Genre: Action, Adventure, Humour, AU
Pairings: 3x4, eventual 2x5, even more eventual 1x2x5
Rated:NC17 - for language, lots of violence, yaoi, sexual content
Feedback: Please! Particularly what you like/don't like about the fic.
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to its 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
Source Of All Things + Chapter 28
The flights of Trowa's bolts
were shimmering threads of a spider's web, catching and snaring a few
of his attackers, in the past, the present - thunk-thwap, the crossbow
spat - and the future. Still too many of them. Too many. Six men left,
and coming nearer. Now he had to turn violently to catch them as they
darted between cover on all sides; it was making them bolder. The man
he'd just taken down had paid the price of being too bold - the feathered
bolt shivering as it stuck out from his ribs, in time with ragged, painful
gasps of choked air into a pierced and collapsed lung. But still too many...Sweat
rolled down Trowa's face as he plucked two more bolt from the ground,
fitted them into the crossbow and fired in one smooth, sparse movement.
The leader darted back - in Trowa's mind he was a solid block of murderous
intent, like the rolling rocks on the cusp of an avalanche. He was surprisingly
agile for a man his size. Trowa had known the bolt would miss as he fired
it - the lines danced and warped in his blindfolded eyes - but it kept
the big man pinned down. While two others advanced...
A lull in that threatening forward movement, while they glanced at each
other, trying to figure out who would move next, who had a better chance
of making it to new cover without getting killed, and who they would rather
want to see dead other than themselves. Trowa gasped, relaxed his fingers
quickly - they were cramping from pulling back on the crossbow's mechanism.
Behind him, Heero had been silent for awhile now. Trowa desperately hoped
he was alright, but couldn't spare the slightest hint of vision to check.
He did glance off to one side. All this would be for naught if the Dragon
broke through. Trowa ignored the ache in his heart that indicated that
there was even more at stake, for him, than his own battle and his life.
The Dragon was still at the same distance as before, thank Centre. The
line of defence against the stronger enemy was still standing, and
the creature had not summoned Jusan. It was enough to make him believe...in...miracles...what
The darting, dodging black form fighting the white-and-metal clad Dragon
wasn't Fen. Blindfolded, Trowa couldn't see colours and materials, but
he didn't need to. The Dragon was an iridescent shell of energy, his armour
in turn shielding him and then darting out in murderous bursts of power.
The figure dancing around, attack, parry, quick dodge and away, was not
Fen's solid presence. It was a shimmering coil of potential and mostly-hidden
intent, like a nest of black snakes coiling and turning in on themselves.
A very stressed Duo, Trowa thought distractedly, as he loosed another
bolt in the direction of someone who'd popped their head up above a grey
weathered boulder half way across the cirque. Duo had an exquisite control
over the appearance of his lines, the ultimate camouflage; which was why
the shaman had not realized Shi No Kami was hiding behind that cheerful
grin and brilliant blue eyes until it was too late. Apparently that control
had now abandoned him. Trowa could see its ragged remnants clinging like
a black fog around the man's aura. It was obviously not by choice that
his mask had slipped. Fighting the Dragon must be taking up all his resources.
Why was Duo fighting the Dragon? Trowa hadn't believed him for a second
when the little back-stabber had said he'd stay on the sidelines, but
he couldn't see what Duo's game ultimately was. Well, no change there
Trowa longed to look at the unmasked Shinigami more closely; his instincts
and his logic had been in a vicious deadlock over Duo since the latter
had betrayed them. Logic said he could trust Duo considerably less than
he could trust the sun to rise tonight. His instincts...normally Trowa
trusted them, but they were the ones who'd stood idly by while Duo got
Quatre embroiled with Zero. His instincts were in the dog-house as far
as he was concerned. He wanted to examine Duo, the naked Shinigami, or
as much as he was letting slip...and it wasn't all that much even now
- the man was a master at hiding.
The leader roared, lunged forward - Trowa knew it was a distraction even
as his bow twitched, then whipped back. The string slammed the bolt along
a suddenly beckoning vector. Another of his attackers had thought to take
advantage of his distraction; the man, who'd darted forward, squealed
in fear, but the shot was off, only slicing into the skin of his shoulder
before clattering, a suddenly harmless piece of wood, against a small
stone wall behind him - the patterns had been clear, if Trowa hadn't fired
right then, to miss, then he would have lost a second that would have
allowed the leader and another attacker to move forward. He'd not killed
the man, but he'd kept all of them pinned down still; it was more important.
