Genre: Action, Adventure, Humour, AU
Pairings: 3x4, 2x5, 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 33
Memories of the Dead
There was a sense of growing power in that room of illusions, matching
the tension among the spectators. In the heavy atmosphere, Duo's grumble
"For information, we're in the council hall. You'll be seeing the Lords
of the Jishin discuss Juusan. Then we'll see-"
"Wait a sec. These are your memories for the most part, right?" Svale
stared at Duo. "Why the hell did they have you present at such an important
"They didn't," Duo growled. "I was eavesdropping." He jerked a thumb over
his shoulder towards the window behind him.
With a start, Trowa realized there was someone - rather, the illusion
of someone - there. He couldn't see much; the shadow of a crag cloaked
a small figure, two blue eyes peeking over the windowsill. He turned to
mention it, and saw that the room behind him was now occupied. People
were starting to appear one by one, frozen in the motion of heading to
the scattered seats.
One of them was only a few feet away from the shaman, who examined the
Jishin curiously. The illusions didn’t translate many of their lines for
the shaman to read, but Trowa was used to judging people by their stance
and their eyes, as well as their aura. These men were quite different
in appearance to what Trowa had come to think of as 'normal Duo', and
more closely resembled the creature that had faced off with Jusan a couple
of days ago: Shi no Kami. There was an air of power about them, wisdom,
age...and a certain amount of unthinking cruelty, like the gleam of a
cat’s eye on a mouse. They looked quite young in appearance, to be charged
with the welfare of their people. But Trowa had the intuition that their
appearance was a lie. Jishin must age very gracefully. These men were
old. And not just in age; the cumulative experience of their very long-lived
race was in their eyes. The feel coming from the room was one of weighty
knowledge tinged with weariness.
Most were about Trowa's height and slender; they wore their hair long,
flowing or gathered in loose bunches. They were clothed in armour, like
Duo had been; smooth, slightly translucent, in blue, white, green, or
red...It glowed with their life, their spirit. The designs were simple
yet striking: edgings and incrustations of what looked like stylized leaves
and vines, or elegant interweaving patterns. Trowa remembered fairy tales,
about the Elsire and their glass armour, and their dancing lights...But
these men were real. They radiated power, but they also looked worried.
"Okay, spell's starting...now..." Duo murmured. And the figures started
to move. Trowa backed out of the path of a man who had been dead for over
five years as the illusion headed for one of the chairs. This felt morbid
enough without having one of these phantasms walk straight through him.
"Lords." One man with golden hair and a brilliant white and silver armour
had stayed standing. "You know the reason for our council."
We're hearing this through Duo's own interpretation, Trowa realized with
some shock. He could see and hear the illusion, but there was more, a
faint echo of feelings and thoughts. Trowa could hear the men talking
in a language he did not know, but the words were nonetheless understandable,
translated by the knowledge of the one whose memories they were sharing.
The shaman could even taste a few of the boy Duo’s feelings as he spied
upon the Lords of his people; something like: 'get to the point, you boring
old farts!'. Trowa glanced back at the small presence at the window, now
carefully hidden from view. He could feel its trace in his mind. It was
young, cheeky, and overbearingly curious. It almost made Trowa smile,
but the taste on his tongue was bitter; so apparently, they were not only
going to see Duo's memories but relive them to a limited extent. Sure,
why not, Trowa thought acidly, what's one more violation of this man's
"Can we believe Juusan’s peace overtures?" The standing man asked gravely.
From the faint echoes of Duo’s memories that coloured the picture, Trowa
was aware that this man was the Eldest; not a name that actually reflected
his age, more an honorary title. He was the leader chosen by the other
Lords, who spoke for all their people.
"He has many reasons to want to get rid of us. And no other reason I can
see to approach us," the man nearest Trowa said. He was wearing dusky
red armour, and his finger was tapping the high armrest of his chair.
"Not necessarily," someone countered. "Remember, he's been travelling
towards Centre for years now. He needs to re-source himself, if what we
researched about him is true. We have defences on Centre; our presence
there was very strong, once. Maybe he's just coming to negotiate safe
"Yes. The only way he knows how," the man in red armour grumbled, but
he didn't say it very loudly. Trowa was surprised that Duo had been close
enough to catch his words. Then he remembered that the spell also gathered
information about the meeting from the memories of the dead, to complement
Duo’s recollections. That made it, if possible, even creepier. Fortunately
Trowa wasn’t the type to get distracted by the eeriness of witnessing
the reminiscences of a bunch of dead people. He listened attentively.
