The Blood of Peace
Second Movement, the Sixth Part: Sotto Voce
Quatre took a final look around his small room and made sure that there was nothing left of him. He had to leave tonight, somehow make that week's journey up to Earthian and warn the king. Earlier, while Quatre was eating his lunch with the other infantrymen, Treize himself had come out of his castle to announce that they would be invading Earthian. He had already sent out orders to the vanguard to start marching. In fact, as he was eating his lunch, the army was on the march! Quatre had nearly upended his stew onto his lap when he had heard.
Treize had never intended to invade Sanque with the army. He had his eyes on Earthian always and Sanque was just a cute little diversion. So here he was now, looking at his empty and spotless room, plotting a way to get out of this palace without getting caught. He was sure that Duo and Heero had already made their way out of their positions even though it was not Fourth Moon just yet. After all, their mission had them in the vanguard infantry nearest to Sanque and Earthian. They probably were on their way to Earthian at this moment, ahead of that army. WuFei would have done the same. So now he and Trowa had to get out of here and head back home to prepare for this ridiculous war.
Quietly, Quatre left his room and made his way down to Trowa's room in the east section of the palace. Ever since his reposting, Trowa had been hard to see. Lady Une always had him near, talking to him, making him report things, or whatever else she felt like Trowa should be doing that day. He had become the leader of the elite, closest to Lady Une and the princess. It was too bad that Trowa had to abandon such a strategic post, but the plans had changed so dramatically. They needed to return.
Sneaking past the guards with ease, Quatre did a final sweep around the hallway before entering Trowa's room. When the door clicked shut behind him, Quatre let go of that breath he had been holding. Then he realized that he did not sense Trowa in the room at all. The candle was lit but no one was here. Puzzled, Quatre sat down on the bed and waited for Trowa. It was nearly the middle of the night and Trowa was not here. So, what could his love be doing at this hour, running another useless errand for Lady Une?
Suddenly, the door opened. Quatre, who had just moments before sensed other people in the hallway, had just barely made the precarious dive to the dark corner of the room to hide. If it wasn't Trowa, he would have had a hard time explaining why he was here in the middle of the night. It was a good thing that he dove for cover because Trowa entered with Lady Une right behind him.
Quatre sensed that Trowa was nervous and that the Lady was feeling coldly content. Quatre wondered if Trowa had been discovered. That could explain the feelings he was receiving from the two of them. If that was the case, then he would have to help Trowa out. But first, he would listen and feel.
"Trowa Barton, I again commend you on your exceptional abilities. You quite impressed the princess Mariemeia when you saved her from that assassin."
"Thank you, Lady. I was only doing my duty."
Assassination against the princess? Quatre was bewildered by that piece of information. He had heard nothing about that and assassination attempts were the type of gossip that would fly swiftly. And Trowa had saved her.
"Yes, duty is like loyalty, strong in bond and secure in faith. I knew I was right to have chosen you for leader. Dermeil will now have to accept that I can make better choices about men than he can."
"What do you mean, Lady?" Trowa's voice was hollow and betrayed no emotion. It sounded like he wasn't even curious but just asking for the sake of being polite.
"What I mean? Well, just before your shift ended, I got a carrier hawk message from Dermeil. It was addressed to Treize-sama, but I read it first. It seems that two members of his bodyguard squadron disappeared last night. Some girl named Meiran and a stiff necked boy named WuFei. He chose two spies from Earthian to be in his squadron. He is a stupid and vain man." Lady Une smiled smugly at Dermeil's failure. She really did dislike that old man.
Quatre nearly sighed in relief. Trowa had not been found out. And WuFei had made it out of the camp safely and was on his way to Earthian. But who was this Meiran girl Une was talking about? They hadn't sent anyone else into Oz.
"Anyway, Trowa Barton, good job today. Get some rest."
Lady Une left the room and Trowa stood there staring at the shut door for some time. Then he looked over to the dark corner and spoke.
"Quatre, you can come out now. I don't think she'll come back. Although I did nearly have a heart attack when I realized you were in here."
Quatre got up and walked over to Trowa. No wonder Trowa had been nervous – he probably had been worried that he would be discovered by Une. Smiling, Quatre put his arms around his beloved and held the taller boy gently. It had been too long since they had been able to do this.
"Trowa, we have to leave tonight. You must have heard about the attack on Earthian. We need to get back before all hell breaks loose without us."
Quatre looked up at his love, shock written all over his face. Did Trowa just say he couldn't return? Smothering his shock as best as possible, Quatre tried again.
"I know it isn't the Fourth Moon just yet, but the situation is so different now! We have to return and help Heero. That's what we do, Trowa."
