Chapter 14 - First Blood
Relena focused. Deep within her was a power she had not known she possessed, but it would be hers to command soon. She willed the power to surge closer to her, wrap her in its glory and expand from her mind. A pure white light filled her mental vision as the power coalesced inside her and she smiled at the feel of ecstatic joy that came with it.
"Good, Relena. Now, form in your mind what you want to do with the power."
The smooth voice registered faintly but clearly in her mind. Just as before, she wished for the power to heal the bird before her, a bird whose wings had been broken brutally by something unknown. She heard the bird’s twitter and she opened her eyes. Before her was a bird with two healthy wings with all its feathers. It flew away as if it had never been broken.
"Did you see, Treize? I healed the bird! The power is wonderful."
"Yes, you did a good job," replied her teacher and warden, "your control over the power is quite remarkable. You will be magnificent on the battle field against the Darkness."
Relena frowned a little at the word ‘battle.’ It sounded so ugly.
"Why does it have to be a battle, Treize? If I have all this power and the only thing for me to do is to wish for things to happen, why the battle at all? I can just make everyone pure with the power and that will be that."
"I wish it was that simple, my dear Child. But I told you before, as great as the power of Light is, in order to purify, the person must wish for it for it to work. Unlike the Darkness, the Light does not force. It allows the wishes of the true heart to come true."
Relena bobbed her head in agreement. She knew for Treize had been teaching her the philosophy of the Light for a while now, but still, she wished to avoid battle.
"I told you, Treize, I don’t want to kill people. There is always some other way besides war." Intrigued, Treize looked at Relena with mild curiosity in his eyes.
"You have a different plan than a war." Smiling gently, Relena explained.
"I do. Fighting wars may be good for convincing people that you are right, but it is a cruel and forceful way. And that is not the way of the Light. I think we should convince people with words. Make them understand."
"I see. Yes, you’re right. We will use words. We will fight the Darkness using your methods." Relena stared at Treize in surprise. She had not expected him to agree so quickly - in fact, she had planned a long and brilliant argument which was unnecessary now. But whatever the reason for the quick acquiescence, she was happy. There would be no battle with bloodshed and sadness.
Treize stood in his favorite place in the temple, the rose garden. The fragrance danced into his nose, traveling to his brain with a pleasant hum. He was contemplating Relena’s passionate words, realizing the brilliance and potential of her plan. Three thousand years ago, when he had lost everything, when the Light had retreated, it was because the Darkness had sent massive forces which the Light had not matched in kind. The Darkness had always been stronger in the physical realm, its powers rooted in the elements. The Light’s strength lie in its subtlety, its spirituality. Instead of a physical fight, this time, they would be fighting for the souls of people. Treize smiled without showing his teeth. It was perfect. Relena would be the head of a new religion and they would gather willing followers all across the land. And when the time came for Darkness to battle them, it would be too late. Relena would have gathered a following unmatched by anything by that time. A gathering of peaceful people who would not fight. What better way to defeat the Darkness? Without a show of force from the Light, they would look like murderers if they killed those who followed the Light and lose support from the people. If the Darkness did nothing, the Light’s rank would only swell until it was the only thing worshipped in the lands. The roses shivered in delight when Treize laughed. Yes, the plan would be a success. "My love, it is a different war this time."
The laughter faded and Treize’s face took on a moreserious air.
"I’m coming for you, my love. And the Warrior Mages. As much as Relena hates killing, I will have to eliminate them. There must not be obstacles in the way."
It was a beautiful day in the woods. Sunlight beamed gently through the green foliage and birds sang a happy tune. Into the idyllic setting of the forest came five boys, each carrying a small sac filled with food and water.
"Man, I thought we’d never get out of the Dome." Duo was glad he was outside. In the past two weeks, the Dreamers had stared, gawked, poked and lectured them until Duo had contemplated suicide. He liked the Dreamers, they were a nice group of people, but they took everything so seriously.
"We’re going to be in trouble when they find us." Quatre was more than worried about getting into trouble. He had known that sneaking out of the Dome was a bad idea, but it was such a beautiful day. They had been cooped up in the Dome for so long that he had forgotten what the outside looked like. As much as he loved being in the woods, his good mood was dampened by the future prospect of lecturing, most likely from the Oracle.
