Author: Maldoror
Disclaimer: The usual, Gundam Wing belongs to it's owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut.
Rated R for language, lots of violence, sexual content
see chap. 1 for more notes

This fic is a little crazy pleasure for me; it's a game full of plots and twists and fun. For example, some reviewers were wondering about Jusan. Well, Juusan (note spelling, the one Duo uses) is Japanese for 13...see what I mean? *dodges thrown objects and scampers away laughing insanely*

Oh, but no 5x13 in this fic, just so you know. There's chemistry (and I sure don't know where it came from, it wasn't part of the original story outline!) but I don't see it going anywhere.

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 18
Epyon

For a split second all was frozen. The old man, limbs spread-eagled, seemed pinned in mid-air, everyone else as still as statues.

Then Fen reeled back, choking, and Quatre, face indifferent, fired another blast that nearly knocked the old man into the fireplace.

Trowa was already moving as alien lines coalesced around them all, taking him utterly by surprise. Whatever had happened hadn't been in the lines of fate or intent, which didn't seem possible-...why had Quatre-...Trowa threw himself between his lover and the figure stirring near the fireplace, to stop Quatre from firing again and Fen from retaliating.

But Quatre brushed past him as if he wasn't there and ran to the pedestal near the fire, ignoring the old man nearby.

"Quatre!" Trowa lunged after him and crashed into Duo. The braided man who'd barged in his way tried to shake himself free of Trowa's instinctive hold. "Tro! The old man! Watch it!" Duo squirmed away and threw himself towards Fen, placing himself between the old man and the healer with a sidestep as well. A dagger in his hand caught a piece of the firelight.

Trowa only glanced at the figure slowly rising near the fire. It was impossible, Quatre had fired twice, nearly point-blank, Fen had no shields and should be dead-...He grabbed the healer who had picked up zero and was staring at it blankly, as if unsure what to do with it now that he had it. Trowa practically carried him out of the way - hustled him behind Heero who had also stepped forward, menacing eyes on Fen. Feeling familiar arms around him, Quatre smiled gently up at Trowa.

And crushed the fragile contraption in his hands.

Trowa shouted in alarm as unfamiliar and frightening lines suddenly leapt from the broken thing and crackled alongside his lover's.

Quatre looked puzzled, then his eyes slowly unfocused and he sank to the ground.

"Tro? We could use a hand over here..."

Trowa moaned. Two patterns met his horrified senses as he stared at Quatre. The alien geometries that were zero were lying quiescent, like a complex choreography with no dancer to attend it. The lines that were Quatre, his soul, his chakra, his mind...Trowa felt panic touch him as he saw those lines muddle and fade into stunned confusion and stillness. Something-there was something else here, something that was holding Quatre down, gently but firmly.

On the edge of Trowa's awareness, lines of intent speared towards the young healer; he was in danger.

"You dare!"

Grave danger.

"T-Tro?!" Duo whimpered, stepping back and wisely placing himself behind Heero.

The old man had been wearing Epyon under the tattered velvet tunic, which was why he had survived the blasts. Epyon had activated and he was now fully armoured. This mecha was not like Wing and Shenlong; metal encased the man entirely in large thick scales the colour of old blood. A strange helmet had sprouted around Fen's head, covering his face entirely; glass eye-holes glinted green and something like a metal duster covered nose and mouth, giving him a frighteningly mechanistic appearance. The room was full of the sound of metal latching on to metal as the armour consolidated. Something rattled; in Fen's hand a thick chain flail flicked and cracked in anger.

Heero stepped forward, and Wing obeyed his mental command. Fortunately Howard had activated it once more before they'd left the Sanctuary, despite Svale's misgivings. Armour slithered sensuously over Heero's body, and dark blue eyes gleamed in anticipation.

Fen snorted softly, his features hidden by a metal scowl but his disdain clear.

"I see you have hidden talents, boy. In another few hundred years you might be able to challenge me. But not today."

Heero smirked and Wing flew over his hands to form his armoured gloves. He didnít look like he was about to bother with the sword again.