"We don't know for sure that's what Juusan is planning to do," the Eldest
asserted with quiet authority. "Our research, as you call it, is more
theory and speculation."
"Speculation?" someone objected. "It's pretty convincing. We've been mapping
out the extent of his power for centuries now. If he's not the thirteenth
aspect of the Source of All Things, then what is he? I would-"
Quatre suddenly gasped and dropped to his knees, eyes dazed.
Trowa was by his side in a second. "Quatre?! Duo! Stop this! What-"
"No!" Quatre hissed, shoving him away brutally. Trowa staggered back into
"Do not interfere," Quatre added in a voice so completely neutral it was
obvious he was barely aware Trowa was there. "Duo, continue."
"I don't have the choice, this ain't no bloody vid recording..." Duo grumbled
in the background. The Lords were still talking, but it took Trowa a moment
to tear his eyes and attention away from his lover's profile; Quatre’s
jaw was clenched in concentration, beads of sweat on his forehead, he
was still on his knees but Trowa didn't think he'd even noticed.
For a moment, he thought his anxiety and hurt over Quatre's actions were
interfering with his hearing. Then he realized that everybody else - except
for his lover and Heero, who was staring at nothing much - was looking
just as puzzled. There was a lively argument going on between several
of the Lords, but Trowa could only catch a few words, the rest was incomprehensible.
"Oy! Maxie! What happened to the picture?! The words aren’t translating."
"That's because I didn't and still don’t understand what they were talking
about either," Duo growled. His eyes were narrowed as he stood off to
one side, near the window where he'd been eavesdropping over five years
ago. He was glaring at the Lords. "It's complicated arcane stuff. It's
not really important anyway. ‘Juusan is fucking powerful’, is what they
could have said in about one second instead of nattering on about it.
This research they mention, about his origins...even with the inherited
knowledge of my race, it'd take years of studying to fully understand
what they were talking about. It's not important. The important stuff
is coming up. The bit where they decide to see if they can't find 'a better,
more peaceful' way of dealing with the Scourge."
Trowa could almost feel the last words being drilled into his back. He’d
said something like that to Duo yesterday, he recalled.
"Oh. Okay." Svale scratched her chin, producing a gritty noise. "Can't
you fast-forward it to that bit?"
"No, I bloody well cannot fast-fo-"
Everybody's attention - the living and the dead - focused on the leader.
He'd taken a step forward.
"We can discuss who or what the thirteenth is at a later date. We've received
word he wants to send us an emissary to discuss peace. After leaving us
well enough alone for millennia, now he wants to discuss peace."
The air of worry and complete suspicion were back.
"The man he'll send will probably be his war leader. His herald. We all
know what that means." The leader’s words rang in the sombre silence.
"The question is...do we let him approach us - with due caution? To see
what the Scourge wants? Or do we opt for immediate and utter resistance?
Knowing what that might entail."
"War with the Scourge."
"But to let the herald onto Iwa No Hone-"
"With due caution."
"With whatever caution. That's..."
"Risky. But look at the alternative," someone pointed out. "If we refuse,
Juusan might see it as a signal that we intend to interfere with his plans.
That is not advisable. Note that he is sending his herald openly, in apparent
good faith. He must know we'll be careful and will not let him near enough
to harm us. Maybe he is here to discuss peace. To make sure we
don't disrupt his trip to Centre."
"We have no such plans anyway; let him do what he wants," a man muttered.
He was one of the rare ones to show any signs of age, his dark hair spattered
with white, the skin around his eyes as delicate as brittle old ivory.
"If he re-sources, he'll be even stronger. He'll be as strong as he was
during the First Cull. That would be-"
"Still not enough to attack us head-on," another cut in. "Not in person.
In addition, since he cannot travel much faster than the speed of light,
it would take him hundred of years to get here from Centre. We’d have
centuries to prepare for his arrival."
"It would be a considerable risk to himself," a tall woman in green agreed.
"Juusan knows our power. He's let us live for aeons. He knows we are content
to stay on Iwa No Hone and spend our Twilight with our research and our
Trowa felt a surge of annoyance from the observer whose thoughts he was
sharing: the restlessness of a very young man who did not feel like whiling
his life away with research.
"Why should he risk a war with us, in those conditions?" someone else
pointed out reasonably. "Maybe that's all this herald has to say. He can
speak with Juusan's voice, after all. It makes sense to send his herald
and war leader for such an important meeting."
