safe from harm
noir; mirielle, intoccabille, kirika
2618 words, pg.
the trouble in the end, it makes you anxious. based on the episodes 'intoccabille' acte i & ii.
friends and enemies, i find it's contagious
and they're spreading through your system like a virus—
—yes, the trouble in the end, it makes you anxious
massive attack, safe from harm
Memories, childhood fears – they're so powerful, Mirielle thinks as she considers her most recent assignment, seated at her desk in front of her laptop. The winter light of late afternoon is streaming through the window, casting grey light over everything and forming puddles on the flooring. Tapping her fingers against the desk, Mirielle sits back in her seat, eyes on the screen, thinking.
Their mission this time was take down the Don Gleone, and in return, they were to receive a contract: a contract that The Soldats, the elusive, mysterious Soldats are supposed to have signed. A seminal clue in their quest for the truth – who are the Soldats? And as for themselves – who are they?
And they had succeeded, the man wanted dead is safe in his grave.
But they'd screwed it up. More accurately - Mirielle screwed up. It's all her fault and she knows it all too well - knows it like she knows her own name. If only she'd pulled the trigger as soon as she'd seen the Intoccabile, watching her kill the Cosa Nostra hitman. The Intoccabille wants revenge, and if only Mirielle hadn't frozen in fear at the sight of her like a deer in headlights, if only. . .
But there's no point reflecting now. It's only going to make her feel even more useless.
The Intoccabile had left a message on their answering machine. "Temple of Libaeo. Midday." A few seconds, in which it sounds like she's smiling, and then the click of her hanging up and a dial tone. Simple – but she gets the message. Somehow, it sounds more ominous than any threats she could have used.
Mirielle knows that Kirika and she have no choice but to follow her, and take her down before she gets to them – to NOIR – first. She can't let that happen. She needs to stay alive, and she knows if she doesn't kill the Intoccabile first, there's no way she'll be able to.
Lady Silvana - the Intoccabile, she thinks, and remembers back—
—back to an innocent day spent on the seaside cliffs of Sicily, where the flowers grow even in wintertime and cover the grassy lands of what seems like her little corner of the universe. Father had let her go off and play with the girl – after desperate complaining and pleading, her father had cautiously relented and let her go.
Silvana was a nice girl, a younger Mirielle had thought, even though she had heard her father and Silvana's father talking quietly of his daughter's deadly skills – how Silvana was getting to be so good with her blade – how quickly she seemed to be ascending her position. He was so proud of her, but a little scared, too. Mirielle had ignored it all (it wasn't as if she'd hurt her, right?) and followed her outside, into the summer day.
Three years her elder, with pretty lilac-coloured hair that shone when it caught the sunlight and serious grey-blue eyes. She was beautiful, and beautiful people didn't seem capable of such things, Mirielle thought.
"I know a place near the shore with nice flowers that I can take you to," she offered quietly. "There's a big cliff near the shore. If you're not too afraid."
A young Mirielle had loved every second of it – the flowers were just as beautiful as she imagined they would be, and she made a crown for herself out of them, and so had Silvana.
Looking over the cliffs and at the tides crashing onto the rocks way below – Mirielle was worried, not wanting to topple over the edge, fall over and into the unforgiving sea.
Silvana, beside her, stood perfectly still beside her, observing everything with watchful eyes.
Mirielle reached for Silvana's hand. "I'm scared."
The ends of her patent-leather shoes curled over the edges dangerously, and it felt like every gust of wind would be the one to push her over. She didn't like this. This was horrible – she wanted to leave. But when Silvana looked back down at her, the faintest traces of disdain marring her lovely features, she almost felt as if she couldn't.
"There is no fear in my heart, Mirielle." Her voice was cold, like steel, and she reached into the folds of her dress. Mirielle watched her every movement with wide, terrified eyes, and when she saw the blade that Silvana had just gotten out, she gasped. She couldn't move –
"Is there in yours, Mirielle?"
The blade is pointed straight at her – at her heart, Mirielle notices. Frozen with fear, she can't move – can't cry, or scream, or do anything really.
Before she's able to respond, Silvana rushes at her, the blade pointed forward and right at her. And still, Mirielle can't move, can't scream, can't do anything, but—
"Kirika," Mirielle says, as soon as Kirika wanders out from her room in the morning, rubbing her eyelids blearily.
