AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 5
Many Forms of Cowardice

Wufei opened his eyes and blinked in confusion.

Why am I sleeping in a cupboard? Sitting up, he looked around. Admittedly, it's a very comfortable cupboard...

It was a very large cupboard, too, with a thick featherbed, pillows and warm quilts in it, all scaled for someone considerably bigger than him; for a moment, Wufei felt like a small child tucked into an adult bed. Shifting quietly to the side, where light shone in through the slightly open doors, Wufei pushed one further open and peered out.

Warm afternoon sunlight streamed into the room through an unshuttered window -- along with a gentle breeze, since there was no glass to block it. A low-burning fire, rag rugs on the wood floor, white plastered walls with faint smoke stains above the fireplace and between the heavy beams supporting the high ceiling. Bundles of dried herbs and several joints of smoked meat dangled from the beams above a heavy wooden table and chairs.

He frowned, pushing the door completely open and swinging his legs out. There was something... off... about the room... Then he realised.

Of course! This is their house -- Naiya and... Cord, that's it. Everything is sized for them, and he's nearly eight feet tall, if my memory isn't playing tricks on me...

Wufei frowned again, remembering other tricks his mind had played recently, and rubbed one hand across his chest as phantom pain seemed to twinge there for a second.

This is ridiculous! I'm not wounded there! It's not as if I don't have real injuries to care for.

Still, he found his fingers tracing out invisible outlines. One small puncture just below his left ribs; two more just below and to the right of his left nipple; one in the hollow above his right collarbone, covered by the bruise left by his seat harness but not hidden by it. A similar scatter ran across the middle of his back, with one especially sharp pain over his left kidney. Somehow, the phantom wounds felt more real, at that moment, than the cuts and bruises he could see on his arms--

Wufei froze, staring at his arms. Those cuts and bruises were nearly healed. Pale greenish-yellow smudges were all that was left of some of them; the huge bruise on his shoulder was still purple and black in the centre, but the edges were blurred and fading. Dry scabs were flaking away from the minor cuts, leaving behind only faint red welts.

What-- how-- how long did I sleep?!

He scrambled to pull off the hard leather bracer on his left wrist, staring at the flat watch hidden underneath.

...only ten hours?

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Naiya pegged her dress onto the line (bloodstains finally scrubbed and soaked out), and leaned backwards, hands in the small of her back, stretching out the kinks that leaning over the washing copper always left behind. Straightening up again, she nearly dislocated her jaw with a huge yawn.

Oooh... tea. I definitely need tea. And Wufei could be awake; he might like some tea too, and perhaps he'll let me see to those cuts? Not that I know what to put on a demon's wounds, but surely cleaning them wouldn't do any harm...

Walking into the main room of the oversized cottage, she found him sitting on the edge of her father's bed, peering at his arm.

"Good afternoon! Are you hungry? Eat? Would you like some tea?" He jumped and stared at her, wide-eyed, before recovering his usual poise; she smiled. "Sorry... didn't mean to startle you." Turning away, she swung the hanging kettle over the fire and began to make tea.

He's got to learn to speak to us; now's as good a time as any."Wufei?" She beckoned him over and started pointing to things. "Table. Chair. Kettle. Fire. And tea!" She grinned as she set a mug down in front of him; then she looked at his arm, surprised. "Eh... well now, I see why you didn't mind those cuts... I guess I don't need to do anything for them, hey?"

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After a quick breakfast -- or dinner, perhaps, considering the time -- Naiya managed to explain with gestures and a few words that this house only had two of the cupboard-beds, hers and Cord's, and she was going to fetch a third bed for Wufei. After she left, he decided to fetch his spare clothes from Nataku and check what damage the battle had caused.

Settling into the seat and bringing up the diagnostic programs, he was relieved to see that although there was a lot of cosmetic damage to Nataku's armour, only a few attacks had actually penetrated to affect the internal systems. There were a few systems failures elsewhere, caused when the heavy pounding actually managed to shake units loose, but most of that would just need connections fixed and systems recalibrated; and wonder of wonders, he actually had spares for all the damaged sensors!

Settling back, he called up a report.

ARMOUR 89%
SENSORS 73%
MOBILITY 97%
AMMUNITION 47%
**RESUPPLY**

"I would if I could," Wufei muttered.

WEAPONS 93%
COMPUTERS 98%
- HARDWARE 96%
- SOFTWARE 100%
NAVIGATION 20%
**NO BEACONS FOUND**
**NO LANDMARKS RECOGNISED**
**PLEASE INPUT LOCAL MAPS**

He snorted. "I wish!"

After the text report, a rotating line drawing of Nataku popped up, red highlights showing where armour had been breached and systems damaged.

Let's see... one breach in the lower left torso, two left upper torso, one on the right shoulder... a diagonal line of minor damage across the back, with one major breach low on the left...

Wufei's eyes widened, seeing the exact pattern of his phantom injuries repeated in Nataku's damage.

I'm... feeling where Nataku is hurt?! How?! Did-- did that energy in the tunnel cause this? Does it have anything to do with the way my wounds healed?

He reached out, hands trembling, and shut off the display.

No. I don't have time for this. I, I have to learn enough of the language to find out what's going on, I have to look for a way to get home, I have to find out what happened to the others -- I don't have time for a, a, a weird metaphysical link to my Gundam!

Though... I always felt that perhaps Meiran's spirit...

If... if I fix the damage and the pain goes away... I'll think about it then. Not now.