"Anything less would have been an insult," a tall Lord agreed haughtily.
"I, for one, would have preferred to be insulted," the man in red armour
near Trowa muttered. The shaman didn't know if anybody else heard.
The leader of the council looked at the assembled Lords as they talked.
Through the echoes of thoughts and knowledge from Duo, Trowa realized
that only part of the council was audible. The Jishin were a mythical
race, and their bonds went deeper than the roots of trees, both the living
and their dead intertwined. Their habits were solitary, but their minds
were one, on a level other humans could not understand. The leader observed
each speaker in turn...and Trowa could have sworn that for an instant
the eyes, grey and hard as stone, flicked briefly towards the window,
as if gathering the opinion of someone who shouldn't have been there at
all. Trowa thought the Eldest smiled, ever so slightly. Young Duo was
listening to the councillors talking about how much safer it would be
to not provoke the Scourge and how they should negotiate peace instead.
His solid conclusion rang in Trowa’s mind: 'No way! Let's kick Juusan’s
"Very well," the leader said softly, though no one had made any definitive
argument either for or against. At least, not out loud. "We agree that
immediate resistance, leading to a very likely war with the Scourge, is
not the best option. Let's see if we can find ways of neutralizing the
herald so that we can let him approach us safely. We need to be able to
block his summoning of Juusan without stopping the link between them;
the Immortal Power will want to talk to us directly. Let us reflect on-"
The voice had been slowly fading until it was almost inaudible, and the
Lord had frozen in mid-motion partway through his speech. Trowa glanced
out the window, but the presence there had vanished. Duo had felt completely
fed up with their lack of backbone and had left in a huff, leaving the
spell bereft of his memories.
The present-day Duo was silent, staring at the Lords who had, in all innocence,
condemned their people to death. Trowa could not make out the lines of
his thoughts. He didn’t feel like digging too deeply, though.
The council room vanished abruptly; they found themselves in a long empty
corridor, staggering at the sudden change.
"Warn people next time," G muttered, looking dizzy.
Duo said nothing. Was he wondering if he could have done something, said
something that could have changed the Lords’ minds? Changed the course
A scrabble off to one side brought Trowa's attention towards a window.
They were somewhere else in the same building. A young version of Duo
was scaling the rough-hewn outer wall, heading towards the window, apparently
oblivious of the hundred-foot drop below the ledge that was narrower than
his small sandaled feet.
The child - fourteen or fifteen, Trowa guessed - reached the windowsill
and scrambled over it. The shaman looked at the younger version with interest.
Duo was dressed in pants, shirt and an open robe caught by a belt at the
waist, all in a blue cloth the colour of the gathering dusk outside. His
hair reached his lower back, flowing loose like the Lords'. His eyes...were
the clear, innocent eyes of a child on the cusp of adulthood. They contained
none of the darkness found within their older counterparts. Understandably
enough. His face was as expressive as the Duo that Trowa knew, but this
wasn't a mask to hide what crawled beneath it, blood-soaked and torn.
Trowa almost smiled as he watched feelings flit across the mobile features.
The impish, sinful joy of having done something completely forbidden without
getting caught, and the disgust at what he'd heard.
Duo - the adult - stirred. "So, you saw how easy it is to take the path
of least resistance, to crawl on your belly and hope the Scourge overlooks
you. Now let's skip forward a few months to see what the consequences
were, shall we? I hope you guys didn't eat breakfast this morning-"
Everybody started - the real people present, and the young, illusory Duo
The flesh and blood Duo froze, mouth still open, his face suddenly white.
"Do I even want to know?" The man drawled, crossing his arms over his
chest as he approached the boy.
He was a few inches shorter than Trowa. Fine hair the colour of cinnamon
fell to the middle of his back. He wore Jishin armour under a loose open
robe; it was much simpler than the Lords', blue with violet reflections.
His features and eyes were similar to Duo’s. Trowa judged him to be in
his mid-twenties, although with the Jishin it was probably hard to tell.
"Oh, Solo, there you are! Hey, I was just wandering around looking for
you!" Young Duo's face was a picture. Too bad he wasn't this pathetic
a liar when we first met him, Trowa thought dryly.
"Really? Didn't think of looking where I said I would be, by any chance?"
The man, Solo, asked archly.
