The Blood of Peace
Third Movement, the Sixth Part: Memories and Morrow in Largo
Tracking was not his specialty. He stalked, he shadowed. He did not track well. Which was the main reason why Duo was wandering the forests by the River of the Heroes looking for Heero. He had taken off a short time after Heero last night, hoping to keep tabs on him and protect his back when needed but he had gotten way ahead of him. So he had to track and it was not his best skill. So Duo wandered around, looking for signs of Heero. It was already morning and he had not found a single trace of his love. If Heero found out about this, he would make fun of him for the rest of his life. Not a pleasant prospect. Then Duo heard noises in the woods. Oz soldiers. Duo quickly climbed a tree and hid in the branches. Maybe these people knew where Heero was.
"I think Duke Dermeil's crazy, making us scout the woods for stragglers. He needs to get out and do this himself to see how miserable it is."
One of the soldiers obviously had very low opinions about his commanding officer. Wait. He had said Dermeil. Heero might be there. He had no idea where the envoy was, but that place would be as good a place to start as any. Sigh. Duo hated getting captured by morons. But hell, he would do it for Heero. Artfully, Duo "fell" out of his tree.
"You there! Freeze!"
These soldiers had to be a joke. Here he was, laying flat on his back, and they wanted him to freeze. Soon, five soldiers emerged from the shrubbery and pointed their swords at him. Gods, he hated being captured by idiots.
"You with Earthian? Well, answer me, boy!"
Duo rolled his eyes. Of course he was with Earthian. He was dressed in his normal black clothes, but he might as well have had a sign on his forehead that said 'I am Earthian. I am helpless laying on my ass. Please capture me.' But he decided to indulge these guys a bit.
"Yeah, I'm with Earthian. Are you going to take me to your leader?"
Duo's smirk nearly disappeared when one of the soldiers kicked him in his ribs. His violet eyes focused in on that one with the sharp boots. He would die by his hands soon enough. They then picked Duo up by his arms and tied him up with rope. And Duo was on his way to Dermeil's camp to see if Heero was there.
The camp was rather haphazardly set up with soldiers lounging more than training. It was disgraceful. These were the fools that had nearly cost them the battle the other day by the hills. So it was true. One hundred idiots could overwhelm a wise man. Duo was summarily tossed into a small, rickety iron cell in the corner of the clearing facing the river. From there, he looked around the camp and listened, looking for any signs of Heero. When the sun set and he hadn't found any signs of Heero in this camp, Duo decided that he wasn't here and he should really get back to Earthian. If Heero had come back while he fiddled around here, he would most definitely chew him out. With a small shrug and the flick of his wrist, he escaped the ropes at his wrists. A second later, Duo was out of the cage and heading toward the Earthian camp, somewhere north from here. Then people with torches surrounded him.
"Where do you think you're going, Earthian scum? You killed my brother the other day. You won't get away now. You escaped. We can kill you."
The soldiers around him laughed and drew their weapons. Duo counted twelve of them but he was in a camp filled with the enemy. Not many people were paying attention to this ring of soldiers right now, but if a fight broke out, they would notice. Duo had to kill these fools as quickly as possible and then make a run for it. He smiled. No one fought or escaped as well as he did. This might even be fun. The one who spoke had been the ass who had put that bruise on his ribs earlier. He would be the first to go. The soldiers took an involuntary step back when they saw Deathscythe slide out of his arm. Then all they saw was a flash of black and their world ended. Shinigami worked quickly and silently – so much so that when the last man fell, he was already off and running out of the camp. In fact, the soldiers in the camp did not even notice that twelve of their brethren had lost their lives in mere seconds until one of the fallen torches set a tent on fire. By that time, Duo was gone.
He was close to the Earthian camp. He could see the fires. Duo quickened his pace and made his way towards the royal camp area. If Heero was there, Duo would show him how glad he was to see him. Then he paused in his tracks and looked ahead. Heero was standing about twenty feet in front of him, his face shadowed by the night. Happy to see Heero alive and whole, Duo took off at a run and tackled Heero onto the ground. Then he latched his mouth to his and they stayed like so for a while. Then Duo lifted his head and started to speak.
"Heero, I am so glad to see you. I went after you last night but you know how to cover your tracks! And I spent the whole day in Dermeil's camp looking for you! I'm just glad you're okay."
Heero's eyes softened. Duo, that idiot. He would get captured if only to see him. But he had to break Duo's happy mood. He did not want to make Duo upset, but he had to tell him.
"Duo. I have to tell you something. It's bad. Really bad."
Duo got up and sat next to Heero. Heero sat up and looked into his lover's eyes. The happiness still lingered, but it was overshadowed by worry now.
"Is it one of us?"
His love was always perceptive, but that did not make this any easier.
"Trowa. He died today."
Heero's voice carried a world of sorrow in the simple sentence. Duo's eyes lit up with vengeance and his voice shook with fury.
"Who did it?" Duo's words carried with them a death sentence. Whoever was responsible for killing Trowa, he would personally send to Hell.
