Demon of Justice Chapter 24
‘Monsters’ is copyright Something for Kate, and
‘Everybody Knows’ is copyright Leonard Cohen.
[Spike, Legolas, and Ardeth are sitting on the sofa
watching TV. Spike and Ardeth don’t seem to be particularly impressed with
Legolas’s choice of viewing material -- he’s midway through watching the Saiyuki
anime, for the third time -- but a couple of arrows sticking out of the sofa
near Spike’s leg might go some way towards explaining why they aren’t trying to
take the remote control away from him. It’s not keeping them quiet,
ARDETH: Look, if he really parried a sword that way, it’d
take his arm off!
LEGOLAS: Hakkei’s a youkai. He’s tough.
He still bleeds when he gets hit with a sword, though, or why would those
other youkai bother trying to use blades on him?
SPIKE: No shit, Sherlock. How many of them have already died trying
to stop these guys? You’d think they’d take up a safer hobby, like writing
personal evaluations of just how painful it is getting shot at a cliff by a
LEGOLAS: That’s what cannon fodder are for, doing dumb things
and getting in the heroes’ way. Now shut up!
SPIKE: No can do. Sneering
at the TV’s traditional in this house, from what I’ve seen, and I’m a
traditional sort of guy. (to Ardeth) Where’re the Godly Beings, anyway? They
usually show up when this one’s on, to mock the Buddha types an’ threaten that
ARDETH: Last time I saw them, they were talking to Duo.
Something about it being too quiet around here lately.
[Spike and Legolas
swivel around to stare at him.]
LEGOLAS: That’s... probably not
SPIKE: *snort* No, really? What tipped you
LEGOLAS: The last time Duo was complaining about being bored was
several weeks ago, right before we got hit with the worst firestorm in this
state’s history, and I’m not ruling out a causal relationship between those two
facts. Where are they?
[There’s a loud thud and a surprised yelp from the
direction of the back yard, then some loud swearing in a female voice. A very
familiar female voice...]
ARDETH: Out there.
MEL (from outside): Damn it, Krashy, what the hell are you
[Three seconds later, everyone in the household who can stand in
sunlight without combusting is outside watching the show.]
you can’t just teleport me out of my dorm room like that! I was
‘SCYTHE: You were clutching fifteen volumes of ‘Hikaru no Go’ and
‘Ayatsuri Sakon’ manga when you arrived. That’s not ‘busy’.
*erk* I was... rearranging my shelves! Anyway, what are you doing
involved with this? I thought you were the responsible one!
am. That’s why I’m taking steps to make you face up to your
MEL: I am! I’ve finished my essays for my uni in
Australia -- finally -- and I’m keeping up with my homework for Kanazawa Uni --
sort of -- and--
‘SCYTHE: You aren’t writing.
You stopped all of your damn fics right before I was supposed to
get some relationship progress! C-chan can’t keep going on them all by herself!
And she’s been busy with work, anyway, so I can’t have fun with her around here
MEL: *pout* That’s not my fault!
(mutter) It is your problem, though, especially if you want to have a
home left to come back to...
KRASHNARK: And then there’s the matter of
the relationship progress that isn’t happening for me.
HEERO: And me.
QUATRE: (thoughtfully) I have
to admit, I was wondering if Trowa and I were ever going to get some ‘quality
time’ to ourselves...
[Trowa seems to be hiding a grin as he watches.
Christy isn’t bothering to hide hers.]
WUFEI: Don’t pressure the woman!
I don’t mind if she never writes another word!
inside): Will you lot get in here so I can participate?!
WUFEI: Why did you want to get into the argument? They aren’t
writing anything about you... lucky bastard.
SPIKE: Ah, it looked
like it might turn into a free-for-all, and I was hopin’ I could get in on it.
Haven’t had a good fight in ages. I know I can hit the Godly Beings and the
pointy-eared guy without getting stuck with a migraine, an’ I was hoping to find
out if I could hit the writer bints too. I mean, I can hit anything that ain’t
human, and according to you guys they’re some sort of perverted demonesses,
WUFEI: Ah. Good luck.
KRASHNARK: Say it again. Louder this
MEL: *sigh* Do I have to?! I already
‘SCYTHE: Yes, you have to. We’re rubbing your nose in
KRASHNARK: We aren’t sending you back to Japan
until you do it again!