If they came nearer he might be able to kill most of them, but it would
only take one to slip through his guard and attack a defenceless Heero.
The leader growled; he'd started to move forward too, but had to fall
back again as the double-crossbow swung his way, second bolt a deadly
The mystery that was Duo faded from Trowa's mind as he sank himself back
into the patterns again.
Quatre was leaning back against the rock where Duo had been sitting; his
mind so full of the warping of the future, his body was trembling with
the stress. Each blow and counter-blow, each momentary flick of decision
from either fighter, was radically hauling the future in one direction
or the other, from salvation to armageddon, and back again in a matter
Quatre had a lot on his mind...and a rock on his shoulder, a fact which
was trying to distract him. He didn't let it. The small...thing sat on
his shoulder quietly - apparently, when Duo, pressed back by the Dragon's
renewed attack, had snapped 'Go sit with Quatre', the little creature
had understood it to mean, go sit ON Quatre. Svale and Fen were standing
on either side of the healer - Svale perched on the rock itself - staring
at the creature, but both Quatre and his unexpected passenger had their
attention riveted on the fight.
He's not going to make it...like a set of scales vacillating wildly, the
future fluctuated in his mind, but the oscillations were sending the needle
hovering more and more on the side of 'armageddon'. The Dragon was...good.
And Heero still had several minutes left before he could release the gaia
energy into the sanctuary and trigger the shield spell...Duo was visibly
getting to the limits of what he could do within the no-magic boundaries
he'd imposed on himself, for whatever reason...They needed more time.
Just a bit more time-
Quatre used every ounce of his will-power and abilities, throwing Zero
out like a net, to snag any other element that could help them delay the
inevitable. Zero was a tool; it was the healer who had to direct it, feed
it other options, offer it other avenues to explore...A solution came
to mind. He hated it instantly. It would increase the risk to Trowa and
Heero, and the sanctuary itself had a higher chance of being destroyed.
But Zero was pointing him to a nexus point in the near future, and it
didn't look pretty...
Now how to put the plan in motion...?
Quatre glanced sideways; a close-up of his little passenger, beady black
eyes and skin like, well, like rock.
"Can you get near Duo? Without getting crushed by the Dragon?"
The beady black eyes blinked rapidly, with a tiny tink-tink-tink noise
of stone on stone. "Yes?" the creature said, not very assuredly. It had
a voice like two pebbles being rubbed together.
"Good. Make sure you don't distract him, but get near him and give him
this message. Make sure you repeat it word for word."
"Will it help my master?"
"...at this rate, it'll save his life."
The black eyes were riveted on his face as he gave the message.
This wasn't as fun as it had been with Fen. It wasn't because Wufei was
a lot less nearer to winning than with the blonde. Winning was just the
result of an mathematical formula; you measured your strength, tactics,
luck and abilities against the opponent's, and the man still standing
after the result computed and the blood had flown was the one fated for
victory. But the enjoyment of a fight, the challenge, the deadly, beautiful
dance...that went beyond winning and losing, beyond the cruel equation
of life and death.
Not that his opponent wasn't good. The black form dodged, lithe and quick
as a little black snake, and Wufei's fists bit air again. He'd stopped
throwing energy bolts around; at this rate he'd exhaust himself before
he had a chance of winging his fleet opponent.
And besides...Wufei was feeling an intense desire to get his hands on
that braided bastard, actually constrict that evanescent form to a final
- and indeed terminal - standstill.
That was what was annoying; the pest just kept on dodging. Oh, Duo had
gotten a few blows in. But they'd been mere caresses compared to the strength
he would need to fell a Dragon. Duo had a wiry strength to his sparse
frame, Wufei judged, but that wasn't enough to get more than a tickle
Is that all you have? A stab in the back, and if that fails, you're done
Somehow, he didn't think so. He'd noted that Duo had not used magic after
Wufei had casually brushed the second mana blast aside with a shrug of
Shenlong's energy fields. But magic wasn't only a question of raw power;
it could be subtle. And Wufei had a feeling that Duo's magic was an echo
of his true self; dark, potentially powerful, full of nasty surprises
and very much still hidden to date. But why...?
