Demon of Justice Chapter 5


                                                                                                                                                                                          "Many Forms of Cowardice"



CHRISTY: I can't think of anything to say.

MEL: ...Neither can I. I think it's back-to-work brainfry.

CHRISTY: Maybe we should get Quatre to make us tea and coffee? That could help. Oh, Qua~atre!

MEL: None for me, thanks, I just finished a cup.


MEL: ...

TROWA: ... (translation: 'I don't know whether to be relieved or worried.')

CHRISTY: What the heck. C'mon, Duo!

(Christy drags Duo over near the stereo and starts dancing to Pink songs. For inspiration, y'know. He doesn't seem to mind.)

MEL: Heero, put the bazooka DOWN.

HEERO: < deathglare >

(Heero stomps over to Duo and drags him away from Christy by the braid.)


(Christy shrugs, flounces over to the sofa and flops down over Quatre and Trowa's laps.)

CHRISTY: Okay, I got two bishounen captured. I'm ready to write.

MEL: Hmmm. Oh, Wu~u~fei... could you come here for a second? On with the fic!

"Many Forms of Cowardice"

Wufei opened his eyes and blinked in confusion.

Why am I sleeping in a cupboard? Sitting up, he looked around. Admittedly, it's a very comfortable cupboard...

It was a very large cupboard, too, with a thick featherbed, pillows and warm quilts in it, all scaled for someone considerably bigger than him; for a moment, Wufei felt like a small child tucked into an adult bed. Shifting quietly to the side, where light shone in through the slightly open doors, Wufei pushed one further open and peered out.

Warm afternoon sunlight streamed into the room through an unshuttered window - along with a gentle breeze, since there was no glass to block it. A low-burning fire, rag rugs on the wood floor, white plastered walls with faint smoke stains above the fireplace and between the heavy beams supporting the high ceiling. Bundles of dried herbs and several joints of smoked meat dangled from the beams above a heavy wooden table and chairs.

He frowned, pushing the door completely open and swinging his legs out. There was something... off... about the room... Then he realised.

Of course! This is their house - Naiya and... Cord, that's it. Everything is sized for them, and he's nearly eight feet tall, if my memory isn't playing tricks on me...

Wufei frowned again, remembering other tricks his mind had played recently, and rubbed one hand across his chest as phantom pain seemed to twinge there for a second.

This is ridiculous! I'm not wounded there! It's not as if I don't have real injuries to care for.

Still, he found his fingers tracing out invisible outlines. One small puncture just below his left ribs; two more just below and to the right of his left nipple; one in the hollow above his right collarbone, covered by the bruise left by his seat harness but not hidden by it. A similar scatter ran across the middle of his back, with one especially sharp pain over his left kidney. Somehow, the phantom wounds felt more real, at that moment, than the cuts and bruises he could see on his arms--

Wufei froze, staring at his arms. Those cuts and bruises were nearly healed. Pale greenish-yellow smudges were all that was left of some of them; the huge bruise on his shoulder was still purple and black in the centre, but the edges were blurred and fading. Dry scabs were flaking away from the minor cuts, leaving behind only faint red welts.

What-- how-- how long did I sleep?!

He scrambled to pull off the hard leather bracer on his left wrist, staring at the flat watch hidden underneath.

...only ten hours?


Naiya pegged her dress onto the line (bloodstains finally scrubbed and soaked out), and leaned backwards, hands in the small of her back, stretching out the kinks that leaning over the washing copper always left behind. Straightening up again, she nearly dislocated her jaw with a huge yawn.

Oooh... tea. I definitely need tea. And Wufei could be awake; he might like some tea too, and perhaps he'll let me see to those cuts? Not that I know what to put on a demon's wounds, but surely cleaning them wouldn't do any harm...

Walking into the main room of the oversized cottage, she found him sitting on the edge of her father's bed, peering at his arm.

"Good afternoon! Are you hungry? Eat? Would you like some tea?" He jumped and stared at her, wide-eyed, before recovering his usual poise; she smiled. "Sorry... didn't mean to startle you." Turning away, she swung the hanging kettle over the fire and began to make tea.

