Demon of Justice + Chapter 8 (cont)
Hero Worship

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Abruptly released from his paralysis, Uthmar staggered forwards half a step and then caught himself, glaring briefly upwards. I'm going to have to 'discuss' that with Torframos, he thought privately. Very seriously. But not right now.

The small demon dropped the last pieces of his destroyed staff and turned to face the dwarf, ignoring the limp half-elf lying in his self-made puddle. Now he was sweating and breathing heavily, Uthmar noted, as he crossed his arms arrogantly across his chest and glared.

"You want fight now?" he snapped. "I here."

"No no no no no!" Jarad yelled, running out of the crowd again to stand in front of Wufei, arms held out to the sides as he glared at the Champion. "Wufei's nice! You're not allowed to hurt him! You leave him alone or I'll hit you!" Looking around for a weapon, he snatched up the biggest piece of Wufei's staff and brandished it at Uthmar; then he yelped comically and juggled the hot stick in his hands, blowing on his fingers.

"Yeah!" "Leave 'im alone!" "Go 'way!" "Bad mans!" "Leggo, Ma, I wanna help!" More children ran into the square and stood ready to defend their friend, including one very small girl who crawled up behind Uthmar and started hitting him in the knee with her straw doll. He scooped her up and held her out at arms' length, looking at her rather helplessly; she glared at him as only a tiny child can glare, then stuck out her bottom lip and pouted, starting to sniffle. He was incredibly relieved when the child's mother ran up and took her from him with an embarrassed apology.

When Uthmar looked back at the demon, he was sputtering something at the children in an unfamiliar, musical language; they ignored him, jumping up and down and yelling at Uthmar's men. Rami ran out of the crowd and clutched at Wufei's arm, tugging ineffectually.

"Wufei, run away!" she begged hysterically. "Go get Nataku and run away! We'll keep them here until you get far enough away to be safe. You've got to go, I couldn't stand it if you were killed!"

"Onna!" he yelped, then looked around for assistance. "Naiya~!"

Uthmar watched in disbelief as the formerly tense scene degenerated into utter chaos. Children were shrieking and running everywhere, parents grabbing frantically to pull them out of harm's way but afraid to step into the middle themselves. One man got hold of a boy but let go when he saw the child wasn't his; as the boy vanished back into the mess, his mother came up behind the man and smacked him across the back of the head. In the middle of it all, as Naiya pulled the weeping Rami away, the demon Wufei looked around in bewilderment, then looked over at Uthmar and held up a finger as if to say 'Wait, please'; then he started picking up children by their smocks and putting them behind him.

Torframos started chuckling in the back of Uthmar's head as the children just ran back to their previous positions while Wufei was distracted by his next handful. Even though he was seriously irritated with his god, Uthmar couldn't help joining in as Wufei picked Jarad up for the second time and did a double-take, then scowled at the unrepentant child. The boy grinned lopsidedly at him past the bruise forming on his cheek, dangling like a kitten.

"Your," Wufei said sourly, holding Jarad out at arms' length towards his parents.

After that, he had rather more success clearing the mess, handing children over to their parents as he caught them; Uthmar noted with interest that he matched them up without hesitation and didn't make a single mistake. None of the children seemed at all afraid of him, either... not that Uthmar had really expected them to, after the way they'd rushed in to defend him.

Once all the children were safely out of the way, Wufei shot one last suspicious look around, then turned back towards the dwarf Champion, blowing out an irritated breath.

"Now fight?"

"No, no," Uthmar said hurriedly, holding up empty hands. "'Now talk', I think."

Wufei eyed him for a second, then nodded. "Next, talk," he amended. "Now, girl hurt, help."

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Thankfully, the girl wasn't as badly hurt as Uthmar had feared. It had been a weak shot as well as a sloppy one; the arrow had gashed her arm and become tangled in her sleeve, doing some muscle damage but not enough to harm her permanently. One of the village women cleaned, stitched and poulticed the wound with the help of one of Uthmar's men. The child woke up halfway through and began crying, but Wufei brought a compartmented metal box out of its hiding place and convinced her to swallow a tiny spoonful of something syrupy; soon afterwards, she was yawning sleepily in her mother's lap and feeling no pain.

Watching all this, Uthmar scowled. Torframos?

=*Yes?*=

Just what in the name of Krahana's hells did you think you were doing?! That girl could have been killed, or crippled! As it is, she'll be scarred for life, and I can't heal her because I never met her before today. If you hadn't stopped me, I could have knocked the arrow out of the air!

=*We needed to know his true nature. How he would react.*=

And for that you were willing to risk the death of an innocent?!

=*No-one was killed, or even badly hurt. I would not have kept you from acting if it would have caused a death.*=

Uthmar stiffened. So... you knew no-one would be killed?

=*Yes,*= Torframos replied.

Then you knew she would be hurt.

=*...Yes.*=

Uthmar blocked his god out of his mind and stalked off to see how badly hurt Yithar's armsmen were.

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Wufei closed the first-aid box and took a deep breath, then stood up and turned to Derrin.

"I sorry."