MEL: I have exams, you know!
you’d better do it quickly, hadn’t you?
[He and Krashnark settle back
comfortably on the sofa and grin. Mel sighs again, adjusts the saucepan on her
head, and hitches up the pink tutu she’s now wearing over her jeans and
MEL: I’m sorry. I suck. I deserve to be nibbled to death by
ducks. In future I will pay more attention to writing than study or manga, and I
will remember that I am not worthy to scrub the boots of other, more productive
authors, who manage to keep churning out the chapters no matter where they are.
I also promise to write lots of relationship progress into--
Try to sound more like you mean
Demon of Justice
Relena saw Heero’s smile and knew she
had made the right decision. The love and hope in that expression were clear...
now that she was actually looking for it, not expecting to see it aimed at
Heero handed over her coffee and immediately turned to Duo,
perching carefully on the edge of the bed. Momentarily ignored, she watched as
Duo smiled up at his friend-- no, boyfriend, he said it and I can
admit it now --watched as Heero’s hand lingered on Duo’s as the second cup
was handed over, and nodded to herself.
This is right, she
thought. It feels right. They belong together. Somehow I don’t think I would
have been able to drive them apart, no matter what I did... and now I’ll do
whatever I can to support them and be their friend. Duo is right. Real
friends are hard to find, and you can never have too many. Maybe I can’t have
the sort of ‘happily ever after’ I was trying for, but this sort of happiness
might even be better--
A touch on her shoulder made her jump, and she
looked up from her coffee to see Heero eyeing her curiously. “Are you all right,
“I’m fine... now,” Relena replied, managing a smile of her own,
feeling more hopeful than she had since the war started. “I was just
“Oooh, deep thoughts from a pretty lady,” Duo chuckled. “Care
“I wouldn’t call them deep, exactly,” she said, trying for an
airy tone of voice and almost making it. Telling the truth about what she’d been
thinking would tell Heero entirely too much about what she’d confessed while he
was out of the room, so she cast around for a quick distraction... Ah.
“And I don’t really know if I should share them, Duo. Your scary
boyfriend, here, might take offence if he knew I was contemplating
stealing you away from him and locking you up in my castle--" She broke off,
hiding her face behind her coffee mug and hoping she hadn’t gone too
Heero snorted, nearly spitting out his coffee, and Duo broke into
peals of laughter, poking the Japanese teen in the ribs. “That was a good one,
‘Lena!” Duo sputtered, before catching sight of Heero’s expression and
snickering again. “Heh... Off the cuff, quick, and funny as hell. There’s hope
for you yet. Come to the Dark Side, Pretty!”
Recovering his composure,
Heero lightly swatted Duo on the head. “I wouldn’t corrupt her too far if I were
you. Remember, she bought all your furniture and still has the receipts. What if
she decides to start playing pranks and replaces it all with pink stuff?”
He smirked slightly at Relena, and she nearly wilted with relief.
okay, I didn’t ruin it, she thought. They’re treating me like any other
friend joking with them... Looking at Duo’s horrified expression, she broke
into giggles of her own.
“You wouldn’t do that, would you, ‘Lena?” the
braided teen begged desperately. “No pink, please... promise me?!”
I hadn’t thought of that! Leverage! Hmmm...” She paused, one finger on her
bottom lip, feigning indecision. “Well, I suppose. No pink, I promise, on one
“Anything, I swear!” Duo said dramatically, hands clasped to
his chest. The pose was rather spoilt by the mock glare he shot in Heero’s
direction. “You had to bring up the P-word, didn’t you?”
condition is this,” Relena said regally, stifling a giggle at the equally fake
innocent look Heero returned Duo’s glare with. “You follow the doctor’s orders.
You take me wardrobe shopping as soon as you can get around, and you let me take
you and Heero out to dinner, and you invite me to your house for dinner
and a swim in your pool. How’s that?”
“That’s ‘one’ condition?” Duo asked
“There are all sorts of shades of pink, you know,” Relena
said sweetly. “Rose. Shell-pink. Baby pink. Blush.