"It's a pity..." For an instant Fen's voice dropped into scholarly tones again. "I would have liked to see what you could have done with zero. Too old...but-...yes, I know. Very well. Of course, but if he can't move he can't hurt us, right?"

"What-?" Duo started, staring over Heero's shoulder at the old lunatic apparently talking to himself.

Fen leapt forward, as light as a young boy, as deadly as a bullet. Heero was ready and fended off the blow from the flail that rang, metal against metal, on Wing's wrist guard, then twisted into the low kick that followed. His fists darted, impacting Epyon twice, a quick, testing jab. Fen swerved and seemed to fall back, turning-...

The armoured figure swung around and loosed the flail which whipped around like a bola, picked Heero up and slammed him against the wall.

"Shit!" Duo shouted. Heero was silent, glaring at Fen, flexing his arms against the metal-

His eyes widened suddenly and Trowa could see his muscles arch and tighten-...and the chain slither and clink against Wing as it tightened by itself and plunged viciously into the thick stone like a tree root growing through concrete, pinning Heero to the wall.

"Oh fuck..." Duo muttered as Fen turned away from the restrained warrior and focused on the braided man. Another flail was growing like a shoot of brambles from Epyon's glove and was lashing back and forth. "...Trowa?"

Fen roared, the tones warped by the full helmet covering his antiquated features. The sound was still echoing when he leapt at Duo.

Trowa tried to follow the action as he scooped up Quatre and placed him behind a stone buttress near the wall of the big room, as safe as he could be in the circumstances. He felt only a dull surprise at Duo's speed as he dodged and evaded the flail. The mystery that was the black-clad man was really not at the top of his mind at present. He unslung his bow, watched the dance of vectors carefully as he slipped a bolt in it. Fired along the arching lines of fate and death that reeled the shot in towards Fen -

Once more, the impossible occurred. It was becoming quite banal in fact. Trowa had worked hard on three special runic bolts after his meeting with the Dragon, he wanted something that could pierce Dragon scale if necessary. The lines said that his shot would impact Fen above the heart, severing the artery. And then impossibly, while the bolt was in mid-flight, the lines wrenched and realigned themselves and the bolt splintered against the armoured palm of Fen's hand that had flown up to intercept. Trowa felt a slight relief when he noticed that the bolt had penetrated the armour. At least that much was working. Fen roared and grabbed his palm and wrenched the bloodied tip of the dart from it, and glared at the shaman from within the safety of the helmet.

"You...you dare attack me?! Do you know who I-..." The man interrupted himself and his tone sounded suddenly vague. "Who...who I am..."

Then the flail lashed out again at Duo who managed to throw himself back over the table half a second before it splintered, dodging out of the way. Broken plates and a mug clattered to the floor, rolling after the lithe figure. The candleholders were knocked over in a splatter of wax and broken candles. The room was dipped into shadows dressed in war paints by the flickering red and gold of firelight.

The flail lashed up and the tip seemed to stare straight at Trowa. He could see the lines of Fen's intent dart towards him-...then warp and weave and move in ways that just couldn't-

The zero system!

Howard had talked about it as a technologist, all mathematics and probability and computations, but this was an arcana, and Trowa suddenly realized what it could do. It allowed a normal man to see the lines of fate and intent playing out around him. Even...even manipulate them to some extent, apparently. The shaman felt his gorge rise as he stared in horror at the blasphemous thing warping the very lines of destiny around the armoured figure. He didn't think men should have access to such power, it went against the natural order of things.

Fen and Trowa stared at each other, immobile. All was quiet around them apart from the scrabble and scraping of Heero trying to break free from the shackle binding him to the wall. Duo fell back besides Trowa, knife flipped to a throwing hold but he didn't look very hopeful. And - Trowa risked a quick glance behind him - Quatre was still safe, protected by the buttress. His lover was looking at them with a lost, puzzled gaze, and his mouth was pinched with worry, but he was still tightly bound by-...whatever it was, and he couldnít speak or move. He seemed only partly aware of his surroundings. Trowa tore his eyes back to the battle of initiative playing out between himself and Fen. If the old man was responsible for Quatre's state, hopefully his death would release the healer. He'd not had the intention of killing but he didn't think the man would leave him a choice.