"Don’t worry so much. This is worth any lecture." Trowa was enjoying himself. He was more of an outdoor person than any of the boys present and he had missed it sorely. Now that he was walking through the woods with nature surrounding him, he feared no consequences.
Heero and Wufei added nothing to the conversation. They were tense, almost awaiting for Sally or Noin to jump out of the woods to drag them back.
"This is a great spot! Let’s sit and eat."
Duo promptly flopped onto the ground without waiting for anyone else. He immediately opened his sac and started munching on an apple. The other four sat around him, each boy lost in thought.
"Go, my creations. Kill them."
Treize finished his incantations and watched in the mirror as ten beautiful but vicious creatures made their way swiftly and silently through the woods.
Heero was laying on the ground, staring at the impossibly blue sky. There wasn’t even a cloud to mar the perfect blue expanse. He rolled his eyes to look at the figure on the periphery of his vision. Long braid, bright eyes, loud mouth. Duo Maxwell. A boy he was falling in love with. Heero realized that he spent more time with Duo than anyone else he had been with in his entire life. He spent more time with Duo than Trowa did. Although Trowa seemed to have minded at first, these days, he actually encouraged him and Duo to spend time together. Trowa, for his part, was busy getting to know a certain blond boy. Heero wondered who Wufei spent his time with since Quatre was busy with Trowa. Overall, it was a beautiful afternoon of inner contemplation. Even Duo had not bothered talking, just content to lay beside Heero. Heero smiled at the gentle breeze that teased his hair. Then everything went dark.
Wufei instinctively rolled as a sharp claw tore at the space his head had occupied only seconds ago. He watched as Duo was flung into a tree hard enough to shake the leaves loose. He saw Heero vault onto his feet to run towards Duo. Trowa and Quatre were back to back, staring grimly at the monsters surrounding them. The creatures were something out of fairy tales, something that should not exist. There were ten of them, each cackling with malevolence. They possessed the most beautiful faces Wufei had ever seen. They had slender upper bodies of young women with bared breasts and narrow shoulders. Their swan necks supported faces of goddesses crowned with rich fall of honey hair. Heavenly blue eyes twinkled with malice and sensual lips twisted in anticipation of blood. Their delicate hands that should have belonged on ladies serving tea sported long talon-like nails and their lower torso gave way to a snake’s mottled tail instead of legs. Beautiful, mythical and completely deadly. Wufei knew trouble when he saw it and of course, trouble looked like beautiful women.
Quatre and Trowa stood back to back staring down the creatures. They were soon joined by Wufei who stood with them. Little off to the side, Heero stood supporting a groggy but quickly recovering Duo. This beautiful afternoon was looking grisly.
"What do we do now? We have no weapons, no one knows where we are and our control over our powers is tenuous."
Heero was a warrior, practical and realistic. Their chances of winning this battle was almost nothing. However, he would not give up - they were Warrior Mages. There had to be a way to live through this.
"We have no options, Heero. We’re going to have to try our powers, it’s the only way."
Quatre’s usually gentle voice was coated with steel and leadership. Heero raised his eyebrow at Quatre’s tone.
"He’s right, Heero," Wufei ground out, "we’re going to have to try."
Suddenly, all ten creatures stormed towards them. Heero and Duo watched as five creatures came at them with inhuman speed. They braced themselves and felt the others do the same. Duo’s eyes glinted with the fear and excitement. Shinigami screamed his battle cry.
"Here goes nothing, Gorgeous."
Wufei knew there was only a few seconds before those long talons ripped him into chewable morsel sized pieces. A few seconds to reach the power. A few seconds to control it. A few seconds which would decide whether he would live or die. With a roar, Wufei let loose of all his control and restraints. His mind was bombarded by emotions he had kept in check so far - the fear, excitement, terror, lust, all swam through his system. In their wake came the pitch blackness that was his power. Without bothering to achieve any conscious control, Wufei let it out. When he did, the first three of the creatures suddenly burst into flames and turned to ashes. A few seconds had passed and he was still standing.
Trowa grit his teeth. Few seconds. That was all the time he had. He glanced at Quatre who stood by his side with determination written on his face. It would be a shame if he and Quatre died before they really got to know each other. Trowa relaxed his mind. He waited for the Darkness to fill him with power. Nothing happened. In shock, Trowa watched as the claws came toward his face. This would be it, the end of him. He barely registered the intense heat that blasted three of them into nothingness. The claws were coming closer. Closer. Then they stopped mere millimeters from his eyes.