“Uncle!” he yelped, snatching a tissue out of the box by his
bed and waving it like a flag of surrender. “I give! Total capitulation! I’ll
meet your terms, just don’t torture your prisoners!” Grinning, he dropped the
tissue and stretched. “They’re easy enough terms, anyway. I already said I’d
take you shopping -- Trowa and Quatre say the furniture and stuff is good, so
you’ve got colour sense, Pretty, you just don’t apply it to yourself -- and
we’ll get Trowa to cook something different for dinner... I know! Something like
tacos or mmfmphm...”
“You know, if OZ had worked out your secret
weakness, Duo, Une could have taken you out any time with a mediaeval catapult
and some pink paint bombs,” Heero said casually, seemingly oblivious to the fact
that his hand had somehow found its way over Duo’s mouth. “Considering the
number of times you threatened to repaint the rest of the Gundams -- and the two
times you did -- I think that would have been poetic justice at
Duo raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly down towards the
offending hand, then looked directly into Relena’s eyes and winked. She stifled
a giggle at the wicked gleam in the blue-violet eyes—
“OW! Duo! That
hurt!” Heero yelped, snatching his hand back and rubbing at the bitten part of
his palm, glaring impartially at the offender and the laughing girl.
that note,” Relena said, standing up, “I need to go. I have an early meeting
tomorrow, and hours of research to get through first. Ah, Duo... may I come back
tomorrow afternoon? I’m going to need some advice. If we manage to unify the
nations, we’re going to need a single peacekeeping force. I’ll have more
information then, and maybe you two can help me sort it out? Quatre and Trowa
too, if they can be here?”
Duo nodded, ignoring Heero’s frown. “Sure,
Pretty. You know when visiting hours are; just pop on in.”
“That would be
wonderful, thank you. I’m free from two onwards, so if you could arrange things
with the others...?”
“No problem, Relena,” Heero said. “I’ll call them in
the morning and ask them to come here at three or so.”
sighed, walking towards the door. “I wish all my meetings were this easy to
schedule.” She paused in the doorway, glancing back. “Duo... why do you keep
calling me ‘Pretty’...?”
Duo grinned. “Because it suits you, Pretty. See
Heero tucked Duo in under the covers
again, kissed his forehead, and was turning to move to his own cot when he felt
a tug on his arm.
“What is it, Duo?” he asked quietly.
teen hesitated for a moment, face serious. “I just wanted to say thanks,” he
blurted out. “And sorry...”
Heero blinked. “Thanks and sorry for what?”
he asked, honestly puzzled.
“Umm... thanks for how you acted with Relena.
For going along with it... She’s really not a bad person. I think she can be a
good friend, now that she’s over the whole obsession thing.” He sighed. “And
sorry for forcing it on you without talking it over with you first. It’s fair
enough if you don’t want to be friends with her just yet, since you’re
the one she’s been stalking. And sorry for biting you... I didn’t mean for it to
hurt that much. It was kind of-- well, I wanted to let her--"
nodded, brushing Duo’s bangs back out of his eyes. “You wanted to make her feel
comfortable. Included. Like she was a part of the group,” he said, a tiny smile
appearing on his face when Duo’s eyes widened in surprise. “I recognised what
you were doing; you did it to all of us at the beginning of the war, after all.
As for the bite, it really didn’t hurt that much. Like you said, I was going
along with it.” He frowned, sobering. “If you think things will work out this
way -- Relena as a friend -- I'll back you up. But if she hurts
Duo blushed, eyes glowing above a crooked smile. “I’m really glad
you’re here, you know that?”
“I do now,” Heero replied softly. “Now, go
to sleep. There’s a lot planned for tomorrow and you need your
“True,” Duo said ruefully, stifling a sudden yawn. “Damn the power
of suggestion, anyway! I didn’t feel sleepy until you said that...” His arm
snaked out again, stopping the Japanese teen as he turned away. “You can sleep
here, you know. If you want to...”
“Duo... are you sure?”
braided teen nodded, starting to shift over so there would be room on the bed
for Heero next to him. “Maybe I’ll be able to sleep better if you’re here.
