Demon of Justice + Chapter 29 (cont)


"What god should we thank for that miracle?" Jens whispered, indicating the retreating blond with a jerk of his chin. "The Almerhas of bloody Almerhas is being useful. Willingly."

"Right at the moment, I don't care," Karthan hissed. "It could be Krashnark, and I'd get down on my knees and thank him. The last thing we need right now is for Vaijon to go back to his normal self!"

"Good point. If he went all the way back to the way he was a week ago, he might start arguin' we should just 'let the demon die and rot'. At the very least, he wouldn't be liftin' a finger to help with anything 'menial', and oops here he comes... that was quick."

"Here," Vaijon said, holding a bundle of fur and green silk out towards Jens with his good hand. "It's the cleanest thing I could find quickly."

"Thank you, Sir V-- this is your cloak!"

Vaijon managed a creditable smirk. "Yes, well, that's probably why it is the cleanest thing available. My mother's laundry women have their pride, you know. Besides, silk is perhaps not the best fabric for a campaign cloak... and I can always get another one. Which would not be the case if Sir Wufei had not saved us all. Just use it, will you?"

"Yes, sir," Jens drawled, shaking out the cloak and reaching for his knife. "Pleased to comply with your orders, sir."

The smirk wavered as Vaijon looked down at Wufei again, and he swallowed hard. "Less talk," he advised quietly, turning on his heel. "More bandaging."

"Ye gods and little fishes," Karthan said quietly, watching him go. "I do believe our own personal pain in the neck is starting to grow up."

* * * * *

"Now then," Krashnark purred, leaning over the whimpering wreck his twin brother had become, "I think that's a good start. Are you beginning to understand that going against my wishes is not a good idea, Sharna?"

There was no answer -- no coherent answer, anyway -- and Krashnark frowned. "Sharna... I'd hate to think you weren't paying attention to me. You're supposed to say 'yes' here."

More whimpering.

"You're pathetic. I've hardly even touched y--"

A newly-familiar taste bloomed at the edge of Krashnark's perceptions, a hot green fire overlaid with the warm spice of Wufei's personality, and the god straightened, his brother nearly forgotten. Wufei! I can feel him again, he's out from under Sharna's shields -- I knew he'd be all right!

"I'll take the rest of what you owe out of your hide later, little brother," he snarled, already starting to fade out of sight as he turned away. There was a faint sob, and he grinned cruelly. "Keep that thought." Then he dismissed Sharna from his mind as he concentrated, moving into the mortal world to check on his future Champion.

He wasn't nearly as pleased by what he found as he'd thought he would be.

* * * * *

Watching through Uthmar's eyes as the members of his Order prepared to march, Torframos was pulled out of his concentration by a tentative mental 'knock' at his barriers. Recognising the touch, he sighed and reached out to his brother's mind.

=*What is it, Korthrala? I'm rather busy at the moment.*=

=*Um... I realise that, but...*= The emotions accompanying Korthrala's thoughts were strange, hovering between suspicion, shock, and amusement. =*Could you come out here for a moment? Someone wants to talk to you.*=

=*If it's Khalifrio, I already told her--*=

=*It's not her.*=

=*Who, then? And why can't they just send me a thought, or come in here?*= Torframos thought impatiently.

=*It's Krashnark.*=


=*I didn't think you'd appreciate it if I let him in to talk to you directly,*= Korthrala added in a suspiciously innocent tone.

=*What in Orr's name would a Dark god be doing here?!*=

=*Apparently, trying to talk to you, little brother,*= the sea-god confirmed. =*He's even being reasonably polite about it... I mean, he knocked first. With his hand, not an axe. That sort of thing.*=

=*Korthrala! This is serious!*=

=*So am I, Torframos. Krashnark is here, and he is asking to talk to you. Demanding, really. Don't you think you should come out and find out what he wants before he stops being polite?*=

Another voice cut into the 'conversation', confirming that yes, Krashnark was there, and he was getting a little impatient. =*Get out here, Torframos! We need to talk!*=

If it hadn't been beneath his dignity, Torframos would have squeaked.

* * * * *

"We'll be ready to go in a moment, sirs," Cameron reported, jogging up to where Uthmar and Arwen were standing and throwing a sketchy salute. "There aren't many men too badly wounded to join the assault on the temple, luckily, and they'll be staying here, with a small squad to help guard them, Terrin, and Naiya... despite arguments."

"Arguments?" Arwen asked, looking away from Nataku and raising one eyebrow. "Who's arguing?"

"Practically all of them," the armsman said, "but especially Gunnar and Naiya."

"Why does that not surprise me?"

"Because Naiya's already proven that she'll run towards an angry god to help Wufei, and Gunnar is Gunnar," Uthmar sighed. "What's his excuse?"

"Sharna and/or his priests are just begging to be taunted, and he's the best we have at that sort of thing," Cameron answered promptly. "He has a point."

"I think we can do without him just this once," Uthmar snorted. "If any taunting needs to be done, Wufei seems to be quite good at it when he lets himself loosen up; for all we know, he's already taken care of it. Gunnar stays here."

