Hehe! Now this
is more like it!
by Anria Chiou Lalumin
Part Six: The Tournament
Heero stared out across
the milling sea of commoners and nobles seated in the stands, watching
with eager, bloodthirsty eyes for the tournament to begin. He could barely
repress a scowl at the nonsense that had dragged him away from his duties
as part of BG to come to a tournament, of all things, where the
only time it was likely that someone would die was if there was a personal
grievance there. And with the monarchs of four kingdoms scowling down
on the 'battleground', after having declared that they would severely
reprimand anyone who tried to start a real fight, there was no possibility
of that. Absolutely none.
And it meant that Princess Relena was attached to his arm again.
Heero sighed, ignoring the babbling blonde as she tried to interest him
in what was going on. Looking dutifully where she pointed, Heero saw a
knight in what had been a good set of armor be carried off the field unconscious.
His lip curled. The two knights had gone one run with the lances, and
he was unconscious already?
Silently enduring Relena's monologue, Heero tried to work out some way
of getting rid of her. He could throw her from the stands onto the grass
below. No, scratch that, it would mean her brother (who was sitting on
the other side of Heero) would kill him. He could throw himself onto the
grass below. No, scratch that, when he survived—and it was a when,
not an if—he would probably be tied to his chair for the rest of
the three-month tournament. He could make up an excuse and leave for 'a
short period of time'—otherwise known as the rest of the year. No, scratch
that, his parents would go ballistic and every home he had lived in was
So what other options were there?
Even if he got a mission from J, he couldn't get away from the damned
tournament as his parents didn't know he was a member of BG. They would
disown him if they did.
Gloomily Heero considered the possibility that there was no way out of
this. Then it hit him.
It had been one of the Kings' suggestions—probably Treize's—to have all
the contestants in the tournament vie against each other without knowing
who the other was. That would mean that no court politics would interfere
with the tournament. So if Heero entered the tournament, he would get
out of having to endure Relena's company and would not even have the annoying
Princess cheering him on!
The more Heero thought about it, the more he liked it. If he entered the
tournament, on the days he was not jousting he would not have to sit with
the little blonde bitch, since to prevent people from finding out who
they were fighting by a process of elimination, if you weren't fighting
on a particular day you were to absent yourself from the surrounding area.
Heero couldn't repress the small smile that found its way across his features
as he turned to Relena and said, "Well, Princess, since you seem
to enjoy the jousts so much I think I will take part."
"What? But—Prince Yuy!" Relena gasped, eyes wide. "You
could be hurt—maybe killed!"
Strange, Heero thought, that I have become so accustomed to
thinking of myself as Heero that my real name sounds like a fake one.
But I've only thought of myself as Heero since...
Heero shook himself out of it before his silence became even more conspicuous,
and said (cringing inside), "But you seemed so impressed with the
knights who are jousting that I thought you would like to see your fiancé
do the same."
"Well—when you put it that way—" Relena was such a pushover.
Heero stood, bowed to the princess and her brother, then made his way
to his parents to inform them of his decision. They were delighted with
the idea, so Heero picked his way through the benches and went down to
the field to sign up.
"Come back tomorrow morning, your Highness," the herald told
him. "Please be fully suited when you do, and ride a horse that is
not your favorite."
Heero nodded and walked off. If he rode a horse that was not his court
favorite, it would mean he rode Zero, so that was all to the good. Perhaps
he could work off some frustration...
As he strode back to his apartments in the Royal wing of the palace, Heero's
mind slipped back to when he had begun to think of himself as Heero, when
the sound of his real name caused him to start with surprise. It was when
Duo had come into his life, he knew. They only knew each other as Duo
and Heero, neither one knowing the true name or rank of the other, yet
when Duo called him Heero, it had seemed to fit him more than ever before,
more than his true name did. Duo was the one who had given him this identity,
that even now, two years after their last meeting, still lasted.
I miss him, Heero realized. Three years and I still miss him.
Then he wondered why he wasn't surprised.
Duo scowled at the small black marks that equated one knight who had volunteered
for the joust. There weren't nearly enough of them for him to blow off
some steam, steam which had been accumulating more and more as there just
weren't enough missions nowadays, with the four kingdoms advocating peace,
for him to let out his frustration in.
Then his scowl became even deeper as he realized he was skirting the issue.
Face it, Maxwell, he told himself, his mental voice sounding almost
scornful when it used his real name, you want another mission against
BG so you might have the chance to meet up with Heero again. Even though
if you do meet up, you'll have to try and kill each other, you still want
to meet him any way you can.
Is that a crime? Duo snarled back at it. Yeah, I want to see
Heero again. Is anyone really fucking surprised?