Mirielle doesn't beat around the bush. "We need to find the Intoccabile, you realise."
She bows her head.
"We're going to have to do it as soon as possible, otherwise. . ." Mirielle's voice trails off, not really wanting to finish that thought, and Kirika nods almost imperceptibly. She knows it, too.
Practise time at noon has been a routine shared since Mirielle had met Kirika – a couple of months ago. Even the deadliest of assassins need to keep their skills sharp, Mirielle had said cheerfully after leading Kirika out into the yard for the first time. The targets are all set up in front of her – she assumes Kirika had done it earlier, which was nice of her.
The gun's not steady in her hand, though the tin can ahead of her is perfectly still. Her hand's shaking. The name ‘Intoccabille' rings through her mind, clear as bells chiming and it's all she can do not to drop the gun.
(There's no way. How can I—?)
It's not just about the contract anymore. It's personal now. This goes back years, to when she was five, and afraid then, too. But she's not five anymore, she's not wearing a pretty pink dress and a crown of daisies in her hair, and she's too old to be scared.
She draws the gun up to eye level, concentration focused entirely on the tin cans ahead of her, finger slowly encircling the trigger like a lifeline. She pulls it, breath catching in her throat.
Every single bullet misses.
Kirika stares at her with wide eyes. The can is still standing, the bullets crashing down onto the ground like rain on sidewalks, and Mirielle's just too shocked to even speak or curse or think.
(There's no way.)
Ten minutes later, her hands are still shaking.
Mirielle is a proud woman.
Her pride is in her strength: her ability to stare down gunmen and maniacs, and pull the trigger without any remorse, without any fear. And it's a necessity that comes with her job - Mirielle knows that she needs to rely on herself to stay emotionless, unwavering, just as she can rely on the stars to shift across the sky in constant motion.
She needs it - to stay alive.
But in the end, she's only human. She can't help herself. One second, one glimpse of pale hair and purple-blue lips and she's five again. The fear's spreading, cold under her skin and it's moving through her system slowly but surely, the hum of blood in her veins drowned out by this— god, she can't be here!
But she is, Mirielle thinks, stepping back across the concrete under her feet, eyes widening. It's a nice balcony she's standing on – seconds ago, she was leaning over the edge, her hair blowing freely in the summer breeze from the shores of Sicily. Serene, and almost forgetting that she's being hunted down by an insane woman. What a mistake, she thinks, reaching as surreptitiously as she can for her gun.
"How could you remember me— after all this time? When we've only met one time before this?"
The Intoccabile smiles.
"And the last time we met, you were trembling like this as well."
She turns away, and flits off into the shadows of the surrounding trees with all the grace of a butterfly in the winter sunlight. Mirielle watches her go, knowing full well she is unable to catch her.
She's got her hands wrapped around a cup of tea, curled up in front of the glowing screen of her laptop. It's almost one AM, according to the clock in the corner of her screen. Kirika's sleeping metres away from her, her breathing slow and steady in the silence of the night.
"I can't win against her," she murmurs to herself, bitterly.
The truth, for Mirielle, is hard to admit – even to herself. Because the truth is: it might be that there's somebody out there that she can't match.
(Has she made a mistake, picking a job like this?)
That there's somebody out there she can't save herself from?
Eleven hours left, she thinks, closing the lid on her laptop.
"Mirielle? I was thinking. Going to Sicily right now. . . it could be dangerous."
Kirika's voice is quiet but urgent, and Mirielle turns around to see her standing in the doorway, looking pale and fragile from what is presumably lack of sleep. (Kirika has never been a heavy sleeper.)
Mirielle's smile is tight, stretched too thinly like a bowstring about to snap. She knows that, damnit. Too bad they don't have a choice, she feels like screaming at the younger girl, whose hands in her pockets.
"Just hurry up and pack, okay?"
Kirika nods silently in assent, heading towards her room.
Under a midday sun that's shining somewhere above them - above ground - Mirielle can hear footsteps and bullet fire ringing out through the shadowy hallways. Her loaded gun's in her hands, every nerve in her alight with adrenaline. There's a sense of wariness that hangs in the air. She knows Kirika's running through the hallways, on a different path to her, though she can't hear her. A good thing – and Kirika really is good at what she does, despite her age.
They're headed towards the courtyard, going through the tunnels, but there are so many watchmen, around every single corner, waiting to shoot them. Mirielle takes them down with ease – it's not them she's worried about, but who is waiting at the end.