He's got to learn to speak to us; now's as good a time as any. "Wufei?" She beckoned him over and started pointing to things. "Table. Chair. Kettle. Fire. And tea!" She grinned as she set a mug down in front of him; then she looked at his arm, surprised. "Eh... well now, I see why you didn't mind those cuts... I guess I don't need to do anything for them, hey?"


After a quick breakfast - or dinner, perhaps, considering the time - Naiya managed to explain with gestures and a few words that this house only had two of the cupboard-beds, hers and Cord's, and she was going to fetch a third bed for Wufei. After she left, he decided to fetch his spare clothes from Nataku and check what damage the battle had caused.

Settling into the seat and bringing up the diagnostic programs, he was relieved to see that although there was a lot of cosmetic damage to Nataku's armour, only a few attacks had actually penetrated to affect the internal systems. There were a few systems failures elsewhere, caused when the heavy pounding actually managed to shake units loose, but most of that would just need connections fixed and systems recalibrated; and wonder of wonders, he actually had spares for all the damaged sensors!

Settling back, he called up a report.

| ARMOUR 89%

"I would if I could," Wufei muttered.

| - HARDWARE 96%
| - SOFTWARE 100%

He snorted. "I wish!"

After the text report, a rotating line drawing of Nataku popped up, red highlights showing where armour had been breached and systems damaged.

Let's see... one breach in the lower left torso, two left upper torso, one on the right shoulder... a diagonal line of minor damage across the back, with one major breach low on the left...

Wufei's eyes widened, seeing the exact pattern of his phantom injuries repeated in Nataku's damage.

I'm... feeling where Nataku is hurt?! How?! Did-- did that energy in the tunnel cause this? Does it have anything to do with the way my wounds healed?

He reached out, hands trembling, and shut off the display.

No. I don't have time for this. I, I have to learn enough of the language to find out what's going on, I have to look for a way to get home, I have to find out what happened to the others - I don't have time for a, a, a weird metaphysical link to my Gundam!

Though... I always felt that perhaps Meiran's spirit...

If... if I fix the damage and the pain goes away... I'll think about it then. Not now.


Over the next couple of days, the demon Wufei picked up a surprising number of words and started trying for short sentences. (More often than not, the results were confusing; but he made progress.) The villagers quickly accepted him as a friend, if not exactly 'one of us'; Nataku was another matter, huge and frightening as he was, but all he seemed to do was sleep while Wufei mended things under his armour. After a couple more 'conversations', Wufei managed to get across that Nataku wasn't going to need food ever, and that soothed the major fears. ("No eat! No eat today. No next day. Next, next, next, no eat! Wakatta?") Dena's family were uncomfortable with him, but accepted that it wasn't his fault she had died; and he had avenged her death.

Of course, Rami had to complicate matters.

"Mana... what in the world gave you that idea?" Naiya asked, exasperated.

The other girl shrugged. "It's what Rami said. I take it you disagree?"


"Well... he does stare at you a lot."

"Wufei is fascinated by my ears. He stares at my father, too! It does not mean he's in love with me!"

Mana was struggling to suppress a smile. "You have to admit," she said as seriously as she could, "it does provide an explanation of why he saved your lives. Rami thinks it's romantic! Love at first sight. Exotically handsome demon knight saves village maidens..."

"GAH! Rami needs to stop listening to bad travelling minstrels!"

The villagers also knew that they had to prepare for visitors; the sort of magic that summoned demons could be felt a long way away. Somehow, they had to explain this to Wufei. Surprisingly enough, it was Rami who came up with the idea of how to do it; and since nobody could think of a better one...

"Is everybody ready? Everyone know what they have to do?"


"Right then!" Royce rubbed his hands together and turned to Wufei. "If you'll just sit here... sir... we've got something to show you."

Naiya, Cord and one of the village children stepped out. The child was wearing a black short smock tucked into his brother's white Festival trousers, and giggling; Cord had a 'breastplate' that had once been part of a large iron stove.

Naiya pointed at Cord. "Nataku!" Then at the child. "Wufei!" Looking anxiously at the real Wufei to see if he seemed confused - or worse, offended - she was relieved when he nodded, one hand creeping up to cover his mouth and a suspicious sparkle in his eyes.