Fen was no warrior, Trowa realized. He was using the zero system to read the lines and see where best to strike and how to defend. But Trowa could read them too, he could also see where the blow would be coming from. This was probably causing a shifting of the lines in zero's analysis, as it tried to compensate and catch the shaman off guard, and this was confusing Fen. A warrior would have used the massive power of Epyon to break the deadlock in an attack, but Fen wasn't sure how to take the initiative.

On the downside, Epyon/zero could manipulate the lines where Trowa could only read and follow them. The flail hissed and shook slightly. Epyon was thirsty for blood. Trowa's, Duo's...and then his lover's. Trowa's grip tightened on the crossbow stock as he forced his gift of Sight to work faster. A half-formed prayer to Centre died in his heart. The earth didn't care at the passing of one of its creatures. The wheel turned. He had a bad feeling it was about to turn for himself and Quatre...whatever small mercy Centre had would see to it that they would probably die together.

- Behind Trowa, Quatre's eyes slowly focused. The dazed look cleared a little and he stared, frowning, at the shaman's back. Blue eyes widened slowly in alarm as Quatre tentatively felt words and notions whispered in his mind, telling where this scenario was leading, the danger to himself...and Trowa. On his forehead, very briefly, something flickered, like a small symbol. Besides Trowa, Duo suddenly twitched and looked back -

How fast was the zero system? Trowa's mind raced, still fighting, still trying to find a way out of the tangle of lines knotting around them. Could he outmanoeuvre it, even if he could only follow the lines of fate instead of warp them? Could he-...

He heard Duo hiss in alarm and take a step towards Quatre.

Suddenly lines twitched and vibrated around Trowa, like the strands of a web as the spider approached. Fen took two steps back, trying to evaluate the changing situation.

Trowa tasted blood. He'd bit his lip savagely and barely noticed. His whole body shuddered at the sudden wrench in the lines of fate, like a man trying to stay standing while the earth is being rocked by a quake. He didn't have to glance behind him to know where the change was coming from, who was warping the lines around him, giving him the chance to strike at Fen without Epyon/zero reading his intent. The warp and weave of lines had a familiar pattern imprinted on them. Quatre.

He allowed himself one glance back as he loaded his next bolt. The young healer was on the floor, leaning in the shadows of the buttress, eyes blank, his chakra lines screaming and warping to the rhythm of the alien spell that was possessing him. They-...they were melding! Quatre was trying to shield his lover from Epyon. Was that because he recognized Trowa? Or because zero was telling the healer that the man before him was at the moment the only rampart between himself and destruction...? Trowa's mind screamed in panic as lines joined and blended, Quatre's and zero's. No no no no- but he couldnít do anything, couldnít leave his position between Fen and the healer or the old man would strike at the one trying to counter his manipulation of probabilities. Where - where was Duo?! Damn and blast the braided fool, he'd disappeared. Now was not the time-

Vectors writhed and suddenly arched towards Trowa's target. The bow shot up instinctively as the lines coalesced. Trowa tried to ignore the unnatural vectors born of the zero manipulation, concentrating on the purer lines of the earth. Centre, guide me, he thought; more an entreaty than a prayer.

The bolt left the bow with a sharp rustle of sliced air, and Fen roared as he tried to dodge it, Epyon/zero deciphering the danger despite Quatre's amateur interference. The old man leaned back and the bolt struck the metal pauldron and glanced off with a screech of scored metal. Trowa was loading his last improved bolt before the previous one even struck. He didn't have much hope though. Fen staggered back two feet, off balance from the evasion, then straightened, rallying.

The shadows behind the old man flowed together and combined. A shard of firelight cut through the darkness. It struck at the join between two plaques of armour, plunging into Epyon's dark metal near Fen's spine.

