Part 5 - Finding Heart in Nara
Duo fought inside a strange dream. A large creature was holding him in its hand; its fingers rubbed his flesh and tried to crush his bones, but enjoyed the slow torture it inflicted. The head of the creature came into view; a horrid head of a man with a long beard and deep set gray eyes crusted with red. His breath waved over Duo as his laugh bellowed throughout the room. Smoke and charred corpses filled his nose and the sight of bloated drowned bodies woke through his vision as he screamed loudly for it all to stop.
The drunken breath smiled down on him again as the hand clutched harder, breaking the crying Heart.
Looking out in front of his eyes, a glowing orb replaced the figure’s face. It was bright and beating softly, pulsing with gentle beats of violet light.. Duo tried to reach for it, only to feel his ribs slowly crushed. Breath became harder to take in, his vision was blurring. His body couldn’t keep up anymore, slowly he gave into the crushing hand and the low evil laugh and let his body fall limp, causing the orb to darken and drop to the floor shattering into pieces.
At the sound of the tinkling glass, Duo woke up. Sweat poured off his brow as he clutched at his chest, struggling for air. Trowa stopped poking the fire and sat at his side, gently stroking his shoulder.
"Are you alright?" He looked over sincerely, seeing the young master shiver slightly and force himself to stop.
"Just a dream…it seems to get worse and worse." The longhaired man dropped his head slightly to wipe away a tiny tear that found its way out. "I had them since I was a kid, but they seem to get worse and worse as I progress." He rubbed his arm slightly, wincing as he stroked the new bruise. He stood slowly, gripping the large tree behind him to steady his movements. "Think it is best to get the others and find out what it all means."
Nodding softly, the Viento bent down and picked up a long stick and handed it over to Duo. "Might help you to walk to town and get some food and better lodging."
"I don’t speak Chinese, how am I going to get food or anything stuck in the middle of a country where I cannot even say ‘Where is the local squat house?"
The Wind god laughed softly, "I will speak for you till you catch hold of the language. As Wind keeper, you learn how to speak all languages through the winds. Also, this is China. They do not have ‘squat’ houses like Europe- they live with more dignity." He began to laugh a bit harder as he left the area to put out the fire that kept his master warm.
Duo walked slowly behind Trowa, using the makeshift cane to help him walk on the leave littered ground.
"Trowa, can you tell me about Gogyou? Or are they gone like Meiran Huo was?"
"Gogyou is too damn stubborn to die. I think besides myself, we are the lasts of the original gods. ËÑí I am sure died, still sick of the evil from our old master. Gogyou and I could turn to the cold side of our elements to save us, but the others could not and be born again. As for the Water god himself, he always has his opponents in the laps of luxury and then kill them when they indulged in excess."
Nodding, the longhaired general understood. "It is like the story where a woman got a general sleepy on milk and then drove a tent stake through his head. Get the opposition drowsy or drunk and take advantage of their slowed reflexes. I already respect him."
"Going to need a whole lot more then that to defeat the Water god."
Trowa went into the town with Duo slowly behind him, hiding his face a bit from the stares and gossiping people. ‘Does every town do this?’ He followed on, his nose being caressed by the wonderful scents of exotic foods.
They stopped at a food stand filled with dumplings, rice and pots filled with sweet and spicy smelling food. Figuring out what he wanted, Duo knew he didn’t have the money that they wanted, but gladly gave his ring with a set ruby stone to the head of the stall.
After the meal, they sat back.
"That was worth a valuable ring. Hope they remember me next time we come through here." Rubbing his warm stomach he stood up slowly and stretched his arms over his head. "You know? I feel up to beating Huo again, if I could."
Looking over, Trowa nodded, "So you wish to immediately go to Nara to find Gogyou?"
Bright eyed and energetic, the longhaired man smiled, "take me to Japan!"
Trowa looked around to see if anyone knew of the English term of ‘Nihon’, and sighed out loud. He knew the countries didn’t agree with each other and just saying the name of one of their enemies wasn’t a good thing, no matter how far away they were from the island country.