"Ah, I went to the lab but you weren't there so I thought maybe you went
with Lord Oderon to the council and that you might be waiting for him
so you would be here and-"
"Yeah, yeah," Solo interrupted the breathless explanation. His eyes had
drifted towards the window. It was obvious he knew exactly what Duo had
been up to. "Duo...oh, let's just go finish your project. The sooner you're
a man, the sooner you’ll stop dragging me into your trouble." He reached
over and cuffed the boy as Duo slipped by him. It was a very, very light
blow, it barely ruffled the unruly bangs of his charge, who nonetheless
went 'Ow!' in the very loud voice of the innocently injured.
"Why'd you do that?! I didn't do anything!"
"Yeah, yeah." Trowa had the impression Solo repeated those weary, loving
words a lot. Echoes of Duo's memories informed him that this Solo had
been Duo’s only kin and guardian. Trowa felt a stab of sympathy for the
man. That must have been one hell of a lot of work.
"So, do you think I'll finish it soon?!" Duo broke into a run, passing
Trowa. He'd obviously forgotten the cuff, the silent censure and what
he'd heard in the council.
"No. It'll take months of feeding it magic before the stone comes alive.
Assuming you can do it anyway."
"I'll do it!" was the insulted response.
"I'll mention this again, just for the record, boy; no-one's created a
golem in three generations. Even such a small one may be beyond you."
"Yeah, yeah," Duo muttered, in perfect imitation of his mentor. They were
at the end of the corridor, but their voices did not grow fainter. These
were Duo's memories. Remembering this, Trowa glanced at Duo behind him.
He was looking after the departing figure of Solo, his face a mask but
his eyes raw with such longing and pain that Trowa had to look away again.
The room suddenly went blank - utterly blank. People gasped again, and
G made gulping noises. They were apparently hanging in a grey void; there
was no floor beneath their feet.
There was silence for a few moments. An indefinite light barely illuminated
the people present. In that light, Trowa saw Svale scutter over to Duo,
walking over the floor that no one could see.
"Pull it together, Maxie. Show us the rest." Her voice was loud and bracing,
without the insult of pity. Duo stirred and nodded slowly. The mask stayed
"Right. This is a few months later," he said abruptly, his eyes still
as blind as the nothingness around them.
The picture took a few seconds to coalesce. Then Duo shook himself, and
suddenly, with the same sense of disorientation, they were again on Iwa
They were in a large open space, a rocky outcropping like a mesa rearing
up out of a jungle below. Birds whistled and things in the woods shrieked.
This was another latitude entirely, Trowa guessed. The illusion was still
just as striking; he could almost feel the humid heat that seemed to belong
to the scene.
There were several hundred Jishin in a loose circle all around the mesa's
top. Svale, passionate about her research on the mythical Elsire, had
told Trowa many a tale about them. They were not a social people. Most
of them isolated themselves in their towers, intent on research, or weaving
strange spells, or dreaming the memories of past lives. The only times
they broke that isolation were for councils, research groups, or to mentor
the young, as Solo had been doing with Duo. Or to gather in times of crisis,
Trowa picked Duo out of the crowd easily. These being his memories, the
spectators to the illusion were near him. He was standing with Solo, some
distance apart from the crowds of other Jishin. Once more, Trowa could
feel a backwash of Duo's memories and thoughts, colouring the scene before
him as the boy looked at the people around him. Duo was used to this isolation
from others; apparently he and Solo were cousins, the only surviving members
of an old House that had been one of the last to retreat during the Twilight.
They had few allies in the other, stronger Houses of the Elsire, no kin
and few friends. And they were quite happy that way.
"I don't see why we all have to toady to this guy," young Duo muttered.
From the way Solo rolled his eyes, this wasn't the first time his young
charge had said something like that.
"Duo...don't get into trouble," Solo whispered, though they were quite
some distance from the nearest Jishin.
"I won't. I just don't see why we can't fight him. He's not all that.
He's been around for millennia. He's got to be so old he forgets how to
Solo rolled his eyes again, and then glanced at Duo sharply. "Keep an
eye on that thing."
"I will," Duo grumbled, stuffing something back into the inner pocket
of his robe. Trowa had recognized the little stone creature that the real
Duo had left upstairs today, his 'Imp'.
"Has it learned to speak, yet?" Solo asked. His eyes were worried, fixed
on the empty centre of the mesa. Trowa thought he was trying to distract
his young charge from the upcoming meeting, or maybe himself.