//He's trying to delay you. This is all a distraction.//
That could be the case...it was true that the thought of getting his hands
on that slender form and wiping that cruel, mocking gash of a grin away
was very distracting indeed.
//I hope you know what you're doing, Dragon...//
Wufei merely smirked. Shenlong's glittering wings of energy shot out,
blasting him forward. Wide blue eyes, caught in a moment of surprise -
Wufei feinted, Duo dodged, the Dragon spun and finally connected, backhanded.
Duo managed to save his skull from being caved by throwing up a forearm
in parry and dart aside. Ahhh good move...so he was able of actually fighting,
even if he lacked Wufei's physical strength and ability.
Duo was a few feet away again, rubbing his badly bruised forearm and glaring
through the ever-present half-smile. There was a little fire in his eyes
now, and for a second the grin went from mocking to savagely sincere and
Wufei almost smiled back. Then the mask came down again and the fighters
circled once more, warily, like two tigers pacing.
A little blur of grey - that damned creature again. Wufei's mood had lifted
a bit - despite the burn and ripple of pain from his wounded back and
shoulder - so he didn't knock it out of the sky with a quick blast. Besides,
he wanted to keep all his energy for its master.
Duo started as he caught sight of the creature. It flitted up to him and
latched onto his shoulder. Wufei found himself pausing, though this could
have been an opportune distraction. Duo blinked and leaned his head towards
the little homunculi, though he kept a careful watch on Wufei; his eyes
- a weird shade of blue that defied definition - widened and flickered
briefly towards the two men sitting on the sidelines.
Wufei kept a cautious eye on Fen and the other man at his back. Fen looked
a whole letter better than he'd any rights to be; the other man might
be a healer. But neither seemed inclined to jump into the fight. And he
didn't think the little stone creature had any combat potential at all.
So Duo was on his own...
The creature dropped from Duo's shoulder and flew back towards the other
men, reluctance expressed in the heavy flap of its wings. Duo's eyes flickered
away from Wufei, at the creature, making sure it could get away unmolested,
then at the sanctuary - once more, the Dragon hesitated but didn't launch
an attack during that moment of distraction; honour could be burdensome
Wufei was still contemplating the lack of foresight of his ancestors,
who hadn't added a dispensation clause regarding annoying, long-haired
trash in their dictates on honour, when he realized he was staring at
empty space. He gasped and spun, towards the Jishin ruins. There! The
bastard had broken away from their fight! And he was running towards-
//He's going to attack the men I sent to get rid of Heero!// Jusan was
suddenly an almost physical pressure in Wufei's mind.
"Then he's a fool!" Wufei snarled, sending a searing blast of energy at
the back of that departing figure. A coward fleeing the fight deserved
Duo dodged - did he have eyes in the back of his head?! - and dived forward
to avoid a second blast. Wufei was already on his heels. Duo scrambled
gracelessly to his feet. He appeared to have realized he'd made a tactical
error; he was facing the advancing Dragon now, face pale and set, the
grin finally removed. Wufei didn't let him gather himself, he attacked
immediately. His foe dodged - again!- and weaved...but he was now in a
field of stone blocks and ruins, at the edges of the sanctuary's buildings.
Wufei couldn't get a straight shot at him, but Duo's field of evasion
was considerably hampered.
And he finally made a mistake. It was pretty much inevitable, and what
Wufei had been waiting for.
Wufei was several feet away from Duo but he heard the man's shocked gasp
when, trying to put more space between them, he tripped over a low stone
outcropping. The Dragon was on him in a second. Duo did his best - but
found himself hemmed in by a formation of three huge stone pillars. He
hesitated just that little second too long on which way to dodge-
Both of Wufei's fists crashed into the rock on either side of Duo's shoulders.
Duo shouted in surprise at his foe's sudden appearance before him, his
head jerked back to clonk amusingly against the rock - Wufei had put in
an uncommon burst of speed to pin him there.
There was a moment of silence; both men panted, staring at each other;
Wufei could feel the savage grin of victory twist his lips. Duo's eyes
flickered left and right...then widened as he apparently noticed the flickering
in the air around him. Wufei's smirk widened; it wasn't easy to control
Shenlong's energy wings in this way, bringing them to sweep forward and
embrace both fighters and the rock against which Duo was pinned, but the
small trapped animal look this rewarded him with made it worth the effort.