Quatre knew his power had yet to be tapped. He had been too frightened to try it so far. Now, it was a matter of life and death. It was right in front of his eyes. Fear no longer had any place. He would not die here uselessly, not after all that he went through, not before he fought to save the world. No, he would not die here. He absorbed his fear and accepted it, letting it flow through him. He let anger pass through, as he did countless other emotions. When they were gone, he found himself calm, filled with a power that he knew belonged to him. The power to stop these creatures, the power to save the world. In his mind, he spoke one word: ‘Stop.’ And the two that had survived Wufei’s fire blast stopped just before they could tear him, Trowa and Wufei apart.
Duo saw them coming. This was no time to have his usual moral crisis over Shinigami. If he restrained his merciless persona, it would be over. Without a second thought, he let Shinigami take over. At the exact moment Shinigami took over, Duo felt the power rip through him as it did during the Imaza incident. But they were already there, too close. Duo did not notice that Wufei had obliterated three or that Quatre had stopped two in mid-motion. All he saw was the talon that was going to tear through him. To his mild and muted surprise, the talons hit his face only to shatter into pieces. Not wasting his attention on the miracle, Duo loosed his power and watched with dead eyes as whirlwinds of water sharper than any blade cut the five creatures before him into unrecognizable pieces. As suddenly as it began, it was over.
"What in the Darkness was that?!"
Duo’s Shinigami had retreated, leaving behind shock and fascination. In wonder, Duo touched his cheek. It should have been scratched. No, he should not even have a face anymore. Duo glanced at Heero who suddenly surrounded him in a steely hug.
"I’ll be damned if they touched you." Duo understood.
"You protected me with a barrier."
Heero nodded into Duo’s shoulder.
"Yeah. I don’t know how, but all I could think was that you would not get hurt. And my wish became a barrier."
"Thank the Darkness for that. I would have been pissed if they ruined my beautiful face."
Heero chuckled. If Duo could joke, at least he hoped it was a joke, then he was okay.
"No one will touch you while I’m around." Duo smiled into Heero’s neck. He had sounded possessive.
"Of course, Gorgeous."
They parted slightly to look into each other’s eyes. Electricity sizzled between them and they forgot about everything but each other. But as always, the world intruded.
"Excuse us, love birds, but we still have two left."
Duo and Heero turned towards Wufei’s mild reprimanding voice and saw that there were two creatures, frozen in motion.
"Why are they just standing there?"
Duo’s puzzlement was clearly reflected in his eyes. Heero had the identical expression.
"I asked them to stop."
"That’s nice, Quatre," Heero spoke hesitantly, "but wouldn’t it be better if they were dead?"
A gentle smile illuminated Quatre’s face.
"Yes, of course. You’re right."
Suddenly, the remaining two creatures fell over and urned to small motes of dust and bones.
"Wow, that’s cool, Quatre. How did you do that?"
"Oh, Duo, you can be so silly. I asked them to die. That’s all."
There were gagging and choking noises as the four boys tried to get out a word. For once, it was not Duo who recovered first.
"That’s ALL? ALL?!?!?!?!?"
Trowa’s voice reached a decibel that even Duo had never achieved. Trowa’s shame at not being helpful in this fight was drowned out by his shock at Quatre’s level of power.
"Shall we get back to the Dome?"
Quatre smiled once again and started walking back towards the Dome. He was afraid that if he stopped smiling, if he stopped acting as if nothing momentous had happened, he would lose any semblance of proper behavior and start screaming in joy. Finally, he had achieved what the others had. Maybe now, the Guide and the Oracle would believe in them.
"Are you guys coming? We’re going to have to explain this to the ladies."
Eyes wide and mouths gaping, Duo, Heero, Trowa and Wufei followed Quatre back to the Dome. Whatever those creatures were, whoever had sent them, anything and everything about the last five minutes, would have to be discussed at length back at the Dome.
Treize looked into his mirror and smiled. "Touche, Warrior Mages. Next time, I won’t underestimate you."
The image on the mirror faded as they entered the hallowed Dreamer’s ground. Not even Treize’s power could penetrate the barrier surrounding the Dome.
"Next time, I will kill you myself."