Duo added another black mark to the list. He would be competing tomorrow.
He stalked off, still angry and still confused as to why he was angry,
and headed away from the field. Head down, still deep in his mental argument
with the small voice in his head, he didn't see the small figure come
out of a door and walked straight into him, knocking them both to the
"Shit! Hey, I'm sorry! You okay?" Duo asked, picking himself
up and grabbing the other boy's arm through the brownish-gray material
that covered it.
"I am fine," the boy said, standing up as well. He looked at
Duo through bright blue eyes, the sun shining on his blond hair. He was
wearing the burnous that only people who came in on the caravans from
Arabia wore, but this guy was no Arabian.
"Excuse me, but are you an Arabian?" Duo heard himself asking.
"Yes, I am. Oh, I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself. My name is
Raberba Winner," the blond boy said. "And you are. . . ?"
"Oh . . . Duke Maxwell of Irage," Duo said automatically, extending
a hand. Jeez, a blond Arabian. Now I've seen everything. "Pleased
to meet you. Sorry, man, I've gotta be going..."
"Please, go ahead," the blond boy said, bowing. It looked odd
with the voluminous folds of the burnous covering his slight form.
"Thanks," Duo said, and strode off, putting the encounter from
Quatre watched the braided nobleman stride off, a small frown between
his golden brows. There was something off about that meeting, something
he couldn't quite put his finger on. His natural ability to sense other
people's moods and sometimes thoughts had sense a very great confusion
inside that man, one of identity more than anything else. Just as when
he had said his name was Raberba Winner, the name 'Duke Maxwell of Irage'
rang false. As thought it was a cover name.
But a noble's rank couldn't be faked.
Shaking his head slightly, Quatre moved down the hallway, heading towards
his companion's room. He poked his head around the door in time to see
Trowa stow away the last of his things. Not that Trowa had many things.
"Hello," he said, opening the door further and coming into the
Trowa turned and what could be called a smile flickered across his face.
"Hello," he agreed.
"Remind me again why we're here."
"To see why J and G have not responded to S, H, or O," Trowa
said. "And to get them to stop fighting their own personal little
war and remind them what BG and BR were originally made for."
Quatre shut the door and moved closer, snuggling up in Trowa's arms. "Anything
"Hmm?" Quatre looked up from where he was unbuttoning Trowa's
A sigh. "Quatre, the people here are mindless bigots. If we're found
at any time in any place, we will be executed."
"I know that," Quatre almost purred, nuzzling his lover's neck.
Trowa's arms tightened reflexively, but even knowing how stubborn Quatre
could be when he wanted something, he still tried to reason with the boy.
"Quatre, please, this is serious..."
"So am I..."
Trowa gave up. "At least let me lock the door."
The next morning Duo sat on his horse in line, in full armor including
full-face visor, and listened to the herald's instructions.
"You will be given a number," the herald was saying. "This
number will remain the only name you answer to throughout the jousts.
To begin with, even numbers will joust with even numbers and odd with
odd. On this board every morning will be posted who is jousting with who
at what time. At the end of this tournament, which will last for one week,
everyone will have jousted against everyone else and we will have a place
list of who has won and who has not.
"In the jousts," he continued, "you take three runs. The
person who knocks the other out of the saddle in those three runs is the
winner. If both come out of the saddle, the judges will award the match
to whoever left the saddle last. If neither come out in the three runs,
the match will progress to swords, and the outcome of the sword match
determines who wins and who doesn't in that particular match.
"The overall winner of the tournament, the person with more wins
than anyone else, will be asked to participate in the next one."
The herald then pointed to people and gave them a number. Duo found himself
as number two. He looked at the board and saw he was third in line, to
joust with number sixteen.
Number sixteen, whoever he really was, was a pushover. On the first run
Duo unhorsed him, despite the man being almost twice his size and the
target (his shield) seemingly minuscule beside the man's bulk. The man
had to be carried off the field on a stretcher.
Trotting his black horse Death back to the board, Duo saw he had nothing
more to do until tomorrow, and so excused himself from the field and went
back to his apartments to change out of the heavy plate armor.
Even as he negotiated his way around the leather straps and metal plates
covering him from head to toe, Duo's thoughts were distracted. He would
have thought that Heero would be at the tournament. If he was honest with
himself, the probability of Heero's presence had been the only reason
he had come. Yet he hadn't seen him anywhere, and he'd been looking hard
at the stands, scouring them for the familiar unruly mop of chestnut hair
and intense Prussian blue eyes.
But no scowling boy had materialized.