Duo was speechless. Quatre killed Trowa? What the fuck was going on?
"Quatre went crazy. He saw Trowa attack me. He took it the wrong way."
Duo shook his head. Trowa attacked Heero? This story was so unreal.
"Trowa was fulfilling his duty as the Master of the Whispers. Quatre would have understood under normal circumstances, but I think this war broke his mind somehow. All the negative emotions must have put so much strain on his empathic mind. Seeing Trowa attack was the last straw and Quatre just.. He just fell apart. He did come around, but it was too late. Trowa, he fell into the River of the Heroes. He's dead. And Quatre is in shock. Now, our chief healer Sally Po has him under severe sedation. Duo, we lost a brother today. We can't lose another."
To anyone else, Heero would have told his story with fewer words and no emotions. To Duo, his words were rambling and his voice was filled with pain and tears. Duo could not believe this. His heart contracted painfully as he thought about his brother Trowa, so silent and stoic yet funny and witty. Gone. And Quatre. He could no longer hide behind his innocent façade. Dear gods, how had this happened?
"Heero." Duo cleared his throat. It was raw from suppressing the tears that threatened to pour. "Heero. Let's go back and be with Quatre. He will need us now."
Nodding, Heero stood and helped Duo to his feet. Silently, they walked towards their tent. Duo held Heero's hand, to receive support as much as to give it. Then he spoke.
"Heero, I can't lose anyone anymore. I can't lose Quatre too, not on top of Trowa. The price of war, it is always too high."
When Heero and Duo entered the tent, Quatre was sitting on the cot staring up at the ceiling. WuFei and Meiran were sitting by him, holding hands, strangely enough. Sally was thoughtfully twirling one of her braids with her left hand as her right hand stirred some mixture in a cup. She looked up and saw the tired and ravaged faces of her prince and his assassin. Her heart felt the pity and the compassion, but they would not take those sentiments from her now. She stood silently and gave instructions to Meiran about the potion she had just mixed. Then she left, casting a sorrowful glance towards the brothers who seemed to grieve harder together.
"How is he, WuFei?" Duo's voice cracked slightly, as if afraid of the answer.
"I'm fine, Duo. I am. I have to be."
Startled, everyone in the room look at the blond. They had thought he was too sedated to answer.
"Hey, Quatre, you definitely have had better days."
Duo's attempt at a light tone failed miserably, but he was trying. Quatre tilted his lips in a grim specter of a smile.
"Yeah. It's not everyday that I kill my brother, my beloved. No. Not an everyday thing at all."
Silence fell once again. There was nothing anyone could say. Unless your name was Duo Maxwell.
"Hey Quatre, you wanna hear a story?"
"Sure Duo. Tell me. Keep me from thinking."
Quatre's dead voice pierced Duo to the core. His gentle and loving brother had been reduced to this. With a deep breath, Duo began his story. A story he had never told anyone. Raptly, WuFei, Meiran and Heero listened. Eventually, even Quatre listened.
"You always asked me about Deathscythe, so I'm going to tell you. You see, only Heero knows where I keep it, and that was a total accident how he found out. Deathscythe, it is a merger weapon. That is a weapon that fuses with one's soul and body. They are hard to make because you have to track down an arcanist to make one. And they are all dead now. I killed the one who made Deathscythe, the last of the arcanists."
Duo paused. He had never told this story and had never intended to. But if Quatre heard, he might understand that what had happened was not his fault. Death was arbitrary.
"Anyway, when I was really young, I had a mentor. His name was Solo. He was one of the greatest assassins ever, and I was learning the trade from him. One day, he got this assignment to go kill some old guy who called himself G. So we went to his house and Solo was all ready to kill that G guy when G said he was an arcanist and would cut a deal with Solo. He would make Solo a soul blade, a merger weapon. All he had to do was spare his life. As great an assassin as Solo was, he also had a huge thing for good weapons. He wanted the merger weapon, so he struck a deal with G. All Solo had to do was spare the guy and he would turn his short sword into a merger weapon. Then G asked Solo if he was the greatest assassin the world had seen. And Solo, in his pride, told him yes. G said that better be true or the weapon would not merge with him. He then did some weird shit to the blade and it turned black and smooth, like someone carved it out of one giant piece of onyx. Solo was really happy with it, you know? But when Solo grasped it, his hand steamed and he screamed. He screamed so much for so long that I wished for him to die, to be out of his misery. Then suddenly, he was dead. G merely shook his head and kept saying that only the best can hope to handle Deathscythe. Mind you, I was really young. I had no idea what had happened, just that Solo was dead and this guy wasn't. So I grabbed Deathscythe to kill G. That was when it happened. Deathscythe just melted into me, slid into my arm. I was so scared. G just looked at me and told me that I must be the greatest assassin to ever live because Deathscythe merged with me. In my mind, I was so scared and so angry that I didn't even hear him. I just lashed out. Deathscythe's first death was G. He died wordlessly on the black blade. Afterwards, I held onto it and just cried for a long time. But somehow, I heard Solo's voice in my head. He said to me, 'hey kid, don't cry. This blade is yours. Keep it, make good use of it. You are the best.' Even so, all I could think was that I was all alone now. But Solo assured me. He told me that he would always be with me because his soul was now fused into Deathscythe. It was then that I named myself. If Solo's always with me, then I will be Duo."
