Demon of Justice + Chapter 16 (cont)
He's a what?!

Uthmar looked startled, then frowned. "I thought we explained yesterday."

"I managed to understand that somebody called Sharna was mad at me for killing his servant," Wufei said dryly, "and was going to send either people or a demon to take revenge. The rest of it was... fuzzy."

"Ah. Well. Sharna's one of the Dark gods," Uthmar started.

"...what?" Wufei stared, wide-eyed.

"A Dark god. The god of demons and assassins, actually," the Champion explained.

"A god," the demon said flatly, closing his eyes and wincing. "Well, magic works here and you have demons; I suppose it's only logical for you to have gods as well... Logical! Ha!"

"You don't?!" Uthmar asked, aghast.

"No. We don't. A lot of people believe in various gods, but if they exist they never do anything... obvious," Wufei said, sounding a little strained. "We don't have magic, demons, or active gods-- unless you want to believe Duo in his more extreme moods," he added under his breath, starting to pace. "A god. Wonderful. How many gods are there?"

"Seven Dark gods and fifteen Light gods," Gunnar said promptly. "Sixteen, if you count Orfressa."

"Ah. And I might not count her because...?"

"She's the universe."

"I see. Do I have to worry about all seven Dark gods, or just the one?" Wufei asked acidly, still pacing. "Not that one isn't enough!"

"Probably only one, and he can't act against you directly," Uthmar said, trying to sound reassuring.

"Why not? I would have thought dark gods would enjoy doing that sort of thing."

"None of the gods are permitted to act directly on anything in the world," Karthan said, wincing as Wufei spun on his heel and the faint images of what he was seeing spun with him. "It's the only rule the Dark gods have never broken. Sooner or later, two gods would end up acting against one another, and enough power could be released to destroy the world. Even the Dark gods don't want that... Wufei, please sit down! You're making me dizzy!"

Wufei didn't sit down, but he did stop pacing. "Sorry," he said, a little shakily. "I thought I was adjusting quite well to all the differences, but it appears I just hadn't reached what Duo would call my 'weird shit tolerance limit'."

"It's, uh, understandable," Uthmar muttered. "I did rather spring it on you." Ignoring the rude noise Gunnar made, he continued, "The restriction on direct action is why all the gods who are interested in mortals have priests and Champions to do things for them."

"Like our very own Champion, Sir Tactful, here," Gunnar said cheerfully.

"Now who's springing things on Wufei?" Karthan muttered.

"You're a Champion?" Wufei asked slowly. "The, ah, direct representative of a god?"

"Er... yes," Uthmar replied, feeling faintly embarrassed.

"I'm assuming it's a Light god?"

"Oh, yes. Torframos. He's the god of the earth."

=*Pleased to make your acquaintance, Your Highness,*= a deep, amused voice said out of thin air.

"Don't you start! It's bad enough--" Wufei paled as he abruptly realised just who he was talking to. "Ah, I beg your pardon," he said stiffly, eyes wide. "I, ah, I think that's becoming a reflex..."

The deep voice chuckled. =*I'm the one who should apologise; I should know better than to tease someone who's just had a serious shock. And I seem to have startled everyone... Perhaps we'll speak again later, Chang Wufei.*=

"Ah, yes," Wufei said carefully, unable to think of anything else to say.

=*Until then,*= Torframos said, and fell silent.

There was a long pause.

"...Is he gone?" Naiya whispered, staring upwards.

"Yes, he's gone," Uthmar said sourly. "I'm going to have to talk to him about that..."

"You're going to tell off a god?" Cord rumbled, eyeing the dwarf with respect.

"Why not? He's my god," the Champion replied, one corner of his mouth quirking up under the beard.

"I think the rest of my questions can wait," Wufei said quietly, "especially if the answers are going to be that... dramatic. I have more than enough to think about for the time being. If you don't have any more urgent questions?"

"No; everything else can wait," Uthmar told him.

Wufei bowed wordlessly, walked a short distance away, and started a set of slow stretching exercises.

Karthan grunted softly, rubbing at his eyes. "That's better," he muttered, blinking. "Double vision is bad enough when both images are moving the same way!"

"He's closed the link?" Naiya asked, still shooting nervous glances upwards. "I should probably get you both breakfast."

"I don't think he wants any," Karthan told her. "He was thinking something about doing exercises and clearing his mind. Breakfast did not feature in his immediate plans."

"But he's still wounded!" she protested, looking over her shoulder as he ushered her away. "He shouldn't be putting any stress on his back yet. He doesn't heal that fast!"

"Believe me, lass, that's not going to stop him."

----------

For several minutes after they left, there was nothing behind the forge except Wufei, working his way through his daily Tai Chi exercises. Gradually, the tension eased from his muscles as he was able to put the problems facing him aside for the moment and concentrate on the forms; then he finished the Tai Chi, bowed to an imaginary opponent, and began his katas.

A patch of air behind him shimmered briefly, then settled. Nothing had visibly changed, but the hairs on the back of Wufei's neck prickled as he felt someone's eyes on him. He added a turn to the next pattern, swinging around with narrowed eyes to see who was there, and almost dropped out of stance with surprise when his eyes met empty air.

He was right, though. There was someone watching him.