There was no way Heero could refuse after that. The
nightmares must be getting worse, if he’s willing to mention them even
obliquely... “If you turn on your side and curl up a bit,” he offered
tentatively, “I can slide in behind you without bothering your knee, I
A little more adjustment was required before Duo was comfortable,
including placing the thin pillow from Heero’s cot between his knees so that the
brace wouldn’t cause bruises, but it didn’t take long before Heero was carefully
settling against Duo’s back and wrapping his arm around the thin waist. “Is this
“Yeah, s’good. ‘Night, Heero...”
“Goodnight, Duo,” Heero
murmured, firmly telling his mental ‘alarm clock’ to wake him before the nurses
made their rounds in the morning. He was just dozing off, more content than he
could remember ever being before, when a sleep-slurred voice got his
“Don’ think this means y’ c’n boss me ‘round an’ make m’
decisions f’r me, Heero. Y’ still got making up t’ do.”
sighed, tightening his arm and snuggling closer as he followed his boyfriend
into slumber. “All my life, if you’ll let me...”
* * * * *
again, Wufei found himself in a foul mood, stalking through the bustle that
attended setting up camp; but this time the reason behind his bad temper was
different. True to his word, Krashnark had stopped nagging him... but he hadn’t
stopped watching him, and whatever sense it was that let Wufei tell when
the god was hovering over his shoulder had been working overtime all day.
Several hours of piloting Nataku at a frustratingly slow pace, senses and
sensors alert for any sign of an attack, unable to conveniently talk to anyone
and with the skin on the back of his neck prickling at irregular intervals, had
not been particularly restful.
Actually, the reason -- reasons -- are
precisely the same as last time, he thought without any trace of humour.
A variety of frustrations, including what I can only term
homesickness, damn it, aggravated by Kr-- his behaviour... and
this time I can’t even legitimately yell at him about it.
Not that I
particularly want to yell at him, or talk to him at all, but it might be
“Another bad day, Sir Wufei?” Uthmar asked from behind
And I HATE the fact that something as petty as this is making me
lose my composure enough for it to show! Wufei thought
Several deep breaths later, he thought he had a reasonable
chance of answering the question without anything... unfortunate... happening.
To either of them.
“You could call it that, Sir Uthmar. It’s nothing you
need to concern yourself over, however.”
“Ah.” The dwarf champion smiled
sympathetically. “Problems with him?” he said, more a statement than a
query, pointing upwards.
“Actually... not particularly,” Wufei admitted,
suppressing his first impulse to snap back. “I can tell that he’s there, but
he’s keeping to his promise and not actually bothering me.”
something at least,” Uthmar grinned. “So, if you don’t mind me asking... what
is bothering you, if it’s not him?”
I do mind. Wufei
considered actually saying that out loud for a moment, and then discarded the
idea. It would hardly be either polite or fair. And besides... what is
really bothering me?
It didn’t take much thought to work it
“I have no way of telling what is happening to my... friends,” Wufei
admitted quietly. “I didn’t come here deliberately, you know; I’m still not sure
what happened, but I was somehow pulled out of the middle of a battle. A battle
my side was in danger of losing. And since we were in trouble even with
all five of us present and fighting...” He broke off, looking away, and Uthmar
“You’re stuck here, wondering if your friends are even still
alive,” he sighed. “I... see. My apologies, Sir Wufei; I didn’t
The Chinese pilot snorted. “You haven’t done anything that
requires an apology. I’m the one who’s behaving like a bear with a sore head...
as Duo would say.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. You haven’t bitten anyone
yet, or even growled particularly loudly.”
A faint, breathy laugh escaped
Wufei. “That’s also something Duo would say. Thank you.”
“I think I’d
like meeting this Duo person, though we might regret it if he and Gunnar had the
chance to conspire together. Are you hungry? Terrin caught several rabbits, so
we have fresh meat, and Naiya said she was going to show our cook how to prepare
them ‘properly’ -- I don’t think she’s been particularly impressed with the
meals so far.”
“Judging by the few comments I’ve overheard her muttering
to her plate, I think you’re right,” the Chinese pilot said dryly. “If it’s all
right with you, I’ll eat later; now that we’re closer to the temple, I should
make sure Nataku’s sensors are working properly.”
Uthmar shot a glance up
at Wufei from under raised eyebrows, making it perfectly clear without words
that he recognised the excuse for what it was, and then smiled. “Certainly...
but if Naiya gets offended because you let her cooking get cold, you’ll
have to do the explaining.”