Taking to the sky, the pair enjoyed the smell of the pine air and thick earth, it renewed the travelers spirits as they traveled onward forgetting the terrible defeat the day before. The treetops at their feet and the sky at an arms reach, life felt renewed, safe, but still things were missing. Someone was missing.
The warm sun began its pathway across the sky and set colors on Duo and Trowa’s backs as they finally saw the great island mass. A jut of mountains and long hands of trees greeted them as their feet touched the ground. What Trowa didn’t sense was a young boy mimicking a samurai-fighting stance behind some bushes. He peered out and saw the two floating men with large eyes and pale skin. His first reaction was to run to the town and start screaming. "Youki! Youki!" He shot out of the bushes in front of the men, startling them more then the child.
Duo stopped and looked over toward Trowa, "What is he saying?"
"Demons…but people here are used to them. It is when someone yells ‘akuma’ or evil spirits, then they panic. Best to just leave here and go straight to Nara and rest there.
Nodding in agreement, Duo felt for the ‘wind tail’ and lifted off the ground travailing southeast towards Osaka.
The night winds were warmer then those from the northern area of China, they were relaxing as the stars danced in front of his face against the velvety night sky. The temples were only a short distance from Osaka, and the River Temple of Gogyou sat a bit north of the large town. Large lanterns lit the ground as they traveled on across the currents of air. Duo felt a burst of energy, and somewhat a bit of fear to lose again. No matter how his body felt he must get the Water orb to set his mind back on track and remember why he was on this harsh journey.
"Nara is only a few minutes away. Do you wish to stay at the temple or town for tonight?"
"I would feel at home at the temples, seem to have a way with priests and mages." He laughed slightly at the bad joke as Trowa looked at him with a worried look but kept traveling forward.
In a distance, the sound of throat singers, biwagaku being strum and soft flutes playing kiss their ears. The temples were close at hand. Lights below them grew different colors, unlike the lanterns from the towns, reds shown with a pale hue and a strange blue off to their right. "Only the gods would have blue because of rarity to make the color, normally red would be used for luck and life."
Duo’s heart leapt into his throat, but he pushed it down and looked tiredly determined.
They landed softly by the large bamboo gate awaiting the night watch to come and open it. An old woman wearing a simple kosode bent down and greeted the pair of travelers. She opened the gate and waved them in with a sandalwood fan. It left the air fragrance as she walked along the stone path waving it gently in front of her. She slid a large shoji screen door and motioned for them to sit. There were a few small rugs on the floor and simple designed boxes with a tray and small covered bowls.
In a corner, three ladies dressed in light colored furisode; their sleeves dripping onto the floor and pooled around their instruments. One girl hit a gong slightly, causing a small troop of girls to come in with tea, sake and fresh food. As they placed the food in their proper places, and gave pretty smiles asking if the men wanted any drink. Trowa took a cup full, but Duo smelled a little and couldn’t take it. He put his hand over the open top of the glass shaking his head ‘no’. The girl smiled on and went on entertaining them..
"Trowa, when I am supposed to fight?"
"Later, it is custom to Gogyou to entertain and make you feel at home."
"So when he kills me I feel at home in the dirt, nice." He took the cup of tea and drank slowly and still tried to use the chopsticks. At least when they were in China he could use his hands when no one was looking.
"Well Duo, in Japan, they burn the dead bodies so you wouldn’t have to worry about a burial." He smiled on and lifted his cup to a lady who began to sing a soft song that fluttered off her lips like butterfly wings.
Feeling the lethargy of the warm food and tea hitting his stomach, Duo yawned a bit and tugged on Trowa’s arm who was to busy from enjoying the show. Finally tired of trying to get attention, he stood up and bowed to the nearest maiden. She in returned bowed back and walked into a passageway.