"Tell him we can't let the future Jester to the Gods jeopardise his pay rise by straining his wounds," Arwen suggested, hiding a grin behind one hand. "And tell Naiya we'll let Sir Wufei lecture her on the proper place of noncombatants if she insists on coming. That should discourage--"

=*Arwen? Uthmar?*=

"Yes, Torframos?" they chorused, looking up.

=*I hate to interrupt when you're so busy,*= the god began dryly, =*but I've been asked to pass on a message.*=

"Oh?" Uthmar asked suspiciously. "That's... unusual."

"To say the least," Arwen agreed. "What sort of message, and from whom-- if it's not rude to enquire?" he added quickly.

=*Oh, I don't think you're being rude at all,*= Torframos said, mental 'voice' becoming even dryer. =*Krashnark would like me to tell you that he would greatly appreciate it if you would, and I quote, 'Hurry up, damn you, and rescue Wufei's body before anything happens to it', end quote.*=


=*Are you sure you haven't been practicing speaking in unison? Yes. Krashnark. One of my nephews, you know, the strong one? He was even reasonably polite in the beginning, though his manners seem to be fraying now. Apparently he feels the Light forces aren't pulling their weight at the moment. Your earlier speculations were heading in the right direction; the party who went to get water were captured by Sharna's forces and taken into the temple, Wufei's spirit has escaped but his body has not, and since Krashnark has no worshippers in the area he wants us to handle the rescue. Now.*=

"...You're not joking, are you?" the dwarf Champion asked.

=*Not in the slightest. Even Hirahim would have to strain to come up with a joke like this.*= There was a slight pause before he spoke again. =*He says to 'quit talking and hurry the hell up, before Sharna's worshippers do something irreparable to My Champion's body'. Impatient, isn't he?*=

Uthmar and Arwen looked at each other, blinking, neither sure how to respond... then Uthmar began to smile, a wicked smirk that wouldn't have looked out of place on Gunnar's face.

"If you don't mind, m'lord Torframos, would you care to point out to His Dark Godness that Wufei is not actually his Champion, and in fact seems to be resisting the idea quite strenuously?"

There was an odd mental sputter before Torframos replied. =*I'll, ah, pass that on.*=

"Uthmar!" Arwen hissed, horrified. "What are you doing?!"

"Taunting," the dwarf replied, smirk widening.

"You can't--"

"Wufei started it," Uthmar pointed out. "I'm just... following in his footsteps. Continuing the tradition. Blame it on Gunnar's influence."

"Should I get Gunnar to help?" Cameron suggested, seemingly torn between delight and horror.

"I think we can handle it, thank you."

=*Ahem. Krashnark would like you to concentrate on rescuing Wufei's body now, and worry about insignificant details such as his precise status later, if you wouldn't mind terribly,*= Torframos said in exquisitely polite tones.

"I bet he didn't put it that way," Uthmar snickered.

=*Not exactly, no. I thought I'd translate.*=

"I think I'm glad."

=*I know you are. Believe me, you didn't want to hear the, um, unexpurgated version. He was quite vehement about it.*=

"...Did he say 'please'?" Arwen put in, voice slightly shaky. Uthmar grinned and reached up to give him an encouraging pat on the shoulder.

=*Nnnnnnoooooo,*= Torframos said slowly, =*I don't believe 'please' was among the many and varied words he used in that outburst.*=

"I don't think we should do what he wants unless he asks nicely," the human Champion continued, gaining confidence. "I'm sure Wufei would insist that he should ask nicely if he wants cooperation from us."

* * * * *

"They want you to say 'please'."

Krashnark stared at Torframos. "...What did you just say?"

"They want you to say 'please'," the Light god repeated. In the background, Korthrala was failing miserably to disguise his laughter as a cough. "Apparently they feel that Wufei would insist on the niceties being observed."

"If I say... 'please'..." Krashnark gritted out between clenched teeth, barely restraining his temper, "will they do as I s-- ask?"

"Probably," Torframos said cheerfully. "Almost certainly, in fact."

There was a long, ominous pause.

"Very well. Please."

* * * * *

=*He's asking nicely. He said 'please'. Grudgingly, but he did say it,*= Torframos reported. =*Are you satisfied?*=

"I think we'd better be," Uthmar chuckled. "Tell His Dark Godness we're on our way." Arwen just nodded enthusiastically, stunned by his own boldness.


"...Did he say 'thank you'?"

=*Let's not push things any further, all right? I think Krashnark has strained his pride more than enough for one day.*=

"Good point," Uthmar admitted. "In which case, you'd better not tell him that we would have gone after Wufei's body anyway, without him... ah... requesting it."

=*I wasn't planning on doing any such thing,*= Torframos assured him. =*Now get moving.*=

A rumbling noise from off to their left interrupted Uthmar and Arwen before they could reply as Nataku stood up, leaves and twigs falling from the nearest trees with the vibration of its first footsteps.

