a last. She decided to pay no mind to the fact that Anemone was an odd name to begin with. It didn't exactly fit the girl if one were to ask Marie, then again considering what the girl said next, it seemed at least somewhat plausible that the name was an alias or codename of some sorts. That possibility of course made any further inquiry about a last name rather pointless as well. Marie sighed in her mind, but let the issue go. It's not as though she expected the girl's true or full name to hold any significance to her in the first place.
"Am I to take the terseness of that response as confirmation that you aren't willing to share more?" Marie asked her interlocutor in a rather casual tone. Yet, her voice became just a hint higher as she let out something between a scoff and a laugh. "You're apologizing, but quite frankly you don't seem the apologetic type to me." for a moment after making the statement Marie sunk into silence as the waitress brought them their order. With a meal in front of both Marie continued.
"Well? I'm not sure you quite nailed the evading notice bit, but you got me here and we're all alone. How well do you understand me?" when Marie asked her question her tone shifted once more, now there was a hint of playfulness in it, almost as though she found something amusing.
Marie was starting to annoy her. She saw through so many things. People like her were the most dangerous in the business. Most people with the right combination of paranoia and cleverness to spot her were assassins themselves. “I had no choice but to intervene. Those men might have hurt you. Things would have gone much smoother without them.” She frowned at what Marie asked. What sort of question was that? Nobody knew anybody else. Humans were black boxes, each a hydra with a different face for everybody they knew, and every face a falsity. People did not even understand themselves. But Anemone could read those faces better than most, and she could speak something resembling the truth when it mattered. “Less than I thought I did. But you are still bold. We had the chance to escape that fight and you didn’t take it. You stood your ground. I think your father would be proud.” Anemone smiled.
Anemone's answer prompted Marie to actually start laughing in an almost exaggerated manner. Although it was her greatest outburst of emotion in the conversation so far, it did not last all that long.
"Well, well. You don't know me apparently, but you do know my father, better than I seem to know him at any rate." Marie's comment was once again dripping with amusement. Gilles Archelot wasn't the sort of father who didn't appreciate the accomplishments of his daughter, yet he wasn't given to praise either, and most importantly Marie was rather certain that at this point in time the only two emotions he could muster up in relation to her were worry and wrath. Yet Anemone would have her believe that standing by and watching two up-jumped grave robbers get dealt with would cause him to feel pride. Had the girl even met Gilles? His face had always been rather gaunt, even before Elise's death, and the sharp lines of his face and all black armor shouldn't have made for an inspiring sight. In the back of Marie's mind, it caused her to regard the girl before her with some suspicion yet again. She put an end to the thought as quickly as it had sprung to mind however. It wouldn't serve her any to be paranoid about this. Her journey had barely started, she hadn't had the time to make enemies. Even if this girl wasn't quite who she claimed she was, Marie didn't have to declare her a foe just yet.
"I think you're telling me what I want to hear, or rather, what you think I'd want to hear." Marie added once the matter had been cleared up in her own mind.
"Well? Not going to elaborate some more? I can hardly read your mind, you know. What if I refuse to come along, are you going to try and capture me?" Marie asked, seemingly more curious than concerned. "And besides, it'd be nice to know why my father picked you of all people. You bring back wayward daughters often?"
“I didn’t mean openly. I didn’t get the impression that he expressed much of what he felt when I met him.” Anemone shrugged. That seemed true enough from what she saw of the man. No more playing with things she didn’t know and couldn’t surmise from her limited information. “If you refuse to come along, I will tell your father that and he will have to talk to you himself. I hate conflict. You saw how little I could do against those two in a straight fight, and let’s face it, those two sucked. I don’t usually bring home runaways, but I am good at finding people, so your father figured I could find you.” A smile appeared on Anemone’s face, perhaps her first genuine one in a long time. “It wasn’t hard, you know. People were snapping shots wherever you went. Thought you were some kind of cosplayer in that outfit. All it took from there were some well-placed questions and maybe a loose coin or two to find out where you were staying, how you were getting around.”
Marie regarded Anemone with a sharp gaze for a moment before sighing and letting the issue of her father go. She intertwined the fingers of her hands and rested her chin on top of them, still keeping her eyes on Anemone. Softer, less accusatory, less weary.
"You know, playing the nice girl all of a sudden really makes it difficult to just flip you off and tell you to get lost. Way to mess with my game plan." Marie's statements were punctuated with another sigh as she closed her eyes for a moment. "I can't go back. Not soon in any case. I'm actually incredulous to the fact that my father would be so naive as to think that an overqualified messenger would be all it took to bring me back. No offence." as Marie's eyes opened she was looking at Anemone in a curious and not wholly antagonistic way. "You sure he didn't imply that you could be "extra persuasive" with me if I refused to cooperate? Anything?" as Marie spoke she also began attacking the meal before her, albeit in a somewhat lazy and disinterested manner.
"I think you're being excessively modest about your capabilities. On purpose. Not sure if that makes me want to call you smart or dangerous." Marie paused for a moment as she swallowed a bite of lasagna. "Both works I suppose." she added with the slightest of grins.