"I know Quatre. And I won't be returning with the Fourth Moon either."
The shock was definitely palpable now. Quatre could not believe what he was hearing. They had promised Heero that they would all return with the Fourth Moon no matter what, no exceptions. Now Trowa was telling him that he would break that promise. Quatre stepped away from Trowa and reached out with his mind. He felt Trowa's sorrow and regret, but most of all, he felt a strong sense of determination. He meant it. He was staying behind. But why?
Trowa saw Quatre's question in his aqua eyes. But he had only one thing to say to him.
"I love you Quatre. Never forget."
Quatre could not stand any longer. He sat heavily on the bed and looked at Trowa as if he was seeing him for the first time.
"Quatre, you don't have to try to understand. Leave tonight, go back to our brothers. I'll cover your tracks so you won't be discovered. Tell Heero that I'm fine, that I only break the promise because it is necessary. Tell him I do this in my capacity as the Master of the Whispers."
Quatre barely heard Trowa's words. Of course he did not understand what Trowa was doing. This turn of events was unacceptable.
"Why are you doing this Trowa? Tell me what you're planning."
Trowa looked down at his love and squashed his need to tell him everything. It wasn't a matter of trust, but a matter of duty that he had to keep this part of the plan to himself.
"I will tell you later. I swear."
And before Quatre could recover from the shock, Trowa grabbed him by his arm and led him out of his room. Wordlessly, Quatre allowed himself to be half dragged by Trowa to a part of the palace that he had not known about. Here, Trowa opened a secret door behind an elaborate tapestry and they walked the dark path together. The silence was absolute and the darkness complete. And Quatre only sensed determination in Trowa now. When they opened the door at the end of the hallway, Quatre saw that they were out in a courtyard, not very far from the west exit of the palace. It looked nearly deserted here.
"Quatre, get out through the west exit. You have to tell Heero something for me. Tell him that-"
Before Trowa could finish, a unit of ten men doing nightly patrol came around the corner and saw them. Before they could raise a cry or even ask them a question about their presence in this courtyard, Trowa had whipped out Heavyarms and thrown. The weapon flew through the air and neatly decapitated four men, two on the way and two on the way back. Then before the shock could wear off, Quatre ran towards them with Sandrock in his hands. Downward slash with his right, a sideways swipe with his left, then cross swing of his blades downed three men within a blink of an eye. They didn't even have time to draw their weapons. The remaining three barely got their weapons out before Quatre and Trowa fell on them and then they were nothing but corpses. Wiping Sandrock's blades clean, Quatre turned to Trowa and asked him, "What did you want me to tell Heero, Trowa?"
Trowa sighed with relief. In his voice, there was trust, a quiet acceptance and love.
"Tell Heero that sometimes, betrayal is the purest form of trust."
Quatre did not understand. But he trusted Trowa. The message would reach Heero.
"I will see you later Trowa. Take care of yourself."
With that, Quatre ran towards the west exit without looking back. Trowa watched him go, feeling the sorrow at his leaving but happy that Quatre would reach Earthian and his brothers in one piece. When his duties here ended, Quatre and his brothers may not trust him anymore but brand him traitor. But he had to do this for the good of Earthian and Heero. When Quatre could not be seen anymore, Trowa went to work to clean up the bodies and the blood. It would be unsightly and highly suspicious to leave them here.
Milliardo found it highly annoying that he had been summoned in the middle of the night. A short while ago, a messenger had knocked on his door to tell him that Treize was ready to see him in a private setting. Finally. After reassuring a sleepy but alert Noin, he had put on his robe and slipped out of bed. Now he was following the messenger to Treize's private quarters feeling tired, irritable and insulted. What kind of a host woke his guests up in the middle of the night for a private conference? It was indecent. When he entered the room he had been directed to, Treize was sitting in a comfortable chair in full emperor regalia. He had his white cape and blue surcoat on like he was about to go to a ceremony. The man apparently did not sleep at night.
"I'm sorry to have woken you up in the middle of the night, Ambassador. I hope you are not too upset with me? I just don't have enough time during the day for any kind of private audience. Please, sit."
Courtesy would have to be paid back in kind. Milliardo sat across from the Emperor and looked at him. He looked remarkably fresh and awake in the middle of the night. His light brown hair was combed back and his blue eyes showed no hint of fatigue. Milliardo, on the other hand, had on a robe and his long hair could use a brush.
"Thank you for finally seeing me. I understand that you're busy. If we could get down to business and talk about this war.. I heard today that you launched an offensive against Earthian yesterday."
"Ah, yes. News does travel fast around the palace, does it not? I ordered the army up north to march. The actual fighting probably won't take place for another week or two, depending on the weather, really."