Everyone was silent. They could not say anything. Quatre looked at Duo, his aqua eyes filled with tears.
"You suffered so much, Duo. How can you have such a good soul when life gave you nothing but pain?"
"I got you. I got WuFei. And I have Heero. You guys are worth it."
"But I killed Trowa! How can you possibly say I'm worth it?"
Duo swung back his arm and smacked Quatre soundly in the face. Stunned, Quatre could only stare.
"You fool! Didn't you catch anything from my story? Trowa chose his path in life like Solo! They chose for themselves. It wasn't my fault that Solo died because I was born to be a better assassin. It isn't your fault that Trowa died because you were protecting Heero. They chose. We chose. Death just was the end result. Don't you get it? It wasn't our fault."
Quatre looked at Duo and at his brothers. They were all suffering like he was. Suddenly, the dam broke and Quatre buried his face into Duo's shirt and cried. He cried hard and long until he had no tears. Afterwards, he lifted his bloodshot aqua eyes and smiled rather shyly at Heero and WuFei. To his relief, they smiled back.
"Yes. Thank you for being here, WuFei. I know you hate the whole crying scene."
"For you, Quatre, I may even endure two crying scenes."
Heero came up and put is hand on Quatre's shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. Then he bent his head and kissed Duo on top of his head. His love never ceased to amaze him.
"Now that we're all back on somewhat good terms," WuFei drawled, "would you guys mind attending a little ceremony tomorrow?"
"If this is some Dragon sect ceremony involving self immolation, leave me out of it, WuFei."
Ignoring Duo's pert response, WuFei continued.
"I want you, Duo and Quatre, to be my best men. And I want Heero to officiate since he is the prince."
Taken aback, Heero looked at WuFei. Best men? Officiate? Duo and Quatre looked equally puzzled and Meiran blushed slightly.
After a brief silence, Heero nodded in the affirmative. Duo asked, however.
"What ceremony are you talking about? Sounds like a marriage or something."
"It is. I'm marrying Meiran tomorrow."
Stunned silence ensued. Then Quatre blurted out a belated congratulations while Heero dumbly nodded again. Duo, however, had different things to say.
"Holy fucking shit."
Relena faced Treize Kushrenada. She had not realized that he had been so close to the Earthian camp. When she had gone to Une and insisted that she meet with Treize, Une had immediately shipped her and Noin off to this camp and they had just arrived. Dusty and travel worn, Relena faced the emperor of Oz. Her self dignity, however, was quite intact and shone through the grime of travel.
"Your Majesty, I am honored that you would come here to meet with me. May I offer you a drink?"
He had a smooth and cultured voice of a mature man. But he had the same self confidence and aura of power that Heero possessed. Just more.. adult.
"Yes, please. Then I would like to discuss some terms."
Smiling at her politically diplomatic tone, Treize poured some wine into a glass and handed it to her. Sipping delicately, Relena studied the man over the rim of her glass. He was tall, just a bit over six feet. His light brown hair was combed back in a rather careless way and his blue eyes matched his coat and cape perfectly. His black boots were polished to a painful sheen and his smooth fingers were laying gently on his white clad legs. He looked majestic all right.
Treize waited until Relena put down her glass before he startled the wits out of her.
"Queen Relena, would you consent to being my wife?"
Relena was just glad that he had waited until she had finished drinking. If she had heard that while sipping wine, she surely would have ruined his pristine white pants with a spray of wine and saliva.
"Marry you? What for?"
She nearly smacked herself. Why was it that she always sounded like a child when confronted by men who asked her to marry her? Sure, Heero never had asked, but still, it was becoming a running pattern. Treize did not seem to mind her inanity. Instead of laughing at her, he answered her.
"For peace, Queen Relena. With us as one, we can achieve the peace you long for."
"That makes no sense. You started the war."
Treize laughed at that. Relena and Milliardo, or rather Zechs, shared so many similar traits that it was amusing.
"Yes, I did. But only to strengthen the people. Peace is not true if it is not forged by strong people, don't you agree? Besides, as my wife, you will no longer need to worry about the safety of Sanque."
He sounded so reasonable and so urbane that Relena almost fell into the trap. But she was a politician to the end. He would have to do better if he wanted her support in his crazy scheme.
"I would be safe from you, but not from Earthian. In effect, they would consider me as the enemy. Either way, I would have a formidable enemy with their hearts stained by war."
Ah, yes. Relena was most definitely a worthy adversary in politics. As they faced off, both felt their blood race in a familiar way. Relena liked challenges and so did Treize. They would pit their ideals against each other and see who won in the end. And both vowed that they would be the victor.