The last comment Anemone made drew out a third sigh from Marie. "Yeah, I've sorta made peace with the fact that I'm a beacon for attention at this point. It's part stubbornness on my part, but also because I kinda like it. I didn't use to get out much back home or play magic knight dress-up, at least not in public. At any rate, it's not like I'm hiding or being covert. I might be a runaway rich girl, but I'm not the incognito type, trying to get a new lease on life or who's cutting all ties with her family. I'm still Marie Archelot, and I still consider myself a member of the Order. I fully plan on returning one day, and my dad knows that." Marie allowed herself another grin. "I bet half of that means nothing to you."
Marie grew silent for a few moments as she ate her food, trying to eat at least some before it grew completely cold.
"Even if my dad showed up here right now, it's not as if I'd hide under table. If need be I'd fight him." Marie suddenly added and then fell silent again. This time it wasn't because she was chewing on food, but rather on some thoughts. If her dad showed up, she'd what? Draw her sword? Attack him? Could she really? In truth it wouldn't be the first or second they crossed swords, rather it'd be the thousand and first. But that was all different. It was sparring, training. It was a lot of fond memories actually. Her father teaching her proper sword techniques and letting her experience the rush of combat in a safe and controlled environment. What she was talking about now was different. Even if neither of them could ever seriously injure the other, just the conflict itself, the opposition to one another, the change of roles from teacher and student to enemy and adversary would make it ugly. Even if it all played out, move by move, like one of their sparring matches, the idea still gave Marie goosebumps. Come to think of it, what about her father? If this was how she felt, how would he handle drawing his sword against his own daughter? After what happened with Elise how woul-
Her thoughts stopped there. Thinking about it had taken her down a dark path inside her mind. Nothing good would come from indulging the scenario further or trying to grasp at answer she couldn't have right now, and wasn't sure he would want later. Just like that she had made herself sad. She hadn't felt sad in more than a month now. She hadn't given herself the time or the chance to feel sad.
Marie furrowed her brow, trying to steel her face enough that it appeared as though she was in deep thought. Keep the emotions from bubbling to the surface. Though she did her best, and wearing a facade was second nature to the young knight, a hint of melancholy slipped through and showed on her face. Thinking about her family in such a way for the first time in a while had lowered her guard just enough for that to happen.
She turned her gaze away from Anemone as she bit down on another piece of lasagna.
Marie was annoying. So, so annoying. Far too perceptive for her own good. If Anemone didn’t know better, she’d say Marie herself was an assassin. The only difference was that a good assassin would be better at hiding that perception. She kept her face flat while she ate, watching Marie speak. “Well, he didn’t say anything about you coming back. Presumably if he knows, he wants you back sooner rather than later.” She had it, finally. A chink in the armor. Anemone could never resist a weakness like that.
“Don’t like the idea of fighting him, eh? I can understand that. There is a better solution.” Anemone fished a phone from her pocket, one of her many burner phones. “I have him as a contact. This phone won’t tell him where you are, and neither will I. You can talk to him, no risk.” Anemone was telling the truth. She’d never use a phone people could trace. But this was a perfect temptation. The girl was already missing her father. Letting her speak to him would leave her more open to suggestions of return.
Sooner rather than later? No, knowing Gilles it was immediately rather than sooner. Marie sighed. She was losing track of how many times she caught herself sighing ever since the meeting with Anemone had started. If Marie didn't know any better, she would have called the girl sitting opposite her frustrating. But no, this wasn't Anemone, Marie knew this was all herself. It was the past few months of her life catching up to her.
Then, almost as if the girl anticipated Marie's thoughts, Anemone decided to take a more active role in Marie's angst.
Marie stared at the phone offered to her. There was a lot of anxiety that could be resolved with that one conversation.
She considered it. Her hand moved slightly. Yet, reason won over emotion and Marie managed to stop herself before speaking any words of agreement. Marie knew herself, and she knew her father some. Nothing good could possibly come from the two of them conversing right now. Mending relations was going to take considerable time, and rushing into what was bound to turn into a heated conversation now would only extend the necessary wait. Absence makes the hear grow fonder was going to be Marie's mantra for the time being. She could only hope her father hadn't developed an immunity to that proverb as of late.
"No. Thank you kindly but no. It's a kind offer, but this is neither the time nor place." Marie responded in a soft tone, but with a stoic expression.
She had to shift gears and start thinking about something else. The longer she let herself delve on these things, the longer it would take her to recover afterwards. Her eyes naturally fell upon Anemone and Marie suddenly had both an idea and a faint smile on her lips.
"Say Anemone, what do you usually do? You said you're a private eye, but what sorts of cases do you usually go after? Forgive my insistence on this point, but when I picture your average girl sleuth, I don't think sickles, smoke bombs and acrobatics. At any rate, if I'm right I may have an idea or two on how to sweeten this whole deal for you."
Anemone saw it. She saw her move for it. And yet she still rejected it! Anemone sighed internally and waved for the waitress. “Gelato, please. Chocolate.” She asked before turning her attention back to Marie. “It’s kind of stupid, but… I was raised in a ninja clan. I never took great to the killing, but I liked spying and stealth, so when I ran away, I kept doing that for cash, and it just kinda stuck.” She shrugged, balancing a truly absurd amount of creamy delight on her spoon before swallowing it all. “What were you expecting though? A deerstalker and a pipe?”