“I thought Champions were supposed to be
“Brave, yes. Foolhardy, no.”
course, I could always have told Uthmar the truth; he certainly had no problem
working it out for himself. It wouldn’t have sounded particularly good,
though. Wufei told himself bitterly. ’Actually, I’d rather sit in
Nataku’s cockpit and sulk than run the risk that people will ask me questions
and I’ll reveal more of my feelings than I already have...’
of Nataku’s sensor systems had taken less than five minutes, as he’d known it
would, and he was left with nothing to do except slouch in his chair and
randomly switch views on the screens.
It’s debatable how useful the
sensors will be, anyway. This whole area is dappled with that foul green energy,
and I still haven’t found a way to get Nataku’s computers to do a detailed
reading on it without them suffering a cybernetic nervous breakdown. Which means
I can’t run a detailed scan on anything else in the same area without
risking a software conflict. Whether it’s just left over from that blob demon
passing through, or has been deliberately spread around, it’s acting like an
annoyingly effective jamming screen...
He made a few more
half-hearted attempts to find or design a scan mode that would look ‘through’
the interfering mess, but gave up in disgust when his best idea turned out to be
unworkable. Programming his sensors to ignore any energy (whether infrared,
ultraviolet, radiation or unidentified) that wasn’t actually moving had seemed
to work for a little while, until he discovered that small patches of the sickly
green whatever-it-was were randomly seeping and trickling from place to place,
triggering his sensors to ‘look’ at them again... and sending his analysis
programs back into fits of electronic hiccups. It took him several minutes just
to break them out of the recursive loop that was making the main screen flash
‘ANALYSING -- UNKNOWN -- RESET -- ANALYSING -- UNKNOWN -- RESET' faster than a
strobe light, and he was swearing under his breath as he shut the programs down
If anyone on Earth ever comes up with a way to reproduce that
effect, I don’t care who or what they’re going up against; they’ll probably
Well. That was a truly spectacular failure. Now
Almost without thinking about it, he reached to one side and
opened one particular storage compartment, pulling out Duo’s bag of CDs. “If I’m
going to sit here trying to give myself an ulcer by worrying about a situation I
can’t get any information on and couldn’t affect even if I did,” he muttered, “I
might as well really wallow in it.” About to start flicking through the
jewel cases, he reconsidered; the last time he’d picked a song at random it had
had good results, so why not do that again? One quick slap to the bottom of the
padded cube shifted several of the CD cases upwards a centimetre or two, and he
pulled out the one that was protruding the most, opening the case and feeding
the disk into the right slot on his console without looking at the label. After
a quick check to make sure the volume control had been returned to normal levels
after the previous day’s ‘musical exorcism’, he hit the ‘play’ button and
reached for a different set of controls, calling up a listing of all the video
and image files stored in Nataku’s computer memory.
I was hanging
upside-down from the overpass,
waiting to discover something about the
Wufei blinked, looking back at the speakers next to the disk
slot as if he expected to see the singer there. That’s a very ‘Duo’ sort of
line, he thought, a slow smile spreading across his face. A very
appropriate choice, I think.
Turning back to his screen, he listened
to the music with half his attention as he began winnowing through the files,
selecting some and queuing them to be displayed, dismissing others from the list
on screen. His first cull was swift and decisive. Nothing that was dated before
he joined forces with the other pilots; nothing from after he’d been pulled out
of his own world; and nothing from battles that he remembered as being
difficult, or where any of the Gundams had taken serious damage. He might be
expecting to worry about his friends, but he didn’t intend to be
completely masochistic; he wanted images of the other pilots that
wouldn’t pull him further into the depressed state of mind he was hovering on
the edge of.
I couldn't get with the program and I couldn't listen to
it was like trying to think in reverse
And I don't want to slide
and I don't wanna die in captivity,
but these monsters follow
hunting me down, try to wipe me out...
wipe me out... wipe me
out... wipe me out...
His hands paused for a moment, hovering over
the keyboard. “Too appropriate, perhaps,” he murmured softly, refusing to
look at the speakers again. “I never did get around to asking Uthmar if this
world has a god of Chance...”
Shaking his head, he forced his attention
back to his self-imposed task, reading the note files attached to a series of
videos. Just a coincidence, he told himself stubbornly, ignoring the hair
lifting on the back of his neck.