Cord sat down and pretended to go to sleep, while the child paced back and forth in front of him. Jarad had been watching the fascinating demon whenever he could get away from his chores, had even helped with some of his language lessons, and knew just how to act. Standing arrogantly, he raised one eyebrow. "Hai! Wakatta? Yare yare." He shook his head, pulled a rag out of his waistband, and started polishing Cord's leg. A sound suspiciously like a snicker came from behind Wufei's hand.

Terrin ran into the square, pointed dramatically behind him, and yelled, "Lord Yithar!"

Immediately, Jarad yelped and started poking at Cord, who snorted awake and got up; the boy ran around behind him and pushed him over to the corner of the square, where he sat down again. Jarad sat on Cord's knee and fiercely 'shhhhhh'ed him, then two of the village women ran across and held up a blanket by the corners, hiding them from view.

A small parade made their way into the square. Manten was in the lead (wearing his finest clothes and half the jewellery Naiya and Rami had looted from the priest's baggage), followed by Derrin (wrapped in a sheet and wearing the rest of it). Half a dozen villagers marched after them, carrying various weapons and sneering arrogantly. The rest of the villagers, led by Royce, bowed and curtseyed.

Wufei's eyes narrowed as the pantomime continued. 'Lord Yithar' and Derrin were clearly asking all the villagers a question, and being met with denials.

They keep saying 'krechak', and then the villagers say 'no'. I know that word... Naiya uses it for both Nataku and I. 'Bakemono' or 'demon', perhaps? So... they are looking for demons, and the villagers are hiding us...

Suddenly, one of the women holding the blanket dropped it.

'Lord Yithar' screamed and ran away; the 'soldiers' shouted, ran forward and attacked Jarad. Cord jumped up and moved forwards, fists raised, but Derrin waved his hands, chanted and pretended to throw something, and Cord collapsed. Then the 'soldiers' turned and ran after the fleeing villagers, weapons swinging--

Ah. That was... clear enough. If we're found here, everybody dies. Wufei nodded to Naiya as she turned to him with a questioning look. "Yes. Understand."

It didn't take him long to get across the idea of he and Nataku leaving, but it was met with quick refusal; the villagers pantomimed them leaving, the searchers coming and leaving empty-handed, then Wufei and Nataku returning to a happy welcome. Wufei almost blushed; then he concentrated on asking 'where can we hide?'

That was a little harder to pantomime, especially when it came to explaining the sorts of places that would work. Finally, a thought occurred to Wufei, and he swore. Why the hell didn't I think of that before?

Stalking over to Nataku, he clambered into the cockpit and dug into one of the storage compartments, coming back with a large flat wooden box and a sketchpad. Sitting down, he flicked to a clean page, took a soft black pencil from the ranks in the box, and started drawing.

Wufei was an excellent artist, and the villagers exclaimed in delight as quick strokes brought different scenes to life. Nataku sitting against the wall of a canyon with Wufei tending a small campfire, as searchers scratched their heads on the other side of a rockslide that had blocked it off; bubbles on the surface of a lake, with Nataku's silhouette dimly visible underwater; Nataku's feet and glowing eyes in a cave...

Terrin leaned forwards and tapped that picture. "There's a good, big cave in the Spinewall," he said, "a ways along from the canyons. It might be a bit of a tight squeeze, but I'm pretty sure Nataku will fit; and the entrance is in a sort of fold of rock, so you can't see it unless you get right up to it."

"Wouldn't the canyons work?" Naiya asked. "They go on for miles!"

Terrin shook his head. "We'd never be able to hide Nataku's tracks; the rocks are soft and there's loose stones all over the ground that he'd crush. Besides, they'll search the canyons. They'll have a mage or a Champion with them to take care of Sharna's priest, and they'll surely be able to tell that's where the summoning happened.

"What if they can sense Wufei and Nataku?" Rami asked.

"We hope they get away."


Naiya tucked Wufei's clothes into a chest under a pile of blankets, then picked up the box and book and looked around, considering where to hide them. The small demon had pushed his belongings into her hands before he left with Terrin to hide Nataku, and she wanted them out of sight just in case the expected searchers checked houses.