"A little," Duo answered, though he didn't sound convincing. "He's gotta
speak? I mean, real sentences?"
"Yes. Otherwise he's just an animate. A golem must talk."
"Maybe this one’s kinda slow," Duo mused, his eyes shifting towards Solo
as if seeing what chance that reasoning had of convincing his mentor.
"This was your choice of a coming-of-age project, Duo. This is supposed
to teach you - slowly and incrementally - how to connect to our Soul-mind
for information and magic without being overwhelmed by it. Right now,
you are only in contact with the departed souls of your nearest kin, a
tiny portion of the total knowledge that-"
"I don’t think any of them ever built a golem. They ain’t helping."
"Respect our dead, Duo," Solo retorted, another phrase he was apparently
used to repeating a lot. "The well of souls holds every particle of knowledge
of our race, and your kin have access to it. They will help you, but you
have to open your mind to them, to the way of our departed souls, to integrate
the knowledge they are trying to give you."
"It’s all fuzzy."
"That’s because you’re young. You’re still too fixed in the material world
to let your consciousness blend with the Soul-mind. You’re still trying
to hear them as individuals, not as a collective."
Duo glowered at his feet. In his pocket the creature stirred and poked
its head out, and he absently pushed it back in again.
"I told you from the start that this project would be difficult. It might
take you a long time, though I guess it is good practice, and an impressive
achievement to date. Remember though, you have to finish it properly to
gain the right to live as a full-fledged Jishin, to access the entirety
of the Soul-mind, earn your own tower, and start your own studies," Solo
"In a hurry to get rid of me?" Duo muttered. Trowa had the sudden feeling
that the curious, vivacious child - born to a senescent race with very
few children as it were - had been something of a burden to many of the
older, wearier Jishin who longed for quiet in which to study.
Solo was still for a few seconds. Then, without looking, he reached over
and cuffed his student. Very lightly. Duo's 'Ow!' rang out over the assembly.
It sounded more pleased than aggrieved.
There was a shifting murmur among the Jishin. Something shimmered at the
centre of the mesa. A Seer spell, Duo’s memories informed Trowa; it was
built into the rocks of the mesa, like a lot of Jishin magic, fuelled
by the planet herself.
In the vision, figures appeared. A few of the Lords from the council,
the Jishin leader, and another man, dressed like a techno-cabalist.
The fifteen-year old Duo's appearance flickered. The dusk-blue robes he
was wearing twisted and hardened. Incomplete plates of blue glass appeared
along his upper arms, his torso. The boy was still too young to fully
materialize his spirit into armour, the signature spell of his race. Trowa
could feel the intense worry and anger echoing from the young mind. 'What
a risk! And for what?! We should never let him anywhere near the planet!
We should have blown up his stupid herald before he got halfway to Iwa
No Hone! If the Scourge wants a fight, we can take him! We're the Jishin!
We're almost as old as he is!'
Solo put his hand on Duo's shoulder. "Shhhh, boy. Don't worry. The meeting
is being held far from here, on our furthest moon. Even the Scourge cannot
strike us at that distance. The Eldest has put his mark of control on
the herald as well. The man's will is our captive. The Scourge can communicate
through him, and through the Seer spell, but the man does not have the
will to summon his master. We are safe."
The words had barely left the older Jishin's mouth -
It was an image, head and shoulders only, floating above the Lords, huge
enough for all the assembled Jishin to see him clearly through the Seer
spell. He was-
- Trowa's heart seized in his chest in primal fear. No pity in those eyes.
No hate, either. Just...inevitability.
The Scourge’s presence swamped young Duo’s senses, even through the spell.
He felt the passing of aeons. Time as an almost physical presence. Jusan
stood alone in a galaxy of stars he tended like a garden. The humans races
that thrived there had less import than insects; some useful, others vermin,
according to a logic only he could see. He’d judged the Jishin to be in
the latter category. Their extermination held no more meaning to him than
the cutting of an infested rose that would spare the rest of his garden.
So he did.
Trowa barely registered the herald's scream of agony, the cries of the
Jishin around him as they realized their danger. All those present could
feel the struggle of the Lords, trying to keep Jusan from coming through
his herald’s now emptied mind and soul.
They could all feel the Lords losing.
The image in the sky spoke. It wasn't speaking to them. It was speaking
to itself. In all his countless immortal aeons, Jusan had only ever had
one person to truly talk to. He was the only one who existed on his plane
of existence, in his realm of time. Entire human races were mere shadows,
here and then gone.