He wasn't letting the little rodent get away with a trick and a twist
A trickle of sweat ran down Duo's face. He licked his lips and smiled.
It was tight and feral, and Wufei felt a slight grudging admiration. It
looked like his opponent could face death like a man, despite his back-stabbing
"You're not going to put an end to it now, are you?" Duo asked lightly,
interrupting Wufei's pleasant speculations about what horrible things
he was going to do to the pest now that he had him.
Wufei snorted. "What do you think?"
"But we were having so much fun together!" Duo grinned toothily. There
was even a slight suggestion of a leer.
"The amount of fun I was having dropped considerably when you stabbed
me in the back, you little bastard." Wufei answered pleasantly. "I would
have let you people live, with a few broken bones, if you'd have been
willing to fight honourably. But now...well, I'm going to have a lot more
fun taking you apart than I had fighting you; as a warrior, we are not
of the same calibre at all."
Duo made a tiny vexed ‘huh' noise - sending a little puff of air tickling
Wufei's face. A scent of clean water and rain on rocks, tugging at his
"Well I'm sorry I wasn't fit entertainment." Duo snapped. "But tell you
Wufei saw the tension in the lithe frame and he'd drawn back his fist
and punched savagely before Duo could do more than twitch-
Wufei stared at his fist, which had connected with...plain, bare rock.
Instead of nailing Duo to the pillar.
The Dragon snarled and spun around. There! The snake was ten feet away,
just beyond the three stone pillars, panting. How had he moved that fast?!
And how had he gotten through Shenlong's energy field?!
//Wufei...I think...I think he teleported. But that's...impossible. He's
not powerful enough for that. It's a forgotten art these days anyway...How...//
Wufei ignored Jusan's speculations. Teleporter, hm? That made things difficult,
but not impossible. He snarled and launched himself at the man -
And crashed straight into an invisible barrier.
Wufei staggered back with a gasp, clutching the shoulder that had impacted
"Tell you what..." Duo drawled, from a safe distance, looking at him,
amused. "Since I was such a letdown, lemme make sure you don't die of
boredom by giving you a little entertainment. You have fun now! You can
think fond thoughts about me in the meantime." The cocky bastard actually
blew him a kiss, then turned and sauntered away.
Wufei carefully felt out in front of him, while Shenlong started flashing
information into his left eye. He was in a cage of some sort; a barrier
had sprung up between each of the three stones, and rose and connected
above them as well. And...Shenlong rang an alarm...and the barriers were
slowly moving in. Very slowly but nonetheless, pressing against him, obviously
intent on crushing him..
//Hmmm. It appears that by entering this triangle of stone, or by striking
that rock, you triggered an ancient Jishin trap.//
Yes, thought Wufei. This was familiar. The Dragons and the Jishin had
fought over many centuries; the new, ambitious race at the start of their
expansion, facing off with the remnants of a decadent, dying people on
their way out. It was possible that this trap had been set specifically
to catch Dragons, though he thought the sanctuary looked a bit old for
that. No, this was probably a trap set for anything mechanical - like
Shenlong - that happened to launch an attack in proximity to the sanctuary.
The Jishin had always been weary of techno enemies; the magical ones had
never dared attack them.
//Can I hope this is where you summon me?// Jusan actually sounded resigned
to the answer he was expecting.
Hell no. Wufei had never fought a Jishin; their race had dwindled and
forsaken the battlegrounds before he was even born. But the Tricksters
had been the greatest enemy of his race at one point, the only ones who
could pose a real threat to Dragons, and so he and all his peers had been
taught to fight anything magical and/or Jishin as savagely as they fought
any enemy. Wufei flexed Shenlong's energy field, while he ran through
the mental and spiritual mantras that prepared him to fight on a different
level than physical. The barrier's progress slowed, faltered...Wufei hated
magic, but he was far from helpless against it.