Deciding on another chest, one holding winter clothes, she moved towards it... then changed her mind, and carried her burdens into the main room, setting them down on the table. After all... he'd just handed them to her. He wouldn't have done that if he wanted them kept secret, would he? And she'd glimpsed such beautiful colours as he flicked through the pages.

She pried carefully at the tiny catches on the box, nearly holding her breath as they clicked up and she gently raised the lid. A bewildering array of short coloured sticks met her eye; she touched them gingerly, then picked one up and peered at it. The one he'd used had been black; this one was red, but otherwise looked the same. She pressed the pointed tip gently against her finger, nearly squeaked at the bright mark it left behind, and hastily scrubbed it off on her skirt. Putting it back, she quickly closed the lid and refastened the catches.

Turning to the book, she opened the cover using just the tips of her fingers. The sheets within were finer than vellum and so white she was nearly afraid to touch them, for fear of leaving dirt behind. The first page had angular black markings on it, writing or a design, she didn't know; she turned to the next.

Several sketches of an unfamiliar bird covered the sheet; flying, perched on a twig with something in its beak, and sitting in a small round nest. Smaller sketches showed details of its head and feet. Every detail was meticulously drawn and coloured, to the point where Naiya was sure that if she ever saw the bird, she'd know it immediately.

The next few pages showed more birds, some plants, and a small cat curled up in the sun.

There are cats where he came from? Strange! The birds are all ones I've never seen before... well, I recognise them as birds anyway, so I suppose some things are the same in any world. She turned the page and gasped.

A young woman's face, remarkably similar to Wufei's, took up the whole page. This picture wasn't coloured, but it didn't need to be; there were the same slanted, dark eyes, the same fine black hair. Her expression was a strange mix of arrogance and sorrow.

Naiya was rather relieved when the next few pages were just birds and plants again; then the nature sketches abruptly stopped. The rest of the filled pages showed people... and demons.

The first few pictures were of demons like Nataku, using strange weapons to fight smaller demons. One had wings and a burning sword, another a flaming scythe; a third had two curved blades, and a fourth just seemed to be pointing something big and blurred as his opponents fell to pieces. Then there were more pictures of the giant demons, this time with young men drawn in front of them. A boy with messy brown hair glared from blue eyes as he pointed something threateningly; an absolutely beautiful violet-eyed boy, wearing black, with a long brown plait flicking out to the side; another beautiful boy, looking surprisingly like Rami, held out an empty hand and smiled sweetly; one stood with his hand on a large furry beast's fanged head, face half hidden by a smooth fall of hair.

It was the fifth of these drawings that really made Naiya stare. There was Nataku in the background, spinning a staff and lashing out with the fanged head on the end of his arm; but there were two figures in the foreground. Wufei stood back, shadowed, face almost blank, looking towards the girl from the earlier portrait. She was in an aggressive pose, almost mirroring Nataku, with her left fist clenched and a sword in her right, striking out with a shout. Her stance was dramatic, alive... but her skin and the flowing clothes she wore were strangely drained of colour; the outlines of Nataku's leg and body could be faintly seen through her.

Who is she? A ghost?

Naiya shivered, and turned the page.

Almost all of the remaining pages showed the four strange boys who seemed to be paired with giant demons as Wufei was. There were a couple of exceptions - a large black-bearded man looming protectively behind the beautiful blonde boy, and a smirking man with red-brown hair, tapping a sword in his palm as he stood in the wreckage of a richly decorated room. Naiya didn't much like his expression; somehow, she felt he was the kind of person who would decide what he thought other people needed, then do it - even if it killed them.

As she slowly paged through the rest of the book, Naiya found fewer and fewer pictures of three of the boys (Boys? I suppose, if they're like Wufei, they're demons too?), and more and more pictures of the one with the long plait. He bounced across the pages with a wicked grin and sparkling eyes, braid whipping behind him in elegant arcs; once he was running down a burning corridor, laughing.

There were only three pictures where he wasn't smiling. In one, he stood watching the messy-haired boy walk away, with an expression of barely-contained sorrow and longing. In the next, almost the last picture in the book, he was asleep, sprawled on his back under a light blanket with one arm stretched above his head and the other clutching his plait to his chest.