Milliardo was speechless. Here they were, talking about something as serious as war as if they were talking about a tea party. Treize sounded so casual about sending half a million people into war against Earthian's fabled warrior army.
"You sound awfully cheerful about this war, Treize. Why did you make my sister worry herself to death when you intended to attack Earthian all along?"
"Misinformation is the best way to catch your enemy off guard. I'm sure the Earthians are having a hard time coming up with a counteroffensive this late in the date."
Brilliant strategy. But that did not excuse using Sanque as a convenient pawn in his game of war. Milliardo actually felt offended that Treize had only considered Sanque as an enemy to throw off the real enemy. So he sat there and wondered if he should be relieved that Sanque was safe or angry that Treize thought of them so lightly.
"I see you are torn between relief and anger, Ambassador. Don't be so worried. I also plan on conquering Sanque, just not with my armies."
Milliardo felt his blood pressure rise. That arrogant bastard had just said he would conquer Sanque. He was mocking his country and his sister with statements like that. And no one messed with him or his family.
"Are you saying Sanque is weak? We're not worth your time?"
Treize smiled. The conversation was going the way he had planned. Milliardo looked absolutely insulted and he would be ready for the lesson.
"I do not think your kingdom weak. Your nation is a strong one. It just can't be conquered with soldiers, that's all. Every enemy is different. I considered Sanque as much as Earthian."
"Fine, then, Treize. Stop mocking me and tell me your objective. What are you planning?"
Milliardo did not expect Treize to confide in him. After all, only a complete fool or an arrogant idiot would tell of his plans before they were actualized. He had only asked to get it off his mind. Which was why he was so surprised when Treize answered.
"I plan to reunite the people of Space. We were once one people, proud in our traditions, strong in our beliefs. Now we're three disparate nations vying for dominance, whether through military aggression or peace negotiations. The three nations are always clashing. True peace must be achieved and a war is the first step to such a peace. Don't you agree?"
"I agree with true peace, but not the way you put it. Peace is easily achieved without war."
"Yes, but how much does anyone appreciate something that is easy?"
Milliardo had no answer to that. He felt like he had fallen into a trap but he could not see its walls or smell its stench. But it was a trap, he was sure. He pondered about his situation and how to get himself out of it when Treize decided to continue. His mellifluous voice wrapped itself around Milliardo, compelling him to listen.
"Ambassador, let me tell you something about war and peace. They are really a paradox couple. One cannot exist without the other. But there are those who preach peace without ever knowing war and there are those who fight in wars without ever achieving peace. That should not be. To be complete as humans, we must know both. In this age, I think we have forgotten what war is like. That is why I'm waging war against the entire continent."
Milliardo looked at Treize, disdain shining out of his eyes.
"So, Treize, are you saying you waged this war out of philosophical need?"
"No, Ambassador. I'm doing this for everyone in Space. I'm doing this for my daughter. I'm doing this to strengthen people."
"How humane of you." The sarcasm dripped from Milliardo's voice. He could not believe he was hearing this. Of all things he had expected (I-want-to-take-over-the-world syndrome being one), he had not expected Treize to tell him that this war was for the good of people. He was one twisted man.
"I see that you do not yet see my point, Ambassador. Let me clarify. Think of people as steel. Everyone is unformed steel when they are first born and it is up to the leaders to make them into swords. You know how you make a sword from a lump of iron? You heat it to pound it into shape, then you dunk it into cold water so that it may hold that shape. The process repeats many times then you have an exceptionally strong and useful sword. People are like that. The fires of war will shape them and the cooling peace will make them whole. Without knowing both, one cannot be formed completely. Do you see my point?"
The analogy was poetic and beautiful. However, people were not meant to be romanticized to the point where they were nothing but swords.
"Treize, I see that you think war and peace are different sides of the same coin. I understand. However, how can anything be achieved with death and misery? Was Oz not prospering? Weren't we all just fine before you set this in motion? You are allowed ideals, but not when it destroys others."
Having said his piece, Milliardo stood up from his seat and walked toward the door without waiting for Treize to excuse him. Treize and his hospitality be damned, he had to leave before he lost his composure and yelled at this strangely idealistic emperor. As he reached for the door handle, Treize's voice stopped him.
"Yes, people are not swords. But think on this, Ambassador of Peace. Do you truly understand peace? Can you say that what you believe in, this absolute pacifism, is possible without absolute war to contrast it?"
Without answering, Milliardo left the room. He was angry, bitterly angry. If given the time, Treize may be able to convince him that this war was right. If he stayed any longer, he may fight with a sword in his hand and murder in his heart. He had to leave, go back to Sanque. His sister was waiting for him.