//Yes, I guess I should know now not to underestimate you...or your stubborn
pride.// Jusan didn't sound particularly put out. //You'll be glad to
know that I've calculated the rate this Heero is cumulating energy. Knowing
your capacities, if you break this barrier as fast as I estimate you can,
you will have a few minutes to finish this before he can cast the shielding
spell. That's assuming those incompetents I sent haven't taken care of
him already. If they haven't, you have my permission to terminate their
I'm trying to concentrate. Please, with all due respect, shut the fuck
//Yes, Wufei.// Jusan's voice was it's usual mixture of cold humour and
condescension, as if a child had made a face at him. Wufei made a mental
note to himself to be very annoyed about that later on, but for now he
had to concentrate, break out of this trap and then kill everyone.
The mystical barrier creaked, and slowly, very slowly, started moving
in the opposite direction, away from the irate Dragon.
There were only five uninjured men left when they finally rushed Trowa.
Two men died before reaching him, then-
Trowa threw his crossbow at a third, drew his hunting knife at the same
time. He dodged; a halotech machete whistled where his neck had been.
The man who'd come up behind him kicked him, hard, in the back. It hurt
but he hadn't dodged - the move served him. He fell forward and rolled
with the momentum. Up and thrust, knife in the first attacker's gut -
one more down -
The choice was crystal clear, as if everything was frozen and painted
on cold glass. There were two men left. The leader was following Jusan's
orders, completely ignoring the shaman and the fate of his last men, and
heading towards Heero. He had a foot on the dirt circle. The other man
had taken the two steps separating him from Trowa and had a sword poised
above the shaman's head, about to skewer his target to the ground.
His life or Heero's.
Trowa didn't hesitate. The knife flew out of his hand and sunk itself,
with admirable precision, deep into the back of the leader's head, the
soft juncture between spine and skull. The man crumpled two feet away
from an oblivious Heero, dead in an instant-
The sword sliced down-
Trowa could have dodged but he didn't. His instincts were telling him
that he could not move fast enough to avoid the man's weapon.
And the lines of fate were telling him he didn't need to anyway. The man
was already dead.
His enemy staggered, and blood erupted from his mouth and chest as the
mage blast went clear through him. Trowa realized - a second too late
- that if dodging had not been a life-and-death matter, it would have
saved him from a very unpleasant and bloody tackle on the part of the
Breathless, he heaved the body away from him, ripped off his blindfold,
sat up and found himself bowled over again almost immediately.
"Stay down! Where are you injured?" Quatre gasped, hands feeling Trowa's
chest, his back, ignoring the blood quickly griming them. Well, that explained
where the mage blast had come from, Trowa realized, suddenly very tired.
"Nowhere, nowh-" Trowa gasped as Quatre's hands reminded him of the last
man kicking him down to the ground. Oh, right; in the rush, he'd forgotten
all about that.
"Nothing broken. Just badly bruised." Quatre murmured, prodding gently.
Then he darted in, quick and light as a sparrow, and brushed a small feather-like
kiss on Trowa's cheek just as his fingers felt the extent of the damage;
the best distraction, in Trowa's opinion, better than anaesthetic.
For a precious moment, it was just Quatre again, his kind and gentle healer...Trowa
tried to ignore any distraction, wanting to enjoy this short respite,
but with the distraction right in front of his nose and staring at him,
that was rather difficult.
"Quatre..." he whispered, "what do you have on your shoulder?"
A quick kiss trembled on his lips as an itching pain burned in the bruised
muscles under Quatre's healing hands. "Don't worry about it."
"But you have a- a- there's something made of stone with wings on your
shoulder." Trowa said, a bit plaintively. The beady-eyed thing
was examining the shaman with open curiosity, before turning its eyes
back towards- Trowa followed its gaze, dismissing the minor mystery in
favour of a more important problem.
Outside the cirque, at the edge of the sanctuary's inner circle, Duo and
the Dragon were facing off. Trowa's eyes narrowed. No, there was something
strange...as he watched, Duo made a gesture Trowa couldn't discern, and
then carelessly turned his back on the Dragon, who appeared to be...blocked
"Those three pillars are an old defence mechanism." Quatre explained absently.
He was frowning in concentration as he passed healing hands over Trowa's
back; the pain had lessened already, and the shaman could feel his muscles
move more freely as he straightened and sat up properly. "I studied several
of the sanctuary's weapons after I obtained Zero. This was one of those
still working, though its field is very limited now. It's a minor barrier.