On the last filled page, he sat on a cushioned bench under a window, overlooking a rain-streaked landscape. One leg was drawn up to his chest, with his folded arms resting on the knee; he gazed out wistfully, long hair loose and tumbling in damp waves over his unbuttoned white shirt.

Oh. Oh... how beautiful!

Naiya closed the book, blushing slightly, and hid it and the box in the clothes chest; then she stood at the window, staring out.

How can he draw such beautiful pictures when he sometimes seems so... closed off? Does he put in all the emotion he doesn't want to show on his face?

And what does he feel for that beautiful boy, to draw him so much... and like that?

* * * * *

Quatre settled into a chair with a tired sigh, breathing in the wisps of steam from his cup of tea. Two days with an unresponsive, depressed, quiet Duo - two days where he'd had to coax Duo to eat, and had hardly dared sleep in case the braided boy did something final to himself - had really taken it out of him. Today, Duo had decided to take a shower; Quatre hadn't known whether to be happy that he was doing something so normal, or afraid that he'd use the sound of the water to make it seem as if everything was okay until it was too late. In the end, he'd spent over half an hour standing tensely outside the bathroom door, straining to hear Duo's movements and prepared to kick the door down if anything sounded wrong.

Taking the first sip of tea, Quatre closed his eyes and tried to relax. Allah, I swear... if Duo gets back to his old self, I'll never wish for him to shut up again!

A crash of breaking glass and a soft *thud* came from upstairs; the fine porcelain teacup spun into the wall and shattered as Quatre catapulted out of his chair and ran for the door.

Skidding to a halt in Duo and Heero's room as the door slammed against the wall, Quatre looked around frantically. "DUO! Are you-- oh."

Duo was sitting cross-legged on his bed, head in his hands, tangled hair leaving wet blotches on his t-shirt. His hairbrush was lying on the floor under a shattered mirror.

Why did he do that? Quatre thought; then light dawned as Duo looked up and lowered his shaking hands into his lap. He wore himself out washing his hair, and now he can't brush it. Well... at least I can help with this. If he lets me.

Picking up the brush, Quatre carefully checked to make sure no slivers of glass were stuck in it, then turned to Duo.

"May I?"

Duo shrugged.

I'll take that as a 'yes'.

Settling carefully on the bed behind Duo, Quatre began working the brush carefully through the tangles. It didn't take long to get them out; with twenty-nine older sisters, he had had a lot of practice.

If Heero doesn't get his act together, this could become a regular occurrence.


I could live with that.

Duo abruptly spoke. "Wufei did this for me a couple of times when I was injured; he likes my hair. Even said it was beautiful." Pause. "I asked Heero once, but he just glared at me like I'd said something crude and walked off."

Quatre steamed. Damn it, Yui--! It was a struggle to speak in a normal voice, but he managed it. "Wufei was right; your hair is beautiful." Putting the brush down, he ran his fingers through the damp strands, spreading them over Duo's shoulders and his lap. "Heero's just-- just..." What can I say? Focussed? Fixated? Braindead? FRIGID? " insensitive idiot."

Duo shrugged. "Not like it matters now."

"It matters!" Quatre clutched handfuls of Duo's hair. "He didn't have to hurt you. That was cowardly."

"Heero? A coward?" Duo snorted bitterly. "Mr I-can-set-my-own-broken-bones? Shyeah!"

"Physical courage is easy," Quatre sniffed disdainfully, starting to plait. Inwardly, he was bouncing up and down gleefully as Duo started sounding a little more like his usual self. "We've all got that; no physical coward could pilot a Gundam. Emotional courage... the bravery to admit what you feel and do something about it... that's much harder. Heero can't manage it - not yet, anyway."

"Then... I guess I'm a coward too, huh?"

"We all are, to one degree or another."

"Oh?" One violet eye peered back at Quatre. "What about you? You grabbed Trowa pretty fast."

Quatre smiled. "What makes you think it was me who made the first move?" He tugged lightly at the finished braid, and stood up. "I'll fetch a broom and clean up the glass, okay? Don't cut your feet!"

