see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Warriors + Chapter 28
In the Lion's
Their current assignments as
Milliardo Peacecraft's personal bodyguards were officially listed as honor
details, but Wufei wondered whom he and Sally had pissed off to get stuck
They'd left for Earth the next day and Peacecraft was quietly settled
in a large country house a few miles outside the Sanque capital. It stood
on a high, green cliff overlooking the sea, surrounded by elaborate gardens
and high walls. There was a swimming pool, and a riding stable, shooting
ranges, even a small movie theater. A very elegant and well-appointed
prison, it seemed to Wufei, noting the number of discreetly casual security
personnel inside and outside the gates. Or perhaps a well disguised insane
Relena had been there to welcome her brother home, but Peacecraft seemed
uncomfortable in her presence. He was quiet, and what little he said was
either a clipped command or some vague, sardonic observation that did
not always make sense to anyone else. She left the following day.
As Wufei escorted her to her shuttle, she clasped his arm, eyes filling
with unshead tears. "Please look after my brother and be patient with
him. He's not himself yet.
Wufei suspected it was more a matter of the ex-warrior and former White
Fang traitor not being who she wanted him to be. He doubted Peacecraft
ever would be, but Relena Peacecraft Darlian was a kind woman, and one
with a demonstrated ability to convince herself of anyone's higher nature,
no matter how slight the evidence.
Physically, Peacecraft had made a remarkable recovery from his injuries,
though it was clear he was not the man he once was. His throat had been
damaged in the explosion on Libra, and he could not speak much above a
husky whisper. If one looked closely, you could tell where large expanses
of skin had been regenerated, and that the left ear did not exactly match
the right one. And the pale, once-famous hair, which barely brushed his
collar now, was a bit finer on that side of his head. But he moved almost
normally, and despite refusing a prosthetic replacement for the missing
left arm, he worked out daily. Not strong enough to pilot a mobile suit
anymore, perhaps, but then there were no suits left for him to fly. As
a condition of his parole after the Libra incident, Relena had agreed
in his name that Milliardo Peacecraft, a.k.a the Lightning Count, would
never fight again.
Knowing what the man had been, Wufei wondered how often Milliardo Peacecraft
thought of suicide.
Despite his initial greeting that day on L-4, Peacecraft gave no sign
of knowing whom Wufei or Sally were, beyond their functions as his bodyguards.
Sally remained uncertain as to whether he was entirely sane. He went through
the motions well enough, rising early to swim and lift weights, dining
at regular hours, reading in the library or going out riding. The house
stables were stocked with the finest horses Wufei had ever seen, tall
thoroughbreds and graceful Arabians. This part of the job, at least, was
bearable. Sally was allergic to horses, so Wufei took those hours, leaving
her to sit through the long, silent meals.
They also alternated evenings, giving each other some much needed down
time. Wufei was on duty one evening, reading quietly in the library, when
Peacecraft addressed him directly for the first time in nearly a day.
"Do you play chess?"
Peacecraft rose and laid his book aside, obviously expecting Wufei to
join him at the chessboard by the fire. Wufei had little choice but to
comply. He drew the white pawn and made his opening move, glad to have
something to do.
They played the first game in silence, and Peacecraft won. Sane or not,
he played brilliantly, as daring and aggressive here as he had been on
the battlefield. Wufei had seen him fight Yuy in that last battle, and
heard stories from Barton about their earlier duels. This was the man
who'd mastered the Tall Geese, he reminded himself, and Epyon, too.
They played another, and Wufei put up a better fight before losing again.
He was setting the pieces up for a third match when he realized that Peacecraft
was looking at him, really looking at him, for the first time since they'd
"Treize Kushreneda was my friend, you know."
Wufei froze, hand poised above the white king. Had this assignment all
been some clever ploy for Peacecraft to exact revenge? They were alone
here, and though he knew the other man was unarmed, and probably no match
for him in hand-to-hand combat in his current state, he was much taller,
and an honored nobleman. If he attacked, the best Wufei could hope for
was to keep him from hurting either one of them too badly.
But no attack came. Wufei sat back slowly and met the man's gaze levelly.
"Yes, I know."
Those blue eyes were clear and lucid now, or seemed to be. Peacecraft
sat back in his tufted armchair, regarding him with that same slightly
amused air. He wore a long silk dressing gown over his trousers, the front
open to show an expanse of pale, too-smooth skin. He looked regal, like
the king he should have been.
"You think I'm angry at you, Chang Wufei?" He smiled, but those eyes were
cold. "I am a little, but not for the reason you probably assume."