"It is done."
Something was happening at the centre of the circle of Lords. There was...some
sort of light. But it wasn't. It was rather a darkness that seemed to
behave like a light, outlining the Lords in shadow, casting strange reflections
around the mesa. The light twisted in Trowa’s senses, and his stomach
clenched and heaved.
The Lords twisted away from it in agony. One fell to the ground, his armour
tainted with the sickening non-colour. Another, then another-
"No!" Solo grabbed a stunned Duo protectively and vanished.
The scene shifted violently. Trowa was on his knees, feeling even more
nauseous. Teleported. Solo had teleported Duo. Where-
The fear and horror were choking him. He could barely breathe. He tried
to disassociate the feelings that were his own and those coming from a
panicked Duo. His friends were also on their knees, fighting the same
emotions. Except for ‘their’ Duo, standing with eyes wide and blind. And
Heero was looking away, towards a distant light on the illusory horizon,
with a naked intent on his face that Trowa had never seen there before.
Trowa followed the intent gaze. Over a green carpet of jungle he could
distinguish a very small image. Jusan's projection through the Seer spell,
he guessed. Heero was looking at it. He appeared to feel none of Duo's
fear. His eyes were coldly painting a bullseye on that distant figure.
He looked ready for a fight. Trowa, still flattened by the sheer enormity
of his perception of Jusan, felt only a sick dread at the thought.
"Where-" the young Duo was clinging to Solo, looking around wildly. Trowa
followed his glance. They were in a construct of standing stones, similar
to Svale's sanctuary. The stones here were not pitted with age, though;
they were white and smooth as bone, curved like fangs or standing tall.
Solo had 'ported himself and his charge at the centre of a circle.
"The Gates?" Duo's voice was high-pitched, he sounded like a very young
child in his panic. "Are we going to run away?! Can we 'port to another
Solo was silent. His eyes were fixed on the distant light.
"Solo?!" Duo tugged wildly at his mentor's arm, trying to get his attention.
His eyes were round, his small face white. A trembling lump in his pocket
poked its head out, took one look at the light on the horizon and vanished
again with a faint, inarticulate whimper.
"What a clever trick..."
Trowa - everyone - blinked and stared at Solo. He was smiling slightly,
as if admiring a good move his chess opponent had made. "It's...energy,
pure higher-dimensional energy. The stuff of primordial creation and destruction.
He really is an aspect of the Source of All Things. I wonder why he's
here, in our universe..."
"Who cares?!" Duo screamed, tugging Solo harder. "Let's get out of here!"
"It might be important, Duo. Besides, it's too late to run."
"Too late?! I thought he couldn’t even reach us at all!"
"He imprinted the energy into the spirits of the Lords. And killed them."
Solo didn't seem to be listening to his own words; he appeared to be concentrating
on something Duo couldn't hear or see. "This power is...something beyond
us, beyond any magic. It's the power of sources, the power of the Source
of All Things itself, the fundamental energy beyond our dimension, our
universe. It's...beyond anything we could control. And it's tainted our
Soul-Mind. When the Lords died, their spirits kept the energy Jusan inflicted
upon them, and they took it with them to the well of souls. Our greatest
"But- I can't feel anything!" Duo stared around him wildly.
"Souls integrate into the collective following bloodlines, I've told you
that before." Solo sounded strangely scholarly. And resigned. "The Lords'
families were the first to be infected, when their kin's souls touched
their minds, tried to integrate into the Soul-mind through them. The Jishin
of those great houses are almost all dead now. Some are fighting it, as
well they can. But when they die, their souls will pass to their nearest
kin, and take the infection with them. Our house was pretty isolated from
others when we stayed behind on different planets, studying alien races
while the other Jishin had already retreated. We're not closely related
to any of those who have died...so far. But the Soul-Mind itself is corrupted
"No!" Duo screamed. "Come on! Solo! Let's 'port out of here! The Gates
can take us to any sanctuary anywhere in the galaxy, we can-"
"It won't do any good, Duo. The mind - our minds - our souls - can bridge
any gap, instantaneously. It will follow us. Oh..."
Solo stared, with some regret, at his arms. His dusk-blue armour shone
in the dying light of the afternoon. Spots of squirming darkness were
tainting the clear blue.
Trowa gasped and hugged his sides at the almost physical horror and grief
that overwhelmed him.