"Ah, yeah. Sorry."

"It's not a problem."

Quatre made sure he was downstairs and well out of earshot before he punched the air in triumph. "Yesss! We have progress!"

After all the glass was swept up, Quatre stood with the dustpan in his hand and eyed Duo thoughtfully. "You look pretty tired; why not take a nap until dinnertime? What would you like, anyway? Your choice."

"Whatever." Duo shrugged. "I don't mind."

"Spaghetti, then. You like that." Quatre nodded decisively and marched out.

Duo flopped back on his bed, wincing as he jarred a bruise, and stared at the ceiling; then his eyes tracked slowly down to Heero's side of the room. He sat up again, and stared narrow-eyed at the neatly made bed.

Emotional cowardice... huh. Both of us. Him trying not to feel anything, and me... me hanging around hoping that someday he'd do something and I wouldn't have to risk it.


Time I stopped.


Downstairs in the kitchen, Quatre looked up sharply at a series of thuds and bumps along the upstairs corridor.

What the...? Carefully, he leaned out the door and listened. Limping footsteps went the other way; there was a pause; then the bumping started again. Intensely curious (and a little worried), he sneaked upstairs and peeked into the corridor.

Muffled swearing came from Heero and Duo's room; then Duo backed into the corridor, dragging the wooden rack he kept his antique CDs in. Quatre ducked back into the stairwell as he went past, then peered out in time to see the rack disappearing into Wufei's room.

Quatre was smiling slightly as he sneaked back downstairs, relieved and thoughtful at the same time.

If anything can make Heero take action, this is it. And if he doesn't, Trowa and I will!


Duo flopped onto the spare bed in Wufei's room, exhausted. His belongings were piled in one corner waiting to be put away, his knee was throbbing, and he could feel every single one of his bruises yelling for attention; but somehow, he felt better.

Wincing, he pulled himself into a slightly more comfortable position, curled on his side looking across at the other bed. Clutching his braid, he sighed and closed his eyes.

"I wish you were here to talk to, 'Fei."

end chapter 5

MEL: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Heero is a chickenshit.

CHRISTY: That's my line!

MEL: Then you should have said it first. Nyeah!

CHRISTY: Sooooo, Duo... do you want Heero to come back with a clue? Or would you prefer Trowa and Quatre?

DUO: I told you, I'm not answering questions like that!

MEL: Duo is a chickenshit too.

DUO: I AM NOT! I'm just not giving you two any extra ammo!

CHRISTY: Naaah, he's just afraid that if he picks Heero, Trowa and Quatre will be upset; if he picks Trowa and Quatre, Heero will beat the shit out of him. Don't worry, sweetie, we won't let anybody hurt you! You can tell us!

DUO: Nobody hurts me unless YOU TWO write it! I'm not talking!

MEL: Spoilsport. Sooooo, Wufei... wanna talk about your intriguing choice of subject for your art?

WUFEI: < glare > No. You're the ones who made it up, you discuss it.

CHRISTY: You guys are so boring! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeero~! I'm bored!

HEERO: You're right. We're boring.

DUO: Not worth writing about at all.

QUATRE: *nodnod* Totally insipid personalities.

TROWA: ... (translation: 'Unimaginative dialogue.')

WUFEI: Definitely not suitable subjects for your *choke* genius.

(All five G-boys sit still and try not to look like the hunky bishounen they are.)

CHRISTY: Give it up, guys, it ain't working.

MEL: If you were boring, do you honestly think your series would have been such a success? Hang on, that may not be such a good argument. Escaflowne's a success.

CHRISTY: That's annoying, not boring.

MEL: True! My point stands.

CHRISTY: So when do we get to write more Wufei angst? I wanna work on 'Reunion'.

MEL: Right after we get this typed and posted. Oi! Wufei! Stand over there and look guilty, would you?

CHRISTY: Guilty and anguished.

MEL: Guilty and anguished and hating yourself.

CHRISTY: Oh, and Heero, you stand there and look like you want to kill him. (mutter) You should be able to manage that. (out loud) Mel, shoo! Go type!



Chapter 6

Gundam Wing




















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