Fen screamed and spun and the cruel light whipped up on the same graceful arc to plunge between the armour and the helmet and stab him in the throat.

The armoured figure staggered back, hand reaching to his neck, a strange gurgle erupting from within the helmet, interrupted by the solid meat-sound of Trowa's last runic bolt plunging through the armour plate at another join and burying itself in his lung.

Duo stepped from the shadows warily - how had he gotten there, Trowa wondered numbly - as he watched the old man totter and slowly crumple to the ground. The slim dagger in his hand was glowing in the firelight through streaks of blood, apparently intact even after cutting through Dragon scale. Trowa had thought it was a normal knife...the thought trickled from his mind as he felt his lover's lines and zero's output flicker out behind him leaving only emptiness.

"Duo, take care of Heero." He said distantly as he turned back towards the slumped figure of his lover. Quatre's eyes were now closed. All lines were turned inward, and warped beyond belief. Only the slightest flicker of his chakra showed him to be there at all.

Trowa sank next to him, put a hand on the blond bangs. He closed his eyes and, regardless of where he was or who he was with or whatever preparations would have made his trance easier, Walked the well-known body and soul before him. All the lines tangled and plunged deep into Quatre's being. He couldn't begin to unravel the knot.

"Is Quatre okay?" Duo had followed him. Trowa glanced back at Heero struggling against the chain still holding him against the wall. Duo followed his glance and shrugged. "He's not going anywhere. I'll get to him in a sec. Assuming I can do anything. What's with blondie? What did Fen do to him?"

Quatre's body slumped into Trowa's arms as the shaman gathered him gently to him. "I don't know. I didn't see Fen do anything...I wasn't watching them." He'd been watching Duo and Heero.

"All I saw was the old coot put a hand on Quatre's shoulder. Maybe Fen tried a spell? Oh well, now the old bastard's dead, Q'll be fine. Right?"

"He's not going to be fine." Trowa said numbly. "He's infected with the zero spell. And something else, something I can't define." Duo's eyes widened in slight surprise and alarm, for an instant it seemed to be concentrated on Trowa rather than Quatre-....Trowa looked hard into violet-blue eyes and was met by the guileless stare of a man who had been Quatre's friend for a few months now and was obviously worried about him now....The shaman sighed, this was not the time to get paranoid.

"What something else? Something Fen did?" Duo prompted.

"...it could very well be. It would explain why Quatre attacked him. I don't know why Fen would-...but Svale told us he was eccentric."

"She meant senile, not dangerous." Duo cast a glance back at the still form in the growing pool of blood, and muttered to himself: "Not that dangerous anyway...I almost-..." then he glanced at Trowa. "Well we got him. Now we need to get 'Rabbit' back to Svale, I guess. She'll be able to sort him out, right?"

"And why is that?" Trowa found himself asking. He felt numb. He knew he had to move, to react...but the numbness kept the frightening truth at bay.

"...well, this zero thing is Jishin, and she specializes in that, right? Come on, Tro, snap out of it. Let's get him back to the Sanctuary. He'll be fine."

Trowa glanced up at Duo's hand on his shoulder, then into the eyes which seemed suddenly deeper and older. "He will be fine, Trowa. We just need to get him back." Duo whispered. "Come on."

A ripping crash tore the air and they both twisted around in time to see Heero finish destroying the wall behind him to give him the leverage to yank off Epyon's flail. Trowa had never heard the sombre man swear but by the glare in Heero's eyes as he threw the chain onto the corpse in the centre of the room, he was apparently contemplating it.

"Well, that's one less thing for me to do!" Duo said brightly. "Come on, let's get out of this mausoleum."

Trowa's eyes fell blindly on Fen's body.

"Don't worry about the fossil! If Svale cuts up rough about it she can bloody well come bury the murderous bastard herself! Hell I'll even buy her a shovel. Come one. Heero? Stop glaring at the bugger, he's dead now."