Solo glanced down at his charge. Duo's immature armour was still clear
"Ah. You're too young. You won’t feel its effects until nearly the whole
Soul-mind is corrupted. You only touch your nearest kin in it - but when
I die, in a few minutes-"
"-then I will infect you, even if the Soul-mind’s corruption itself does
not reach you directly. Hmm, it's accelerating exponentially. More and
more Jishin are dying, carrying more and more of that power to the Soul-Mind.
It's...I can taste it, Duo. It's a power that doesn't belong here, in
this universe. It makes no sense, here. It existed before the universe;
it created it..."
Solo's voice dropped to a whisper. "Well, if the Jishin had to die, I
guess it is somewhat flattering to be killed by something so pure, so
"No! Solo, fight it!"
"We are," Solo murmured absently, his eyes still on the horizon. His hand
reached blindly and grasped Duo's shoulder, then slid down to take his
hand. "The spirit of the dead - they have information on this power; they
studied it even as it killed them. It's hard- it's beyond so much of what
we mere humans can comprehend..." The darkness shimmered and grew in Solo's
"We're not mere humans!" Duo screamed, shaking Solo wildly. "We're the
"Still human, Duo...we were maybe wrong to forget that...to stay so isolated
from the galaxy...we let the Scourge kill countless other races, as if
we were not affected...we didn't care...Ah. Someone may have found the
key to this strange energy pattern. She's dead now, of course. But her
closest kin have inherited her memories and her knowledge. They're trying
to fight the destruction, elaborate on her discovery. Complex...Hmm, dissipate
it? Is that possible...?"
Duo stared at his mentor, choking back a small whimper.
"It's slowing. But...there are so few of us left, already." The darkness
engulfed the back of Solo’s armour, crept down his legs. But it wasn't
spreading as fast.
Duo choked. Trowa glanced at the fifteen-year old. The boy was staring
at his own arms. Darkness spilled into the clear blue glass of his half-formed
Trowa felt bile rise in his stomach. A reaction to the young man's fear,
but also the first effects of the...thing that was killing him. It was...it
was...so alien. It was something that shouldn't exist in this universe.
It was beyond it. It was...indescribable. Trowa could feel the young mind
scream and start to break under the sheer wrongness of what was
Solo sighed. His armour was breaking now, the non-light eating away at
it from the inside.
"It's too late...there are no longer enough of us left. I...see how we
can dissipate the energy, now...but it's too late."
"No," Duo's whisper trembled, but he sounded suddenly older. "Don't give
up, Solo. Don't you all give up. We're the Jishin. We're the oldest race.
We can't...can't let all that just die. All those souls, we can't..."
"I can't do it, Duo," Solo said simply. "I can't...be the last. The Jishin
are all one, we can’t- alone- " The armour was beginning to shatter, fall
off and evaporate before it touched the ground. Solo's eyes were luminescent,
He turned towards Duo, reached up and touched his young cousin's hair.
"I can't survive our race, Duo. But...the choice is yours, now. I'm sorry.
I love you."
The non-light flared, outlining Solo's shape in a flash that seared across
Trowa's eyes and mind. Blinded, he still heard the sound of a body falling
limply onto stone. And then-
Duo made a noise in his throat. Darkness bled into his armour from Solo’s
soul as it touched Duo’s spirit. The plate started to shatter-
His mind flailed under the knowledge-
Don't leave me alone!
But he was. He was alone. No more friendly minds of the living around
him, embracing him in the warm knowledge of the power of his race...
He was the last -
...and the spirits of the dead had nowhere else to go - they followed
Solo’s spirit and flooded Duo’s young, unprepared mind.
This was not the warm comfort of the Soul-mind, the peaceful dead. It
was flooded by the spirits of those recently departed, who had been ripped
apart by madness, twisted by despair, who'd seen their race slaughtered.
They tore at him, along with the alien power that was ripping him apart.
To Trowa, it was as if a legion of cruel, insane voices were suddenly
screaming at him from all sides.
Time froze - power, his own and that inherited by the Soul-mind of the
Jishin, reared up and battled the destruction to a temporary standstill.
While his mind cracked and spun, lost in a maelstrom he could not control.
In that frozen second, Duo looked upon the destruction of his race-
- he thought about joining them into the darkness -
And made his choice.
The torment of souls and the destructive energy feeding off his mind both
shuddered under the strength of that one thought.
‘We were too great to just...die like this.’