Duo realized he was scowling himself. It had been his frustration over
the continued absence of Heero that had driven him to sign himself up
for the tournament. Maybe knocking a few people out of their saddles would
let out some of the tension he had been building up.
One thing that Duo had not considered doing was looking at the Royal Booths
to look for Heero. That explained how he had missed him.
Once in the more comfortable black breeches and shirt, Duo stalked out
of his rooms looking for food. There had to be some in this place somewhere
with a few hundred nobles crawling over the palace. It had been generous
of the Peacecrafts to volunteer their kingdom as a venue for this tournament,
but they had to be crazy. The cost of this thing had to be enormous, nearly
enough to bankrupt them. Duo grinned sourly. They should make the troublesome
nobles pay for it, just so they don't have enough money to pay for armaments
or the like.
Then he blinked. Hey, that'd be me!
Duo suddenly noticed the decidedly sour turn to his grin, and wondered
what was wrong with him. So Heero wasn't there. So what? It had been two
years since their last meeting, and three years since they had spent just
over half a week together. Heero was probably avoiding him now, since
his embarrassing admission two years ago.
But then... He still didn't know what 'aishiteiru' meant. Could it be...
Duo found himself wandering out to the paddocks where the horses were
running around the fields. He noticed two new arrivals; a small, light
desert mare, bred for speed and endurance, and a reasonably large gelding
that just looked mean.
"Oh, hello again," a light voice said beside him, and Duo turned
his head to see the blond Arabian approaching. What was his name again?
Raberba Winner, that was it. Odd name.
"Hello," Duo said, returning his gaze to the paddock. Death,
and his new horse who he had named Hell, chased each other around their
paddock, seemingly wanting to hone their teeth on each other's hide. That
Frowning, Duo climbed up onto the fence and over, ignoring the two new
horses in the paddock he crossed.
"Duke Maxwell! Behind you!"
Duo threw himself to the right before he knew what he was doing, rolling
as the gelding galloped straight through where he had been standing. Following
the Arabian's shouted warnings, he dodged as the two horses each tried
to brain him in their own separate ways, and used his speed and agility
to make his way over to his two horses.
"Uh—my Lord Duke—are you sure you want to do that—" the Arabian's
voice followed him as Duo jumped over the second fence into the paddock
with his horses.
"I think those are his horses," a new voice, calm and male,
said, its soft tone nonetheless carrying to Duo.
"Death! Hell! Stop it now!" Duo snapped, lunging to grab handfuls
of each horse's mane. He yanked them around to face him.
You take pieces out of the hide of people who are trying to hurt me,
do you understand, not each other." He flung the heads away
from him. "No oats for you until you learn."
The horses hung their heads, Death scuffing one hoof through the dirt.
They looked properly abashed at a chastening from their usually easy-going
master. Duo rolled his eyes, sighed and hugged each horse around the neck.
"It's okay, just don't do it again," he said.
Satisfied both horses—remarkably intelligent for ones of their kind—had
got his message, Duo decided that instead of going back through the field
with the homicidal strange horses in it, he would take the fence route
instead. This involved him walking along the edge of the fence, ready
to jump off either side if one of the animals charged at him.
It suddenly struck him that he, Duo Maxwell, BR's most feared warrior,
was avoiding two horses as though he was afraid of them. A maniacal grin
coming to his face, he jumped off the fence and bolted straight for the
They stood their ground. Once he got close enough, the desert mare reared,
hooves striking for his face, and Duo ducked, swerved, and vaulted onto
The mare went crazy.
Bucking and rearing, she tried every trick in the book to get him off
her back. Duo grinned, then laughed aloud, enjoying himself for the first
time in—well, a long time.
"He's crazy..." came drifting to his ears, and he laughed harder.
Finally, the mare came to a halt, shivering, legs splayed, realizing he
wasn't going to come off. Duo leaned forward to whisper in the horse's
"No human has ever beaten me. You think you, a horse, are going to?"
Duo grinned. "I will not be defeated by any human, let alone you."
The mare stood there, still shivering, sweat covering her flanks as Duo
dismounted. He grinned again and patted her on the nose, then fished a
sugar cube out of one of his pockets and fed it to her. "Good girl.
You'll make your owner proud."
"She does," the Arabian said, bemused, from where he sat on
Duo grinned over at him, then turned to the gelding, who was staring at
him in astonishment. His fists settled on his hips, legs apart. "You
wanna try too?"
The gelding shook its head. Duo laughed and fed him a sugar cube, too.
"I have never known anyone to get the better of either my or Barton's
horses," Raberba's voice, still bemused, came over to Duo.
"I just have a way with horses."