Heero glanced up at Duo in something like surprise. His eyes went from Fen's corpse to Duo a few times as if he was about to say something. Then he shrugged and turned away, striding out of the room, Wing slowly folding back into its resting position.

Trowa and Duo exchanged puzzled glances and followed.

+

Silence and the disturbed dust of decades danced in the firelight and fell on the still figure at its centre. Blood pooled, found the cracks in the flagstones, trickled down into rivers and deltas, nudging old grime aside and sweeping it along like miniature flash floods.

The fire crackled, unattended, and a log broke and fell.

Epyon stirred.

It had tried to repair the damage done to its bearer, but it was beyond the mecha's power. All its sensors - which were attuned to more banal life forms - informed it that its owner was dead. It slowly retracted into itself, leaving the corpse to the dust, the firelight and the silence.

Something small stirred from its corner near the fireplace where it had been watching the blood with frustrated desire. But its master had given it a stern warning about feeding off the old creature.

"Finally." It muttered, as it saw Epyon retreat. It picked up a stone, a little round grey pebble, and cupped it in its small hands.

"Master? Hope this thing works. Master?"

The stone seemed to glow a bit brighter in the golden firelight and the creature settled.

"Yes Master. The-...metal thing has disappeared. What do I do with the body?...Very well, Master."

It settled once more, giving the blood one last yearning glance. Then it curled up to sleep until nightfall.

+

The fire had almost died when footsteps rang once more in the dusty corridors. Duo slipped through the door, flicked a small stone at Imp - it bounced off its head and brought the small creature awake with a start - and approached the body.

"Master?" Imp flew up to hover over Duo's shoulder.

"Yes, finally. I can't stay too long. Apparently Trowa's not going to sleep tonight, he's going to try to Walk Quatre now that the moon is up. And Heero never sleeps. I had to pretend to go scout out tomorrow's road to get away and teleport back."

Imp had started bobbing up and down in alarm.

"Won't the shaman find your shihai on the healer, Master?"

"My shihai? Don't kid me, Imp. Mattaku no Juusan couldnít find my shihai no shirushi. Trowa doesn't stand a chance." Duo knelt by Fen and studied the long form carefully. "Right, on to the next part of today's fun and games. This old geezer was quite the effort to put down. I had to pull a fast one to plug him. Fortunately the others were too distracted to notice. Quite the scrapper, weren't you." Duo's fingers brushed the long thin hair away from the lax features.

"Too bad he's so old, Master. And dead." Imp added, curiously. His master had hinted that the later condition was not permanent.

"Well, let's see what he's like in the flower of youth, shall we? Grab me an ember from the fire, Imp."

Puzzled, the piece of rock obeyed. Under Duo's directions it tossed the ember onto the remains of the velvet tunic which started to smoke a little.

"What now, Master?"

"Well...I don't know. Normally combustion occurs when the body starts to decompose, but I can't wait that long. And then it burns for seven years and I really can't wait that long! I was hoping to speed things up a bit, but to tell you the truth I'm making this up as I go along, I know very little about this creature."

The tunic smouldered. The ember darkened, turned black. Imp tossed another ember into the lank, silvery hair fanning around Fen's head. It caught, a tiny flame dancing, then it guttered out as it reached the pool of blood from the cut throat.

"Maybe I can put some wood around-" Imp started.

"Screw this." Duo said, lifted his hands and let rip.

Imp flew back - under the blast rather than its own volition - and thunked into a wall. Pieces of wood from the broken table scattered and started to smoulder. Smoke flared out, running before the pulses of power, chocking acrid black and smelling of scorched flesh.

Imp hopped nearer carefully once the blasts died down. Duo and his golem looked down at the corpse. It was blackened under the intense heat Duo had generated, the clothes burned away, limbs contorted as skin had charred and pulled.

Duo prodded it with a foot.

Nothing happened.

"Master...are you sure...?" Imp fluttered up and cautiously latched itself to Duo's shoulder, careful not to touch his hair. Duo scratched his nose, puzzled.

"Hmph. Hang on, imp."

"Wh- Master, no!"