Interesting, Krashnark thought, one eyebrow lifting in mild surprise. I'm shielding as strongly as I can, and intangible; that dwarf Champion could probably walk straight through me and never notice. Even his god wouldn't notice. But this little human-demon somehow realised I was behind him. Very interesting!

Wufei shook his head slightly, dismissing the impression, and continued his kata, gradually increasing his speed and the power he put into the strikes.

A faint smile appeared on the Dark god's face as he noticed blood seeping through the bandages around the small demon's waist. This one's far to good to be wasted satisfying my brother's infantile need for revenge, he thought, smile twisting into a sneer for a moment. He's not even fighting a real enemy, but he doesn't let pain distract him from his focus. It's a pity I didn't bother to watch when my brother set his demon on him; I'm sure he burned brightly in that fight!

This isn't just a matter of duty anymore, he mused, walking in a slow circle around Wufei as the Chinese pilot spun and kicked. Or a matter of putting Sharna in his place. I want this Chang Wufei for myself. It may not be too hard to convince him, either... after all, what better patron for a true warrior than the god of war?

Krashnark paused as a thought struck him. I could even make him my champion.

I was just planning to have him worship me. I haven't taken a champion for... how long? Centuries? None of the mortals have caught my attention like this for a very long time...

He might be worth the trouble. I'll think about it.

Krashnark watched silently until Wufei finished, bowed to his imaginary opponent, and walked off.

* * * * *

"Geez... who let Frankenstein into the house?" Duo muttered, listening to the slow, heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. "Who is it?" he yelled.

"Me," Heero's voice called back, sounding slightly strained.

"What are you doing?"

"Hang on a second." The footsteps clumped along the corridor to Duo's half-open door, which was kicked open to reveal a large box with Heero's legs visible below it.

"Heero, what the hell-- Is that a bar fridge?!" Duo demanded, eyes widening as he read the lettering on the box.

"Yes." The box wobbled across the room until it was next to Duo's bed, then lowered to the floor. Heero's slightly red face rose above it, and he started opening the top flaps.

"Why did you get a bar fridge, Heero?" Duo asked quietly, not sure whether to be delighted or mildly annoyed.

"I figured you needed something to keep all the sodas from going warm."

"...You bought soda."

"Hn."

"Heero, I was under the distinct impression that your opinion of soda was rather lower than your opinion of tequila as a mild thirst quencher," Duo said conversationally, lying back and looking thoughtfully at the ceiling.

"Only if the tequila doesn't have the maggot thing in it," Heero grunted, crawling underneath the bed to plug the little fridge in. "Tequila with maggot is worse than soda."

"It's not a maggot. It's a cactus worm."

"Whatever. I'm not going to be drinking the sodas, so my opinion of them doesn't matter."

"Uh-huh. You bought a bar fridge so I could keep soda in my room, is that it?"

"And ice cream," Heero told him, picking up the flattened cardboard box and heading for the door. "It's got a freezer compartment."

Duo pulled the blankets over his head and gave in to a fit of mildly hysterical giggles.

----------

About an hour later, passing through the lounge room on the way to do some work on his Gundam, Quatre paused in confusion as he saw the empty space on top of a low table. "Trowa," he said, looking back over his shoulder, "where's the stereo?"

"Heero took it up to Duo's room," Trowa said calmly.

"Oh. Well... I guess that's reasonable," the blond muttered. "He's usually the one who wants it on, after all."

"Heero's reasoning was more along the lines of 'Duo Must Not Get Bored Or He'll Get Up'."

"I can see his point," Quatre admitted, then blinked and leaned sideways for a better view around Trowa's shoulder. "And... the TV?"

Trowa pointed upwards silently.

"That's going a bit far! We need to watch the news bulletins on that!"

The taller boy shrugged. "We can still watch them. We just have to go up to Duo's room to do it."

"...And the company, and having the TV up there, will help keep Duo from getting bored, right?"

"Right."

"All right," Quatre sighed, starting to walk again, "but if we come back and find that the stove has vanished, we're putting Heero on sedatives."

Time passed. Maintenance was done. Eventually, Quatre came back to the house to fetch coffee for himself and Trowa.

He walked into the kitchen, paused, and then walked out again. After a quick search of the ground floor, finding no-one, he walked to the bottom of the staircase and glared upwards.

"All right," he called coldly. "WHERE IS MR. COFFEE?"

There was a faint sputtering noise, then laughter. "Busted, Heero!" Duo called, still laughing. "I told you you weren't going to get away with it!"

"I don't mind the stereo," Quatre insisted, stamping up the stairs. "I can live without the television. But Duo is not the only person in this house who drinks coffee, and we can not visit his room whenever we want a cup!" Throwing open the door, he glared around, noting that all the missing items were there, as well as what looked like every book and magazine in the house.

"Don't blame me, Q," Duo said cheerfully from the bed. "I only asked for a mugful, not the whole coffeemaker!"

"Oh, I know who's responsible," Quatre told him, glaring at Heero as he stalked across to unplug the coffeemaker from the powerboard and coil up the cable. "You're acting like a magpie, Heero, or maybe a bowerbird. It's like Aladdin's cave in here!"

"Wrong fairytale," Heero said, stopping him on his way out the door; frowning, Quatre looked over at him, leaning back to balance the coffeemaker's weight.

"Oh? Which one should it be?"

A faint smile lifted one corner of Heero's mouth. "Ali Baba and the One Thief," he said quietly.

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