Zero doesn't think it will stop the Dragon for very long, but...any time
Duo had entered the cirque and walked up to them. Fen, who'd been checking
the fallen foe who hadn't run away, making sure none of them were any
danger, glanced up and then, eyes narrowed, went to stand next to Quatre.
Trowa scrambled to his knees and looked around for his crossbow. He still
wasn't sure where Duo stood in the scheme of things, even if he was fighting
the Dragon, for reasons that were doubtlessly his own.
Duo leaned forward, hands on knees, and breathed deeply. "He's rather
friskier than I thought he'd be." He commented mildly, straightening up
"Why were you toying with him?" Fen barked. Trowa studied Duo's face in
some surprise. The braided man had not looked like he was toying with
anybody during that fight.
"What do you mean?" Duo didn't look particularly surprised by the accusation
"I know your abilities. You could have caught him off guard by teleporting.
I think you could have used a good deal more magic than you did. And to
start with-" Fen's eyes narrowed, dangerously. "To start with, I know
from first hand experience that when you stab someone in the back, you're
not prone to miss."
Duo latched his fingers around the back of his neck and stuck his elbows
in the air as if he hadn't a care in the world. "He's a good deal faster
than you are, Fen," he drawled, insultingly.
"So are you." Fen bit back.
"Ah well, that's true. I wasn't really trying that hard to kill him."
Duo shrugged, elbows jabbing upwards. The devil-may-care grin was back
in full force. If he was worried about being sweaty and bruised and rather
outclassed by the Dragon, he didn't look it.
"So? What were you playing at?" Fen snapped.
"I was slowing him down, obviously. And I didn't use magic because I was
worried he might summon Jusan." Duo glanced back at the Dragon, who was
glowering at the barrier - which sparkled with fine lines of force in
Trowa's eyes. They seemed to be bowing outwards. "The teleporting was
a bit of a gamble, he took me by surprise when he blocked me like that...but
he's apparently decided to ignore that and fight on by himself anyway.
He's as stubborn as the tide, that one. As for why I didn't actively try
to kill him...There's something you don't know about the herald link,
Fen. Actually, there are two things you don't know."
"Oh?" It was Quatre who prompted the grinning Duo for an answer. The healer
patted Trowa on the back, a final gesture indicating he'd finished - the
bruises were much better, Trowa noted thankfully, he'd regained his full
mobility. They both turned their full attention on Duo.
"The first thing you don't know," Duo drawled, addressing the healer and
not a simmering Fen, "is that, to protect his herald from being rubbed
out before he can even be summoned, Jusan creates the link with a trigger.
In case of death, it will immediately send a huge wave of destruction
blasting out all around it. I'm talking a hole in the ground the size
of several cities."
"Oh." Quatre didn't sound all that surprised, it seemed to confirm something
"Yeah. Oh. I couldn't afford to have the sanctuary destroyed..."
"Glad to know you care so much about our health," Trowa muttered, not
at all surprised by that either. "What's the second thing? That we don't
know about the herald?"
Duo grinned. "That's for me to know and for you to never find out...if
Trowa didn't respond to that. Merely closed his eyes and watched the force-field
imprisoning the Dragon warp further and further out. He tightened his
grip on his crossbow and stood just as the field collapsed. Chang walked
out of the pillar of stone and looked around. Spotted them and turned,
intent clear even to those without Vision.
"There's nothing you can do, Trowa," Quatre said quickly, putting a hand
on his lover's arm.
"I can slow him down a bit."
"The time it takes him to kill you, you mean," Fen enounced clearly, his
eyes on the approaching figure. The Dragon wasn't flying. He was walking,
slowly, deliberately, his body tense with fury.
"If that's what's needed." Trowa stated calmly.
"It won't be..."
The murmur caught all of them off-guard. They glanced back.
Trowa fingered his crossbow nervously, still not sure about Duo, and unhappy
that the mysterious man had approached Heero. But the look on Duo's face...it...was
indescribable. He looked older, infinitely weary, but also...relieved,
with a bone-felt anticipation of one who had waited his whole life for
this precise moment. His eyes - the shade even stranger and more indefinable
under the influx of strong emotions which he'd always hid previously -
were fixed on Heero.