Duo stopped fighting it. He threw his mind open to the accumulated knowledge
of the corrupted Soul-mind. He felt it rip his inexperienced psyche apart,
but that was unimportant. Now. Now he knew it all. The information was
there, now, at his fingertips. The pattern to Juusan’s energy that Solo
had mentioned, that could beat the alien menace.
‘Twilight or no, we were too great. We were the Jishin. And I am not going
to let that be forgotten. We are dead - I am dead. But I am not going
to give up. It will be the last thing I- we do. We will go into
the darkness, but Juusan will be coming with us.’
There was a flicker, and a sudden flare of the sick corruption. And then
it was gone, dissipated into thin air.
Duo was on his knees, next to Solo’s body. Catapulted to an abnormal maturity
by the overwhelming tidal wave of all the dead souls into his young mind,
his armour was now fully formed, and starting to curl into strange, disturbing
shapes. It was blacker than despair. Duo stayed frozen for a few seconds,
and then slowly lifted his head towards the light on the horizon. Juusan's
presence was growing stronger, searching. Checking his handiwork, probably.
Making sure all the Jishin were dead.
Duo's hands crushed the rock beneath them with almost casual strength.
But not yet. No, not yet. That essence that had destroyed them...that
had only been a portion of Juusan's power. That...was too great to fight
headlong. Duo had now the entire power of his race at his disposal, and
their accumulated knowledge of magic, and he had nothing left to lose.
But it wasn't sure he could win, even with the strength at his disposal.
And he had to take Juusan with him. That was an imperative. The only thing
He smiled like death, while the soul of a dead race within him screamed
its defiance at the darkness.
Without a single glance back at the planet that had given him birth, the
young man spun around and ran to the Gates. A surge of power and the Gates
opened. Centre. Juusan was heading towards Centre, to re-source himself.
The voices all agreed on that one point. Juusan would want to re-source
himself. The Thirteenth Power, the thirteenth aspect of the Source Of
All Things, had a plan that was paramount to him. He had to go to Centre
to follow it. He would probably eliminate all traces of life from Centre
as a matter of course, a pre-emptive strike, just to make sure there would
be no interference while he re-sourced himself. It was why he’d eliminated
the Jishin as a first step.
But he wouldn’t have the opportunity to reach his source because Duo was
going to kill him.
In a flash, the black figure was gone.
Trowa stood up slowly, in the empty room with smooth walls...He shook
himself, trying to detach himself from the memories that had nearly overwhelmed
him at the end. The sadness remained. The wheel turns, Trowa thought painfully.
But the words did not bring their usual comfort. The wheel had stopped
turning for the Jishin. That was what the end of a species meant.
He sighed, dispelling the memories that were not his own. He grabbed Svale
by the collar as she trotted up to Duo, and shoved G away as the man opened
his mouth. Quatre was following him as he marched the two old ones out
the door. Chang, looking dazed, spurred himself into motion and followed
the shaman without looking back; his face was a cold, arrogant mask but
his eyes burned with a darkness that was now familiar to Trowa. Heero
was already gone. He'd seen his target; he probably didn't give a damn
about the rest.
"I had to do it," Svale sighed very softly. And Trowa knew she was right.
Oh, they all knew about Jusan now - Juusan, rather, the Thirteenth Power,
immortal guardian of the stars. They knew more about him than they ever
wanted to. They'd felt his power to the centre of their souls. And his
utter ruthlessness. That was crucial, but it wasn't the only reason Svale
had wanted to show them the end of the Jishin.
It had been about Duo. About learning to trust him as deeply as they needed
to. About understanding why he'd done to them what he had. Trowa glanced
back at the silent figure at the centre of the room. He was still angry
at Duo for what had happened to Quatre. But he understood it now, in his
blood, his soul, his bones. Juusan was so alien that Trowa knew he would
never be able to comprehend his motivations, beyond the fact that the
Scourge would destroy all life on Centre just because that was easier
and safer for him. But Duo...Duo and his human choices and madness and
desire for revenge, those he understood. He could predict how Duo would
behave now, because in the same situation, faced with the same loss, Trowa
would probably have chosen much the same path.
Trowa pushed G ahead and led the others away. This moment of privacy was
his peace offering to the Jishin. The chance to start with a clean slate.
He thought that Duo understood this.
They left Duo alone in the room of memories, a small, deadly smile on
his lips and blood dripping down his arms and hands from the mutilating
spikes of his armour, falling to the floor in a steady, implacable drip...drip...drip...
[chap. 32] [chap. 34] [back
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