"Now there's a weight off our shoulders," Uthmar said, grinning up at Arwen and Cameron and seeing their relieved smiles. "I was beginning to worry that something else was going wrong for the poor lad, as if he hasn't had enough trouble... Let's get a move on!" he shouted, waving at the waiting armsmen. "We're supposed to be rescuing Sir Wufei and the others! It'll look a bit ungrateful if we make him rescue himself!"


Moving Nataku from within its computer systems was a far cry from sitting in the cockpit working the controls, as Wufei was quickly finding out. Even with his reflexes and the training he'd undergone, there was still a moment between him deciding on an action and his body actually doing it; and even with the best engineering, programming, and parts in the Solar System, there was always a tiny hesitation between his moving a control and the Gundam responding. Now Nataku was reacting immediately to his thoughts, and his first few steps were clumsy as he compensated for delays that weren't there any more.

Wonderful. None of the problems I was worrying about have happened, but a problem I never thought of has... well, that's normal, I suppose. Duo said it was one of the corollaries to Murphy's Law -- number fifty-three or so. "Of course you can't expect the fucking unexpected! That's the whole point of it being unexpected!"

Chuckling to himself at the memory, Wufei walked a few more steps, carefully staying clear of those on the ground. *At least it seems to be temporary; I'm already getting used to--*

"Wufei! Wufei, is that you? Are you all right?"


Eh? What was that?! ...A system check? I can hear Nataku's system checks? Weird... now, can I do something about answering Naiya, or am I going to be stuck making gestures?

A few moments' worth of poking around through the Gundam's minor electrical systems, something that Wufei visualised as feeling through bundles of wires until he 'touched' one that 'felt' right, and he was able to find the external speakers. Actually using them to make words instead of random staticky noises was a bit more difficult, but at least he could hear himself and work out what corrections needed to be made.

< < SSSSZZZZZSSZRK -- sssSSSsssszz -- ssssaAaAaA -- aaaaaa -- aaaah > >

"Is that Wufei or Nataku?" Naiya asked Uthmar, looking up at the Gundam with a worried expression. "Do you think everything's all right?"

< < aah -- ah -- mmmaaa -- mmmm -- me. It's me, > > Wufei managed, pronunciation still a little off, but understandable. --Oh, that's helpful! < < Wufei. > >

"Thank goodness," the hradani girl said with a relieved smile. "How did you get back here and into Nataku without anyone seeing you? And what was happening with the lightning and that dragon-thing? Did you do that somehow?"

< < Ah... sort of... > >

"I'll explain later," the dwarf said quickly, putting a restraining hand on her arm. "If you can lead us back to the temple, Wufei, that'll be quicker than if we have to search for it; the sooner we get your little problem sorted out, the better."

< < You know? > > Wufei asked, surprised.

"I know," Uthmar confirmed, and, surprisingly, grinned.

"What do you know?" Naiya asked in tones of deep suspicion.

"I know that Krashnark wants this taken care of so badly that he went asking favours of Torframos, that's what I know," he chuckled. "If I were your father, Wufei, I'd be asking questions about his intentions by now."

< < He is not after me for that! > > Wufei sputtered, nearly losing control of the speaker system in his indignation. An outburst of stifled laughter from the direction of the waiting armsmen confirmed that several of them had heard it, too, and he groaned inwardly. I'm never going to live this down...

"A Dark god asking favours from a Light god," Naiya said incredulously. "A Dark god is asking favours from a Light god?! Just what is this 'little problem' that he wants fixed? What's wrong?"

Uthmar eyed her for a moment, tipping his head back to meet her eyes, and apparently decided that answering the question would cause less problems than trying to evade it any longer. "The reason you didn't see Wufei get into Nataku was because he didn't, really," he told her bluntly. "His mind is here. His body is somewhere else."

"...Somewhere else," she said slowly, looking back and forth between him and the looming metal demon. "If Krashnark wants that fixed so badly, it's somewhere bad, right? And given where we are and what we're doing..."

"That's right," the dwarf Champion said, nodding as she put two and two together and came up with the right answer. "Before you say anything, no, you are still not coming with us."

Her mouth snapped shut.

< < Definitely not, > > Wufei agreed. < < My body and the others with me are safe for now, I think, but anyone going after us will not be. You may be stronger than any human woman, but you are still not a fighter. > >

"I did well enough in this fight!" she protested half-heartedly.

"Shooting a bow from behind a static defence," Uthmar pointed out, "and we didn't exactly have a choice about whether or not you were involved. We do now. You can do us a lot more good here, sitting on Gunnar to keep him from following us, than you can going with us! In a moving fight, we won't be able to spare anyone to protect you, and if we tried, we'd probably just get both you and them killed."

Naiya winced, closing her eyes for a moment, then sighed. "All right. I knew it was a stupid idea, anyway. Just... come back in one piece, please? Especially you!" she snapped with some of her usual vigour, waving a finger up at Wufei/Nataku. "Get back into one piece first, and then come back without spoiling it! You hear me?"

< < I hear you, > > he chuckled. < < You sound like Duo nagging Heero. Ninmu ryoukai. > >


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