"No one's going to die today..." Duo added softly. For once there was
nothing hiding Duo's lines, and his intentions were clear to the shaman;
he'd have sacrificed every one of them to get to this point. But he was
infinitely glad that he hadn't needed to.
"....Just how were you going to stop Chang?" Quatre asked, a bit nervously
as he glanced back at the approaching Dragon, who was nearly at the edge
of the cirque. The fact he asked the question spoke volumes to Trowa.
It confirmed what his vision of Centre's lines were telling him; they
were at a nexus point, a tangled knot in the near future, and even the
Zeros were now blind to what was going to happen. He just hoped Duo had
some control over it; Trowa rather wished Duo would get out of Heero's
circle and prove it, preferably by killing the Dragon, although how he
could do that when he was obviously not up to Chang's level as a fighter...
Duo smiled. It was small but honest. He crouched before Heero, looking
into the wide blue eyes which were struggling to focus on him.
"You did it, Heero..." He whispered. A black-gloved hand reached towards
the tangle of bangs half-covering Heero's eyes - Trowa lifted his crossbow,
his instincts telling him there was no danger to his friend while his
common sense was telling him to plug Duo on principle. Duo smirked as
Heero's eyes tried to focus on his hand and failed. "Wow, he's completely
out of it, heh?"
"Don't distract him." Fen muttered, glancing back from the Dragon.
"Distract him? A bloody earthquake couldn't distract him." Duo chuckled
as if he'd said something very witty, then the smile became almost tender
and he leaned forward and kissed Heero's forehead. "Thank you, Heero."
He whispered, so low Trowa could barely catch the words. "Don't you worry
about a thing. Just make sure you don't lose any of the energy when you
release it into the sanctuary. Svale will direct the spell and do the
"...Maxwell?" Fen's voice was tight with worry. The Dragon was half way
through the cirque and had lifted a hand; energy twisted like dust devils
above his palm. Shenlong had writhed along his arm and formed some sort
of cestus over his hand, ready to direct that energy where it would hurt
"Coming!" Duo chirped, leaping away from Heero - who was still trying
to focus where Duo's hand had been - and bounced out of the circle as
if he hadn't a care in the world.
Trowa's crossbow - with a special, Dragon-armour-piercing bolt ready -
was centred on Chang but he found his eyes drawn to that figure, radiating
confidence as it took a stand a few feet before them, between them and
the Dragon, who looked ready to fry them all on principle.
"Back for more, hm?" Duo chuckled.
The Dragon had stopped twenty feet away, his arm raised towards them menacingly.
From that distance, Trowa could still see his jaw twitch in fury at Duo's
irreverent tone. More energy gathered over the metal that had curled into
a claw-shaped clamp. Trowa remembered the shattering pulse of energy that
claw could deliver, and that had been months ago, when the Dragon had
been exhausted and his armour half-broken.
"Oh, not gonna talk anymore." Duo sighed elaborately, but Trowa thought
he caught...a glimpse of something in Duo's lines just then, something
that wasn't mocking.
Chang sneered and the clamp clicked, the sound loud in the horrified silence
of the circle. Then a rip of localized thunder as the Dragon fired.
Duo casually lifted a hand and made a swatting gesture.
The energy dissipated mid-air and the clamp fell to the ground, a suddenly
unresponsive lump of metal.
Trowa had side-stepped to place himself between Heero and Quatre and the
upcoming wave of lethal power, however useless that would be. Duo's move
and sudden surge of magical power took him by surprise, but the Dragon
didn't seem all that shocked. He leapt at Duo with a cruel sneer, ready
to finish by hand what his claw had been unable to do.
Echoes of the shot were still ringing in the cirque and a strong wind
- the result of the blast's kinetic energy being dissipated into the air
- was sweeping the cirque but Trowa could have sworn he heard Duo mutter
something just as the Dragon was about to hammer into him.
It sounded like 'I'm sorry'.
Chang was four feet away from Duo, fist cocked, ready to slam into the
lithe, black-clad figure who had made no movement to dodge. The Dragon
seemed frozen into the moment - then he blinked and a tremor went through
him. Trowa watched, heart in his mouth, as he jerked once as if against
some invisible restraint - and deep-black eyes widened, first in confusion,
then in fury, then in ever-growing horror.