Looking over, the Wind god noticed his master’s movements and stood with them. He gave a soft bow and smile to show his enjoyment. He went down the passage and watched as Duo was pulling up on the collar of the geisha girl and trying to tell her that he didn’t want anything but sleep. She took his hands and warmed them in his speaking in the soft tones of her language to try to get him to relax.
"If he doesn’t have release he will not feel rested." She tried to explain to Trowa.
"I understand, but he is for Gogyou only."
At this the woman bowed her head, "Yes yes, I understand. I am very sorry for the misunderstanding. ‘One and Only-sama’ didn’t tell us about that."
"I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know himself." The Wind god smiled towards the young geisha and bowed.
The longhaired man settled into the small futon, pulling at the long sheet and kicking it off his bare feet to help him feel more comfortable. Trowa told him before he went to sleep that they would go to the bathhouse and Gogyou would meet them after lunchtime. This made him more upset. He wanted to fight and get it over with, not keep procrastinating over the fact. And that his opponent wanted him drunk to throw him off created a heated sensation that made him want to defeat him even more.
But at the moment his body was reacting to the soft gentle music and full belly. He wasn’t even used to this treatment when he became a full guard of the Queen and held a generals rank. He was lucky to get a good meal and then a woman to sleep with him, well, all the women back at home knew who he was and feared him more for it. The Queen was the only one to show him respect and was like the kind sister that died during the wars.
He laughed softly as he turned on his side to sleep, "Curses of the Maxwell demon." Yawning slightly he let his eyes droop for sleep.
The dream came again, but he didn’t see the creature’s head that bellowed the laughter at him. Instead he felt the crushing forces around his chest and mid-half. The faces, sullen, frightened and broken faces; each had a faintly glowing aura about them.
He saw Trowa. Face was hidden in the shoulder of a young woman who’s curly blonde hair laid back like a million soft fingers, deft and dead under her golden light until it faded away. Duo looked over to what looked like Huo or Wufei holding a mocha colored hand in his, stroking each digit and kissing the end. Tears gently rolled away as he nuzzled her hand and watched the red light die away and absorb into him. The violet-eyed man was near tears, not from the pain but the loss he felt of the others until the scene changed again.
A young man with thick waves of brown hair and a large jacket like dress.. His dress was almost like the geisha girls in the temple, but his lower part of the suit was not at flashy and looked as if it didn’t constrict the movement. His blue aura was beating with every whimpering tear that slid down his face as he buried it into the soft black clothing. Duo looked closer and screamed in pain as he saw the one he was crying for. The violet glow was near dying as he saw the exact replica of his face. Sharp pert nose, angler face and swatches of brown hair that rested softly on he forehead.
Duo fought the hand holding him, but it caused it to squeeze harder and the laughter to grow louder and louder till he couldn’t hear the Japanese man screaming the name of the deceased.
Jumping, the longhaired man awoke in a pool of sweat, shivering softly and whimpering. No wonder he was treated with such hostility by Trowa at first, then Wufei and now the Water god…they think now masters are all demons that killed something precious to them.
He threw off the sheet and put on his tunic, hoping not to wake anyone as he tried to find a way out of the temple and to find some place of solitude. Being weary of the old woman at the front gate, he took a back entrance that lead to another small house that had a large designed roof to it. Looking further, Duo heard a soft lapping of water.
Slowly making his way down the sandy pathway, the sounds of waves and trickling slowly soothed him. He came to the edge of the dock and felt the aged wood underneath his feet and the thought hit him he left his shoes at the front door. The violet-eyed man sighed and sat his weary bones on the small pier and let his long legs dangle into the cold pool. He leaned back, letting the cool water ease his mind when a puddle of murky light came underneath the dock.
Duo began to pull his feet out of the river when a cold hand grabbed his ankle and pulled hard. A body forced its way up from the waves; eyes glaring cold harsh blue light and snarling face.
"Mametsu koibito ebisugao! Yomikata kisama!" A growl rasped from the Water god. Gogyou pulled Duo down into the waves, causing him to kick profusely to get the needed air at the top, but something was holding him down, wrapping around his body. The face of the Japanese man was dark only lit with the crisp blue orbs. His hair swirled around him, making a light cloud of messy brown locks.