Yeah, I was hiding away
waiting for distance and buying some time,
trying to be two
hundred thousand years younger,
so I could excuse myself from
'Cause I don't wanna be a container,
or a bastard with a
but these monsters spin me around,
get me down, just
trying to shut me out...
shut me out... shut me out... shut me
It wasn’t a particularly long song, but he’d found a number of
good video clips and pictures to look at by the time it ended. Most of them were
marked as test files, taken while he was performing routine checks on Nataku’s
cameras as part of her maintenance; if one of the other pilots was nearby, he’d
usually film them instead of some random piece of wall, and then save the file
instead of deleting it when the test cycle was finished.
realise I had so many, though! he thought, feeling rather embarrassed as he
looked at the list. The long list. I suppose I was using them to fend
off loneliness even then... I hardly ever looked at these files, but I knew they
were there if I wanted to. And I played some of them, when I was on missions
that required a communications blackout...
Does everyone feel this way
when they can’t contact people who are important-- all right, people who they
care about, I admit it-- and they know they’re in danger?
The first song’s last chords died away, and there was a
moment’s silence before the player changed tracks. His first thought about the
new song was that it was a completely different style of music; he must have
picked one of the CDs Duo had burned himself, a compilation of songs from
different artists connected by some theme that might be obvious only to the
braided pilot. Then a deep, cynical voice came from the speakers, launching into
the first verse.
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The song cut off as Wufei’s hand lashed out at the control
panel, connecting with the ‘pause’ button more by luck than aim. He stayed
frozen in that position for several breaths, head down, arm trembling with
tension as he pressed the heel of his hand onto the button hard enough to make
the console creak. The light on the panel below the button flickered on and off
several times as the continued pressure confused the signals; finally the player
gave a sort of hiccup and started switching back and forth from ‘pause’ to
‘play’, burping out the same half-syllable over and over again until Wufei
carefully drew his hand back and it fell silent.
“I don’t need to ask
Uthmar about a god of Chance,” he whispered, slowly massaging away the red mark
the edge of the button had left imprinted in his palm. Part of his mind calmly
filed the information that his hands were trembling. “I need to ask him about a
god of cruel jokes. Or possibly one called Cassandra...”
After a while,
Wufei moved again, reaching down to pick up the CD’s case and look at it
curiously. The handwritten label said ‘Depressing’, and he snorted with a sort
of black amusement as he put it back down.
“Well,” he said, straightening
up, his voice surprisingly loud in the silent cockpit. “I said I was going to
wallow...” The wry smile on his face twisted as he reached out and tapped the
‘play’ button again.
As the player whirred quietly, spinning the disk
back up to speed, he was bringing up the video files of the Gundams’ last,
massively outnumbered fight.
--stay poor, the rich get rich
how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is
Everybody knows the captain lied
Everybody got this broken
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem
He’s tearing himself
apart, Krashnark thought worriedly, ‘hovering’ intangible behind Wufei’s
chair. He’s not the sort of person who can just accept that there’s nothing
he can do about a situation, and he’s already blaming himself for leaving his
friends behind to fight without him. As if he had any choice in the matter! I
could wish he had a less highly developed sense of personal
Well. Perhaps not. It comes from his equally
overdeveloped sense of personal honour, after all, and that’s what made him
attractive to me in the first place... and made him refuse me. Hm. I may be just
as masochistic as he’s acting right now, the Dark god mused, watching as the
video on the main screen ended in a burst of static and then returned to the
beginning of the file.
If Sharna’s worshippers put up any sort of a
fight tomorrow, while he’s in this state of mind, he could very easily be
killed. There’s nothing ordinary mortals can do to him while he’s in here, but
will he be sensible enough to stay in here? And I may have scared my
worthless little brother out of intervening personally, but his priests aren’t
completely powerless by themselves. I don't think Wufei would ever be suicidal,
exactly... but he might be feeling guilty enough to do something
If he just knew, one way or another, what was happening to his
friends, I think he could handle it. Even if the news was bad. Whatever he’s
imagining inside his head is almost certainly worse than the
There was a long pause as Krashnark considered his options.
The video on screen ran through its fifteen minutes of intense violence and
started again; then the god raised an invisible eyebrow.