Imp managed to grab the leather jerkin with a grip of stone as the room turned into an inferno.

Books, wood, the old tapestries, everything combusted. The remaining logs in the fireplace exploded shortly before the gridiron melted and ran over the flagstones pinging and cracking under the heat. A bookcase shivered into embers and ash within a few seconds and fell forward, bursting into cinders and a crackle of flame as it hit the floor.

Imp shrieked over the roar of fire. "Duo no! Juusan will-"

Duo, the calm centre of the fury, smiled like death and increased the temperature. The door exploded outward in flaming pieces of wood, the hinges fell to the ground with a thud and started to melt. The ceiling groaned alarmingly as rock expanded from the heat. The stone under the body blackened and then sparked with little flakes of red as the impurities in the granite started to melt.

Suddenly Duo staggered, buffeted by a strong wind that seemed to spring out of nowhere. It ripped through the room, lashing the flames, drawing them in towards the body like a vacuum. The remains burst into a blue-white flame that danced along its entire length and sparks like lightning flickered across the flagstones.

When the sound ripped through the room and out into the mountain air it was loud enough to be a physical force, hurling Duo back and snuffing the flames like a candle. The shriek echoed through the entire mountain range, echoing from peak to peak, tumbling down into hidden valleys and losing itself in the forests beyond.

Duo lay still for a second. Despite his raised shields and a certain amount of anticipation his head was ringing like an alarm bell.

"...didn't think it was gonna be that loud..." he said weakly, his words muffled in his ears.

There was a gentle gargle from besides his right ear. Imp tried to scrape itself off the floor.

"Wha-...wha-..."

"They don't call it the Birdscry mountains for nothing...."

"B-Bird's Cry? The-...the mountains are named for this thing?"

"Yeah..." Duo said vaguely, experimentally sticking his fingers in and out of his ears to see if that made a difference to the way his voice echoed in his head. "He's been here quite a while, and died several times. Let's go see what we got."

Imp managed to latch onto the leather again. Its master staggered over to the body, rubbing his ears.

Fen's corpse was covered in a thick char of ash, much bigger than before, almost as if the flames had coalesced and frozen around it. Duo nudged it with his foot. A bit fell off.

Duo frowned and flicked a finger. A whisper of force shook the mass, crumpled the charred shell. White flesh started to gleam where some pieces had fallen off.

A further flick of force and the shell cracked and broke into two, exposing the body inside, gleaming white and gold, untouched by soot.

Duo's eyebrows shot up and his jaw dropped, and he made a few incoherent sounds. "Stone me!" He finally said. "He's quite the looker!"

Imp carefully looked over the man lying in the broken mould of ash. It couldn't really judge. The creature was tall, that was apparent even as he lay on the ground, long limbs stretched out. He had regular features, and the hair was now a glorious mane of gold, nearly white in the darkness barely lit by dying embers. The skin shone in the shadows.

"Is that what you expected, Master?"

"Yeah. Well no, I'd never have guessed ol' 'Fen' would look this good. But then again, I don't know much about the Phoenix. And you can't rely on legends. They say it drinks blood and will kill you with a scream, and instead I find it enjoys lukewarm herbal infusions and can only paralyse you with boredom. At least they got the burning thing right. Ah, and this as well."

Duo leaned forward and fingered a stone on a golden chain that hung around the elegant neck, the only clothing or decoration on the ash-born form besides the metal pieces of Epyon, apparently undamaged. "The birdstone. That's nice, now I don't have to search the entire keep to find it. With this, golden boy here is going to have to join the gang. I just don't know how I'm going to explain this to the others. It's going to be hard enough to get the whole Quatre thing sorted. Especially now he has zero, and has actually used it. That wasn't expected. Oh well, I'll think of something!" Duo gave his manic grin and ripped the slender chain from Fen. The man - now apparently in his twenties - jerked and thrashed briefly, marring his pale skin with soot.

"Master?" Imp said, worried, ducking behind Duo.