On his forehead, something was flickering, like an ember. A shape that
looked like it was carved into his skin.
"A mark of control." Quatre breathed out, suddenly, as if he finally understood
everything. Maybe he did, but the shaman was almost as confused as the
Dragon. The mark of control was there, shining on Chang's forehead, but
to cast it, Duo must have been in close proximity for quite some time,
must have even-
"-been allowed into the Dragon's mind." Quatre concluded, his voice bitter,
and Trowa realized he'd been uncharacteristically muttering his confusion
aloud. "Yes, I know how it works."
"He didn't have the time to cast it during that fight...did he?" Trowa
wasn't sure of Duo's powers but the Dragon looked extremely strong-willed,
and wouldn't break easily. It couldn't have been done during the fight...
"I suspect that Chang's had that mark of control for quite awhile now."
Quatre said slowly. "The only question is why. Why did Duo allow all this
rigmarole to happen in the first place?"
The Dragon snarled, a deep, primal noise, and his fist, which was still
raised, twitched, then jerked. The mark on his forehead sparked and shone
Duo's eyebrows arched. He'd stuck his hands behind his neck again, an
arrogant pose speaking of complete insouciance. "My, you really are frisky...my
Trowa thought he saw something dart into Chang's eyes at that - behind
the wave of perfectly justifiable fury at being called pretty, or indeed,
"Don't try to fight it. It'll only hurt." Duo added, his voice softer
now, almost sympathetic.
If the Dragon noticed - or cared - or indeed was in any pain at all -
it wasn't apparent. That arrogant mouth tightened further and the fist
jerked forward again, this time it was almost an abortive blow, before
being brought up short, a foot in front of Duo's face.
The latter sighed dramatically. "I just knew you were going to make this
hard on yourself. You just can't take the easy way out, can you. Very
Wufei shuddered, and his hand dropped suddenly to his side. Black eyes
widened in horror as he visibly realized just how little control he had
over his body. The mark shone so brightly Trowa could make it out - an
elegant assembly of strokes forming a symbol.
"Relax." Duo ordered, still in that same, hard, commanding voice.
This order had apparently no effect at all. Chang was still twanging with
fury and about as relaxed as a rock.
"Oh, Nai-no Kami-..." Duo rolled his eyes, visibly irritated at the Dragon's
stubborn resistance. And then...Trowa felt a brush of ice along his spine.
Duo smiled. It was cold, cruel and very ancient, and imprinted with an
almost casual malice.
"Kneel..." Duo whispered.
The Dragon hissed, and tottered. But a core of steel was suddenly revealed
in those black eyes, fastened on Duo. Chang's body twisted, his knees
trembled, and he staggered back another step, but he still glared. Two
trickles of blood, from where he'd savagely bitten his lip, and from a
burst vein in his nose, spoke of the price he was paying for his defiance.
His knees trembled again and he almost sunk to them, but with a twist
of his body - Trowa winced, almost tasting his pain at the effort - he
turned the movement into a half-crouch, from which he looked ready to
spring at his tormentor if given the slightest sliver of a chance...even
if it cost him his life.
Next to the shaman, Quatre finally breathed again, a shivering sigh. Trowa
glanced at his lover - his face was white and lined with pity and sympathetic
Duo wasn't looking too happy either. The cold smile had slipped, replaced
by a slight frown. He crossed his arms loosely over his chest and shook
"I swear, Wufei, I've personally known mountains less stubborn than you
are. I should warn you...there are a lot of voices in my head and many
of them don't like Dragons much. You might want to be a good boy or they
could start talking to me again-"
The look of feral hate that earned him was answer enough.
"It's okay, Dragon. You can stay standing if you like." Duo sighed dramatically
and shrugged. Chang slowly straightened, eyes still furious. "The principal
player is about to show up, and I'd rather torment him than you any day."
Principal player...? Trowa felt it. A slight shift in the air, a tremor
in the lines, and...something extremely powerful, materializing a few
feet behind Chang. The shape was faint and flickering at first, then-
Then there was a man standing there. Tall, urbane, dressed in something
resembling a uniform, with high black boots and a sword at his side. He
was staring at Duo, his face unreadable.
"Juusan-sama!" Duo smirked, a knife-like grin. "How nice of you to join
[chap. 27] [chap. 29] [back
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