It’s not going to be particularly easy, of course, but I
think I can do it. There seems to be more than enough of his world’s energy
still clinging to him to give me a trail...
Now all I have to do is wait
for him to fall asleep, and hope he doesn’t do anything stupid before
It had been full dark for some time when
Nataku’s hatch finally opened again, and Uthmar looked up from where he was
discussing tomorrow’s tactics with Arwen with a relieved smile. “I was beginning
to wonder if he was going to stay in there all night,” he said softly, watching
Wufei swing downwards on the lift wire, dimly visible in the firelight. “Judging
by what Karthan said about the little room he sits in when he’s in Nataku, it
wouldn’t be a comfortable place to sleep!”
“One seat and a metal floor
with no room to stretch out?” Arwen nodded. “Unless he’s immune to cramped
muscles, it’d be a very bad idea.”
“I doubt he’s--" Uthmar’s voice
trailed off as he watched Wufei walking slowly towards them. “Damn. Whatever he
was doing in there, it hasn’t cheered him up.”
It was obvious that the
small human/demon was not, to put it mildly, happy. It was equally obvious that
he was doing his best to hide it, but even though Uthmar had known him only a
few days, he was learning to ‘read’ his moods... better, probably, than Wufei
would have liked if he’d known. When he closes himself off like that, with a
completely blank expression and stiff movements, he’s hiding strong negative
emotion. I won’t be able to tell whether he’s angry or sad until I can see his
=*Krashnark is still shadowing him,*= Torframos put in
suddenly. =*He’s shielding himself enough to hide his presence from you, I
think, but he doesn’t seem to be bothering to hide himself from me any
“Are you expecting trouble, Lord?” Arwen murmured, barely
moving his lips as he glanced sharply in Wufei’s
=*...No,*= Torframos replied thoughtfully. =*Just be
aware that anything you discuss with Wufei tonight will be
“Wonderful,” Uthmar sighed, then smiled and waved Wufei over
to their fire as he paused. “Naiya’s gone to sleep,” he called quietly, keeping
his voice down out of deference to the sleeping armsmen around neighbouring
campfires, “but she saved you a helping of rabbit stew. It’s amazingly
“I wouldn’t let her hear you say that if I were you,” Wufei said,
equally softly. He was smiling as he sat down, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“She might be insulted -- after all, of course anything she cooks is
going to be good, so there’s no reason for you to be amazed...”
think she’s quite that... er... arrogant about her cooking skills,” Arwen
protested mildly, hooking the small iron pot holding Wufei’s dinner out of the
ashes at the edge of the fire with a stick. “Although quite frankly she’d be
justified if she was.”
“I know, but if you spend more than a couple of
months around Duo you soon find yourself jumping on any ambiguous phrasings,
just so he can’t--" Wufei cut himself off, face carefully blank again as
he looked away.
“You’re well equipped to deal with Gunnar, then,” Uthmar
said cheerfully, pretending not to notice Wufei’s sudden silence. “Arwen and I
were just discussing our plans for tomorrow, but we haven’t thought of anything
that needs changing; do you have any thoughts on the matter?” I don’t see any
reason to try to hide those plans from Krashnark, he thought hastily,
glancing upwards. It’s not as if we’re going to be trying anything
particularly devious, after all, and if he’s been watching Wufei he probably
already knows. Besides, even if we were contemplating something sneaky, I
doubt Krashnark would want to warn Sharna about it...
was a chuckle of agreement in the back of Uthmar’s mind as Wufei accepted a bowl
of stew and bread from Arwen and shook his head. “No... I’ve nothing useful to
add.” He snorted quietly. “I studied mainly guerrilla and suit warfare, not
small-group tactics, and what I do know assumes that your men will be
armed with machine guns and grenade launchers, not swords, axes and the
“But you use a sword,” Arwen objected, startled.
“Very well, too. If it’s not a common weapon, then why--?”