"Perhaps you should not assume anything of me," Wufei shot back.
"Ah yes. That's right. You pride yourself on that forthright manner, don't
you? Then I will be equally straightforward with you. For most of my life
I worshipped Treize. He was my greatest friend, and my most demanding
teacher. To me, he represented everything that a warrior should be. Even
at the end of his life, I believe I understood his motivation."
Shocked as he was at such a confession from a stranger, Wufei was even
more shocked to hear himself blurt out, "I felt the same."
"Did you, little Chang?" This seemed to amuse Peacecraft.
Wufei scowled, trying to reclaim his dignity. "I fought many battles,
against many pilots. Only two were better than I. He was one of them,
until the end."
"The end, yes. I'm told you were heard weeping after you killed him."
Wufei blanched. It was true, but how did this man know that? "As I said,
I admired him greatly. He bested me once in a duel with swords, and spared
me when he should have taken my life. I had looked to him to give me a
"And instead, you did him that honor."
"No! It wasn't supposed to happen that way. He must have been wounded--"
"He asked that of me first, you know, to fight with him to the death.
He wanted to settle the war with a duel. A romantic to the end, Treize
was. I suppose I should be thanking you, for giving him what I could not."
"Why didn't you?" Wufei asked softly.
Peacecraft closed his eyes, and for an instant Wufei saw real pain in
that pale, handsome face. "I don't know. It wasn't cowardice, but something
worse perhaps. I was angry with him at the end, for not being the man
I wanted him to be." He stood abruptly and straightened his robe. "I'm
sorry, I didn't mean to discomfort you, only to make it clear that I have
neither the desire nor the right to seek revenge against you for my friend's
death. I am, in my own flawed way, still striving to be a man of honor.
Good night, Chang Wufei, Gundam Pilot 05."
He walked to the door leading to his bedchamber, then paused and turned
back. "You said there were two pilots whom you acknowledged as being better
than you. Since you and I never completed a conclusive duel, I assume
the other was the boy who calls himself Heero Yuy?"
The cool sardonic expression fell back into place. "He and I fought several
times. It always ended in a draw or an interruption. That's one of my
few regrets, that we never settled who was the better warrior. Then again,
I suppose that means I was still better than you, and by default, better
than Treize at the end. Why do I take no satisfaction in that, eh? Pleasant
Wufei sat in stunned silence for moment after the door of Peacecraft's
room closed, and then strode angrily to his room.
He didn't need this shit assignment.
As he changed for bed, he noticed an email prompt flashing on the screen
of his laptop, open on his desk. He opened his mail folder, expecting
some thing from Preventer headquarters, but instead recognized Quatre
Winner's address from the secure mail server Heero had set up for the
five of them two years ago. It was almost never used, except for emergencies
involving Maxwell, or cheery newsletters from Winner, who insisted on
keeping in contact every few months. He was in no mood for either sort,
but checked anyway. The last thing he'd gotten from any of them had been
the news of Heero's return.
He sighed and opened the email.
12 September 198
010:05 pm ST
Just wanted to remind you about the New Orleans show starting Oct. 30th.
I know you're probably still getting settled there in Sanque but do you
think you might be able to get the time off? I can guarantee you the best
seat in the house, and Tro's renting a house in the French Quarter for
a month. You're welcome to stay with us as long as you like. We'd really
like to see you again, and for something fun, instead of the usual emergency.
Duo and Heero will be with us, too, but I promise you a quiet room this
time! Sorry about all that before. Totally our fault.
Things were relatively calm in Madrid after you left. Heero and Duo are
doing well together and are off for some time alone, location on a need
to know basis. You can reach them via the usual email addresses. Heero's
is the same as it was. I know you're uncomfortable about certain things,
but I hope you can come to accept it. I know it would mean a lot to both
of them, especially Heero. You know how much he respects you, right?
Anyway, it was great seeing you and everyone really appreciates all you
did. I was glad to learn that Meir decided not to press charges.
Please say you'll come to New Orleans? The shows are going to be really
Wufei sighed and started to delete the message, then changed his mind.
He could at least do Winner the courtesy of a reply, perhaps even make
an attempt at a bit of news. He owed him that much, he supposed.
But right now he was too tired and too rattled by Peacecraft's snide parting
shot to make nice about turning down the invitation, or about-- that other
business. The very mention of Yuy and Maxwell brought up certain mental
images he had no wish to revisit, now or ever.
He saved the message for later, then reached under his bed for the locked
strongbox and the instant respite it held.
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