"Don't worry, after that much power he's going to be out for awhile. Imp, take this-" Imp blinked as the stone landed in its hands "-back to the hideout and put it somewhere safe. I need to get back. That god-awful noise will have alarmed the others. I better-"

"I hope it's not alarmed anyone else, Master." Imp said carefully.

"Whaddya mean, pebble?"

"You...used an awful amount of force."

Duo blinked. He couldn't always judge the quantity of power he was using, which was why he avoided magic as much as possible, particularly now, with the enemy finally closing in. Duo tilted his head back, looking beyond the scorched and blackened ceiling, out towards the night sky and the menacing stars. He frowned.

"...that wouldn't be good...we're not ready for him yet. I didnít realize...well, hopefully he won't have noticed. Come on, Imp, I'll port you, we donít want to leave a trace. I want bird-boy here following Quatre, not you. Let's get going." He cast one last glance above and disappeared, leaving the blond man starting to stir and gasp, lying in ash and ruin.

+

Wufei was wrenched from exhausted sleep by the sudden knowledge of danger. He was sitting and aiming a menacing dragon head towards the source before his eyes even opened.

//Wufei...//

Oriental eyes blinked sleep away.

"What the fuck are you doing in my room?!"

Juusan's ghostly lips twitched. It was Juusan's ship so technically this was one of his rooms; Wufei was here for Juusan to fix Shenlong, the Dragon was his guest and really it was only the Power's whim that kept him from being a prisoner or worse, but if any of that occurred to the young man it wasn't evident in his tone. The universe could end and Chang Wufei's arrogance could be used to build a new one. But Juusan didn't let this distract him as he continued to materialize. He didn't like doing this in front of the boy, was strangely adverse to showing him his true nature, though Wufei knew of it. But he had more important concerns.

Wufei felt a shiver run down his naked spine as the almost tangible aura solidified into the tall, debonair figure, standing at the foot of the bed. Jusan looked...distant, eyes on the port-hole, watching the stars. Preoccupied, Wufei thought.

"That man, on Centre. Heero, you said. Describe him."

Wufei's jaw dropped. "Huh? What, you didnít get a good look at him when you ripped my memories from my mind?"

"Those were your impressions, your emotions. I want a more analytical description."

"Er well..." Wufei wanted to ask why, but there was something about Jusan's aura that discouraged the question. "He was about my height, maybe an inch taller. He was fairly slender-" Jusan's eyes twitched towards his and he felt a ripple of touch on his mind, which made him flinch instinctively. But no pain followed. "...He was pretty tough though. It wasn't just Wing that made him strong, he was all muscle. He had thick brown hair-"

"Long or short?"

"Er, short. Bangs all over his face though." Wufei's mind was a kaleidoscope of confusion. "He had brilliant blue eyes beneath them. Quite a dark blue. I guess you'd say he was good-looking. He was wearing some kind of old leather outfit, nothing much. He looked like a peasant and moved like a killer. Why?" His curiosity finally got the better of him. There was an unfamiliar tinge to Jusan's aura, an emotion swirling through that Wufei couldn't place.

"Did he use magic?" Jusan's eyes searched his.

"No. Just his fists." Wufei muttered, rubbing his chest. The bruises were healed now but he could still feel the power hammering into him.

Jusan looked out the port again, eyes narrowed. "...no magic. Maybe it is not him then. Who else could be down there? This doesn't make sense. That power signature doesn't make-..."

Wufei almost felt the air solidify around him as Jusan concentrated his aura on him.

"I hope you slept well, Dragon. I am going to start Shenlong's repairs."

"What, now?" Wufei was eager but also surprised and suspicious.

"Yes. I think..." Jusan's eyes slowly left the porthole but didn't rest on the Dragon or anything in the room. "I think I might want you back on Centre as quickly as we can get you...that might be wise."

Wufei hopped out of bed and reached for his clothes, impatient to get his Shenlong fixed again. But he carefully filed away the strange flicker that had crossed Jusan's aura for future reference.

+

NOTE: 'shihai no shirushi' means symbol of control in my dodgy Japanese.

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