“In my world,
it’s an old weapon, Arwen,” Wufei said dryly, one hand lifting
automatically to touch the sword hilt rearing above his shoulder. “My clan
values -- valued -- the study of old weapon forms as a form of mental and
physical discipline, that’s all; trying to use a sword on a ‘modern’ battlefield
will just get you shot as a madman. Carrying it into battle was rather foolish
of me, I suppose, though I did find one opponent who was willing to meet me on
equal terms...” His voice trailed off for a second as he stared into the flames,
caressing the hilt, then he shook his head and seemed to refocus. “I may not be
able to contribute to tomorrow’s plans, but there is something I wanted to ask
“Can you please tell me what the situation
is here as regards the gods? Every time I’ve meant to ask before, something’s
come up... Right now we seem to have some free time, I can understand your
language, and hopefully we will not be interrupted by a screaming green blob or
Uthmar nearly choked trying to stifle his roar of
laughter, and sputtered into his fist as Arwen pounded on his back, grinning.
“Oh. Ah. Yes. *cough* Yes, I can see that you might be getting a bit
frustrated, considering the number of times we’ve started to tell you something
about the gods and gotten essentially nowhere... Well then. Where shall we
=*With my father, of course,*= Torframos said in an amused voice.
=*He is the beginning of everything, after
When Wufei finally said goodnight to Uthmar
and Arwen and curled up in his sleeping bag, he expected it would take some time
before he would be able to assimilate what he’d learned and get to
It’s not as if the information itself is particularly
complicated, he thought wryly, staring up at the cloudless sky. As
pantheons go, it’s surprisingly simple, actually; only two factions, no
ambiguity about who belongs to which, and only one of the gods has a complicated
nature. Compared to the Taoist, Buddhist, or Shinto pantheons, this almost seems
like the ‘bare bones’ of a religious system, waiting to be elaborated
And then there’s the Vedic gods, where they all have multiple
incarnations and manifestations... and voudoun... I’m very glad my tutors didn’t
make me learn more than the absolute minimum about them. No, this is a simple
pantheon. Nothing to lose sleep over.
But... they’re real. I’ve
spoken to two of them -- yelled at one! That makes it all far more...
Gazing up at the stars, Wufei wondered if the goddess
Silendros was looking back... and if Norfram, the ‘Lord of Chance’, really
had influenced his choice of CDs.
Or Hirahim Lightfoot, he
thought, mouth twisting sourly. He’s the practical joker,
He fell asleep wondering what Duo would think of a
pantheon that included a ‘Laughing God’, but no deity of Death.
* * * *
He was dreaming.
It was perfectly obvious that he was dreaming;
the real world did not usually consist of a void stretching on seemingly
forever, with drifting banks of mist that occasionally flowed in and out of
This is undoubtedly one of those dreams that analysts
would have you believe is immensely significant and symbolic of something,
Wufei thought cynically, watching as a floating section of stone paving
dissolved. They’d probably say something like ‘the lack of lasting concrete
structures and secure footing represents the subject’s fear at being separated
from his customary support networks and friendships...’ Feh. And I know what
that’s symbolic of, he added, glaring at the huge, coldly handsome
face forming a short distance away. My stalker.
Hmm. If I thought his
name now, would he show up in my dream?
Before Wufei could follow
that line of thought any further, there was a surprised yelp from behind
“Man, that was a sudden switch! Gotta say it’s an improvement over
before, though... hmmm. The scenery for this dream is weird. When do the
penguins turn up?”
KRASHNARK: I’m still being a
CHRISTY: Oh hush. You’re getting progress, aren’t
KRASHNARK: You call this progress?!
CHRISTY: Wufei isn’t
yelling at you. It’s progress.
WUFEI: And I got to be masochistic.
SPIKE: It’s not proper masochism until you have a hangover,
that’s what I say. Want some vodka?
WUFEI: Since I am not being
masochistic of my own free will, no.
TROWA: It seems to end well,
WUFEI: Knowing those onnas, they’re just trying to lull me
into a false sense of security. At least I’ll have a break from this for a
while. They’ve got to write a chapter of each of the other three stories they’ve
got going before they can come back to this one, and at the rate they’re writing
now it’ll be next year before they manage it--
DUO: Ummm... I hate to
burst your bubble, ‘Fei, but they’re going straight on to the next chapter of
Demon of Justice. Apparently they have some more things they’re planning to
inflict on you, and they don’t want to wait, so...
QUATRE: Oh dear.
WUFEI: ...So essentially, I’m
SPIKE: Looks like it. Want that drink now?
*sigh* Yes. Just hand me the damn
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