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Over the next couple of days, the demon Wufei picked up a surprising number of words and started trying for short sentences. (More often than not, the results were confusing; but he made progress.) The villagers quickly accepted him as a friend, if not exactly 'one of us'; Nataku was another matter, huge and frightening as he was, but all he seemed to do was sleep while Wufei mended things under his armour. After a couple more 'conversations', Wufei managed to get across that Nataku wasn't going to need food ever, and that soothed the major fears. ("No eat! No eat today. No next day. Next, next, next, no eat! Wakatta?") Dena's family were uncomfortable with him, but accepted that it wasn't his fault she had died; and he had avenged her death.

Of course, Rami had to complicate matters.

"Mana... what on earth gave you that idea?" Naiya asked, exasperated.

The other girl shrugged. "It's what Rami said. I take it you disagree?"

"Absolutely!"

"Well... he does stare at you a lot."

"Wufei is fascinated by my ears. He stares at my father, too! It does not mean he's in love with me!"

Mana was struggling to suppress a smile. "You have to admit," she said as seriously as she could, "it does provide an explanation of why he saved your lives. Rami thinks it's romantic! Love at first sight. Exotically handsome demon knight saves village maidens..."

"GAH! Rami needs to stop listening to bad travelling minstrels!"

The villagers also knew that they had to prepare for visitors; the sort of magic that summoned demons could be felt a long way away. Somehow, they had to explain this to Wufei. Surprisingly enough, it was Rami who came up with the idea of how to do it; and since nobody could think of a better one...

"Is everybody ready? Everyone know what they have to do?"

"Yep!"

"Right then!" Royce rubbed his hands together and turned to Wufei. "If you'll just sit here... sir... we've got something to show you."

Naiya, Cord and one of the village children stepped out. The child was wearing a black short smock tucked into his brother's white Festival tunic, and giggling; Cord had a 'breastplate' that had once been part of a large iron stove.

Naiya pointed at Cord. "Nataku!" Then at the child. "Wufei!" Looking anxiously at the real Wufei to see if he seemed confused -- or worse, offended -- she was relieved when he nodded, one hand creeping up to cover his mouth and a suspicious sparkle in his eyes.

Cord sat down and pretended to go to sleep, while the child paced back and forth in front of him. Jarad had been watching the fascinating demon whenever he could get away from his chores, had even helped with some of his language lessons, and knew just how to act. Standing arrogantly, he raised one eyebrow. "Hai! Wakatta? Yare yare." He shook his head, pulled a rag out of his waistband, and started polishing Cord's leg. A sound suspiciously like a snicker came from behind Wufei's hand.

Terrin ran into the square, pointed dramatically behind him, and yelled, "Lord Yithar!"

Immediately, Jarad yelped and started poking at Cord, who snorted awake and got up; the boy ran around behind him and pushed him over to the corner of the square, where he sat down again. Jarad sat on Cord's knee and fiercely 'shhhhhh'ed him, then two of the village women ran across and held up a blanket by the corners, hiding them from view.

A small parade made their way into the square. Manten was in the lead (wearing his finest clothes and half the jewellery Naiya and Rami had looted from the priest's baggage), followed by Derrin (wrapped in a sheet and wearing the rest of it). Half a dozen villagers marched after them, carrying various weapons and sneering arrogantly. The rest of the villagers, led by Royce, bowed and curtseyed.

Wufei's eyes narrowed as the pantomime continued. 'Lord Yithar' and Derrin were clearly asking all the villagers a question, and being met with denials.

They keep saying 'krechak', and then the villagers say 'no'. I know that word... Naiya uses it for both Nataku and I. 'Bakemono' or 'demon', perhaps? So... they are looking for demons, and the villagers are hiding us...

Suddenly, one of the women holding the blanket dropped it.

'Lord Yithar' screamed and ran away; the 'soldiers' shouted, ran forward and attacked Jarad. Cord jumped up and moved forwards, fists raised, but Derrin waved his hands, chanted and pretended to throw something, and Cord collapsed. Then the 'soldiers' turned and ran after the fleeing villagers, weapons swinging--

Ah. That was... clear enough. If we're found here, everybody dies. Wufei nodded to Naiya as she turned to him with a questioning look. "Yes. Understand."

It didn't take him long to get across the idea of he and Nataku leaving, but it was met with quick refusal; the villagers pantomimed them leaving, the searchers coming and leaving empty-handed, then Wufei and Nataku returning to a happy welcome. Wufei almost blushed; then he concentrated on asking 'where can we hide?'

That was a little harder to pantomime, especially when it came to explaining the sorts of places that would work. Finally, a thought occurred to Wufei, and he swore. Why the hell didn't I think of that before?

Stalking over to Nataku, he clambered into the cockpit and dug into one of the storage compartments, coming back with a large flat wooden box and a sketchpad. Sitting down, he flicked to a clean page, took a soft black pencil from the ranks in the box, and started drawing.

Wufei was an excellent artist, and the villagers exclaimed in delight as quick strokes brought different scenes to life. Nataku sitting against the wall of a canyon with Wufei tending a small campfire, as searchers scratched their heads on the other side of a rockslide that had blocked it off; bubbles on the surface of a lake, with Nataku's silhouette dimly visible underwater; Nataku's feet and glowing eyes in a cave...

Terrin leaned forwards and tapped that picture. "There's a good, big cave in the Spinewall," he said, "a ways along from the canyons. It might be a bit of a tight squeeze, but I'm pretty sure Nataku will fit; and the entrance is in a sort of fold of rock, so you can't see it unless you get right up to it."

"Wouldn't the canyons work?" Naiya asked. "They go on for miles!"

Terrin shook his head. "We'd never be able to hide Nataku's tracks; the rocks are soft and there's loose stones all over the ground that he'd crush. Besides, they'll search the canyons. They'll have a mage or a Champion with them to take care of Sharna's priest, and they'll surely be able to tell that's where the summoning happened.

"What if they can sense Wufei and Nataku?" Rami asked.

"We hope they get away."

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[cont]