"Eh... what?"

Wufei gestured at Derrin's youngest daughter, falling asleep on her mother's lap as the morphine took effect. "I sorry. My..." He struggled to remember the word for 'fault', couldn't, and substituted. "Bad. I very sorry." He bowed deeply, switching to Chinese. "<I humbly apologise for the harm my carelessness has caused.>"

The dwarf who'd been helping treat the child's wound stared incredulously at him as Derrin sputtered denials. "No... wait... stand up! Please!" Reluctantly, Wufei straightened up, and Derrin grabbed his hand. "Not you. Him," he said emphatically, pointing at the armsman who had fired the arrow.

"But--"

"Not you!"

Wufei sighed and bowed again, abandoning the attempt to apologise. He still felt guilty. First this family's eldest child had been sacrificed to summon him into this world, and now they had nearly lost the youngest to an arrow aimed at him. True, he hadn't been in control of either event... but he had been centrally involved in both events, and that was enough.

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Uthmar scowled down at the last of Yithar's armsmen, the one who'd used the bow. The other three were only bruised and shaken, and were already coming around; Yithar was still out cold, but his worst injury was a broken nose (and a severely damaged pride, no doubt). This one, on the other hand...

"Well?" he asked.

Cameron, one of his scouts, looked up and shook his head. "He'll live, if nothing goes badly wrong with his healing, but I doubt he'll use a bow again. Half the bones in his left hand and arm are shattered, his right shoulderblade and a few ribs are broken, and I think he's got a cracked skull. He's damn lucky his back's not broken!"

Eyeing the spiderweb of cracks radiating from where the man's shoulders had hit the wall, plaster flaking off to reveal the thick logs beneath, Uthmar nodded in agreement. "I can't say I feel sorry for him," he growled.

"You could argue both ways, Sir," Cameron said mildly as he started to straighten the broken arm. "He was shooting at a demon, after all, and on the orders of his lord... but I have to admit I agree with you."

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"Exactly how big did you say this other demon is?" Uthmar said incredulously.

"See that tree over there?" Royce pointed to a tall pine that stood out from among the others at the forest's edge. "He's half a head taller than it."

"And it looks man-shaped? Wearing armour?"

There were nods all around the table. As many people as could fit had crowded around the table that stood outside Gwent's tavern, and more stood nearby, listening.

"For the fourth time, yes, m'lord Champion," Royce said dryly.

Uthmar flushed. "My apologies, Goodman. It's just that... well, all the demons I've ever seen or heard of are completely different from these two. They're not shaped like people -- of whatever size -- they don't wear armour, they don't use weapons, and to a Champion they positively reek of their own power and the power of whichever god helped summon them. Wufei here certainly has power, but I can't feel a thing from him. I hardly felt a tickle even when he was using it in the fight!" He thought for a second, combing his fingers through his beard. "At least that explains why I couldn't tell what power had burned the canyon clean... Also, from what I've heard, demons either can't talk at all or they arrive already knowing the language of their summoner. They don't have to learn it."

"I said I thought the priest got Wufei and Nataku by accident," Naiya muttered.

Jarad popped up beside Wufei and tugged at his elbow, grinning. His curly brown hair had been scraped back into a tail and he was wearing his black smock again, from which the sleeves had been raggedly removed. Once he was sure he had Wufei's attention, he stepped back and bowed. "Ni-hao-ma!"

Wufei raised an eyebrow. "Good day," he replied, bowing back solemnly.

"Jarad, what have you done to your smock?!" his mother exclaimed, swooping down upon him.

"Ma, it's s'posed to look like Wufei's! And look, I can do this too!" With the tip of his tongue sticking out as he frowned in concentration, Jarad carefully moved through the first one-and-a-half patterns of Wufei's morning Tai Chi exercises. "Did I get it right? Huh?"

Both of the demon's eyebrows shot up towards his hairline this time, but he controlled the look of surprise and nodded approvingly, clapping.

"How do you balance when you're doing that long stretchy bit?" Jarad asked eagerly. "I always wobble when I try--"

"Not now, Jarad," his mother said firmly, taking his hand and pulling him away. "You can ask Sir Wufei later, if he doesn't mind."

"But, Ma--"

"'Sir' Wufei?" Uthmar asked when the chuckles had died down.

Royce shrugged. "We've no way yet to ask him if he's a knight or a lord. Some people figure that he acts like one or the other a lot of the time, so why not call him 'sir'?" He shot a sideways glance towards Rami and Naiya, then continued, "Not to mention that some of the lasses have been heard to say that someone so brave and chivalrous must be a knight. Saving innocent village maidens because he was smitten with love at the first sight of one lass's furry ears, things like that--"

"ROYCE!" Naiya shrieked, leaping to her feet. "Don't you dare -- how could you -- it's nothing like that!"

Uthmar hid a grin behind one hand as he watched Wufei blink confusedly at the sudden uproar.

"But, Naiya--" Rami started, voice rising over the howls of laughter.

"Don't you start! It was you who came up with that ridiculous story in the first place! Father, stop laughing! It's not funny!"

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