The young adventurer felt the hand of death choking the last bit of air from his lungs when he reached down and found the broken sword at his hip. He ripped it from the belt and began to cut at the ties holding him down. Frantically he felt the blade touch his skin, but he worried more about getting to the top for a fresh breath of air then another wound to his skin.
Feeling the grips release him, Duo kicked hard with his left foot, dragging one last piece of kelp off of his foot. He hit surface and gasped for all it was worth. Never did air taste so sweet and delicious. No food made him hunger for more then this first breath that evaded death. Scrambling to the small wooden dock, Duo coughed up water from his lungs and rubbed the water burning at his lashes.
From the waves, Gogyou rose up, looking untouched by the water and as if he was never wet. He stared down at his prey, eyes locked and cold.
Growling now, Duo spat at the staring god. "For a minute there, I thought you didn’t really want to fight. Seems you only need to cheat to win!"
A slow calm voice came from the levitating creature; "I gave you food, women, in hopes you enjoy the hospitality and go away so I wouldn’t kill you. I only studied you. How dare you call me a weak coward as to cheating." He dropped mid-waist in the water and circled his hands. "I refuse to be owned!" He formed crudely made arrows of the splashing waves and shot them out of the water towards Duo.
The longhaired man dodged what he could only to have one graze his cheek, splitting the tender flesh, marring it with lifeblood. "You want to fight…I’ll give you one." Standing shaky to his feet, Duo pushed his body off the dock and into the water, propelling himself to the top with a tail wind.
Gogyou in return let a wave of water wash around him as a shield from attacks. His eyes glowed through, making his angler face seem more monstrous. He shot out more arrows from his watery shield and smiled as they torpedoed towards the target only to choke back when he saw a small light emanating from Duo’s chest.
Taking the opening to his advantage, Duo wound a wind around his body to knock away the arrows and to create a cold tunnel. He pushed it forwards to wrap around Gogyou’s water formed shield freezing it around his prone body.
The Water god screamed loudly at his hesitation that created his demise till the ice crawled up around his throat. Still formed ice sculptor, the Water god’s eyes darkened, turning to a normal deep blue. Duo lifted up onto a wind current and floated towards the frozen god. He lifted up the broken sword and hit the top, near Gogyou’s skull and watched as the crack ran down the entire length of his body and chipped down, breaking apart the ice and letting the frozen form from inside fall forward into the longhaired man’s arms.
His breath was heavy as he held the still body in his arms, the chill from his skin and the water soaking through his clothing made him shiver violently as he pulled forward, making the wind carrying him and obey. He let the wooden pier touch his feet till he let go and dropped down with Gogyou landing on top of him.
The green Wing orb dropped out of Duo’s pocket, touching the Water god’s index finger awaking the brilliant blue eyes. He lifted his head with a groan and saw where he was. With a growl, he pushed himself off and stared down at the shivering body.
"He isn’t like the other one." Trowa stepped forward and touched the Water god’s chest to receive the blue orb and place it next to his own by the Master. "He has kindness and I know you saw what I saw when I fought him."
"He isn’t Heart, Veinto. Not mine, it died a long time ago at my hands.." Gogyou looked down to his side, but kept an ear on the young man’s breathing.
"Heart lives, he just needs to use it and gain the power." He sat down next to the Japanese. "He even gave me a name, Trowa."
Gogyou snorted, "What is a ‘Trowa’?"
"It is I. What are you?"
"Heero Yuy, ‘One and Only’." He looked over towards his formal comrade.
"We are the last, Huo and ËÑí died rebirthing into new gods." The Wind god looked out at the river.
"We were never meant to be used to kill, or die of our sins. We used to be perfect."
"No. We die every day, every time we take a breath. They got out easy and let themselves go to waste."
Heero nodded, "Dying hurts like hell."