Put it down to laws of physics – objects in motion will stay in motion. It's all too soon when she finds herself in the courtyard with the Intoccabile, her steps uneven and scared as she walks towards her, gun held out as steadily as she can (which isn't very steady at all, she realises).
The Intoccabile smiles, almost welcomingly, and says "I knew you would come."
I'm not that stupid, Mirielle thinks but doesn't say.
The Intoccabile draws her blade from her side, and holds it out. Where's Kirika? Mirielle thinks, staring at it. She's supposed to be here!
Before she can formulate a response, the Intoccabile dashes forward, at her. The knife flashes in the sun, and Mirielle knows she's got to do it, now, but she's frozen like the proverbial deer in headlights – paralysed with fear.
This is where things fall apart. This is the point where Mirielle's gone over in her mind time and time again, plotted out to the point where Mirielle is able to see her body fall with a delicate thump into the dirt ground, tossing up a cloud of dust. This is it.
This is the point of no return—
—but a shot rings out, and Mirielle, heart pounding and stomach twisting itself into frantic knots, looks over frantically from where it seems to have come from.
Kirika is standing outside the courtyard, in a bed of flowers, emerging from the shadows of a nearby willow tree into the sunlight. Her eyes are as wide as they possibly could be. There isn't actually a knife in her stomach, Mirielle thinks, which seems kind of odd. Then she realises. She must have shot at the blade and broken it!
Kirika is a good marksman – something which Mirielle is incredibly grateful for right now.
The broken blade clattering to the ground is the loudest thing she's ever heard, echoing through the air, her eardrums threaten to give out on her. Shitshitshit.
Her gun and the metal both hit the ground at the same time. There's a split second in which to think, and their eyes meet. Mirielle realises (not for the first time) that this is it.
(From Kirika's point of view, she honestly can't tell what's going to happen – she's helpless to do anything. Watching Mirielle spiral so far out of control over the past few days has been surreal. She's never seen her like this - so anxious and vulnerable. It's a definite, and troubling shift from her normally aloof, confident persona. It makes Kirika think that maybe she is not entirely safe with Mirielle by her side.)
Mirielle makes it first, and (there's no time, oh God!) before she realises what she's doing, she plunges the blade into the Intoccabile.
The Intoccabile gasps as the blade slides in between her ribs, and it's odd because Mirielle hasn't felt this alive in maybe forever. Blood pounding in her ears and adrenaline an odd thrill through every nerve and synapse in her body, making everything jangle and screech – it's a change from the normal emotionlessness of pulling a trigger on a gun and watching the flash of fire and hearing the bodies hit the ground, where Mirielle honestly doesn't care. But this – this was the Intoccabille. (She's still so scared.) She killed using a blade this time, and this was so close, close to messing it all up and dying - she's just cheated death, and she shouldn't be here but Kirika was there and she's so fucking lucky, she was so close—
It's all so surreal. The Intoccabille's thump as she falls to the ground, sending up a little cloud of dust - now she's just lying there, on the ground, and she's just Silvana now, and she's dying. Kirika's footsteps are echoing through the air, and it all seems a little too loud.
"What a vulgar way to kill," Mirielle says, the words difficult to formulate. It's like the air has been replaced by cotton wool, and moving, speaking, functioning seems to be slowed down - like it's getting in the way. She's not entirely sure she's able to breathe anymore. And it's all for a piece of paper, which makes it seem even more bizarre. It's a strange world she lives in – one of death and destruction and the emotionlessness of pulling a trigger and being paid for it. This – this is a really weird change.
Kirika doesn't move, instead reading the contract in the dying light, eyes flicking over it and looking folorn against the sunset. (She's safe, after all.)
"Just like— you."
The words slip from her lips quietly and carelessly, but they're so true. I know no fear rings through her mind, almost like the bells that will inevitably toll for this woman, dead in the fading light of winter – and it all seems to fit. She knew no fear. Mirielle knows no mercy. Silvana gasps— her final breath, and just like that, the Intoccabile is dead, Mirielle's one weakness (do you, Mirielle?) has been laid to rest and she is standing in the dying light, just breathing in and thankful to be alive, and she's safe.
She's safe from harm.
(Just as long as my baby's safe from harm tonight.)
eta. HAHAHA. This came second in the Melbourne Anime Festival's fanfiction competition of 2007!