Well, I was just bubbling over with creative energy all night long, so I sat down and wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more. ^^;; (Wow, this night shift thing is being good to me.) This is a (BAD) retelling of my favoirte fairy tale of all time, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." *sweatdrop* I don't do fairy tales all that often, so I'm not sure how this one turned out. Just as a warning, there might be a few major grammar weirdnesses in the middle that I missed; I was getting slightly punchy for a while there. ^^;; C&C welcome always.

--
Katsu "O-ka-ne" no Miko
"Erst wenn die Wolken schlafen gehen
kann man uns am Himmel sehen
wir haben Angst und sind allein...
Gott weiss ich wil kein Engel sein..." (~Ramms+ein~)

 

Warning: The characters belong to who they belong to and not me. Don't sue me, I'm not worth your time.
Addtional warning: Characters acting wildly OOC. You have been warned.
Additional Additional warning: Ending is pure sap. It is recommended that diabetics take extra care before reading.

 

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Once, in the reaches of time we have long since forgotten, there lived a humble wood cutter who will not be named here since he’s really not terribly important to this story. He lived at the edge of a forest that some said was enchanted with his son, who was so beautiful that he surpassed the looks of even the most comely of women. The boy, whose name was Duo, had long, flowing chestnut hair that he wove into a braid every morning, and violet eyes deep enough to drown in. He did not allow his beauty to go to his head or spoil him in any way, however; every day, Duo and his father woke at first light and went far into the forest to cut down trees for firewood so they would have enough money for food to eat the next day.

One day, the peace of their simple existence was shattered when Duo fell ill. He burned with fever and could not be woken, no matter how hard his father shook him. Distraught, the wood cutter ran into the woods to a certain spring that he knew. Supposedly, the waters of the spring had healing properties, though no one in memory had every drunk from its waters; it was guarded by a fearsome black wolf.

The spring was beautiful, surrounded by lush cherry trees covered with fragrant blossoms. The wood cutter paid them no heed, however, and stumbled to the edge of the spring, where he fell to his knees, blindly searching his pockets for the bottle he had thought he was carrying.

Suddenly, he stopped. There was an itching between his shoulder blades, like someone was watching him intensely. Slowly, fearfully, the man turned…

To meet the cold, prussian blue eyes of the largest black wolf that had ever lived. All the color drained from the man’s face as the wolf stepped slowly forward, inspecting him. After it had looked him over, it sat on its haunches and regarded the woodcutter steadily with level, human eyes. “What do you want?” it asked in a somewhat nasal, but not altogether unpleasant masculine voice.

“W-w-want?” The woodcutter stuttered in fear.

“Yes. What do you want.” The wolf said, impatience showing in his voice.

Abruptly, the wood cutter remembered his son, dying back in their little hut. He threw himself at the feet of the wolf, weeping terribly. “I have come to take a small amount of this healing water back to my son…he is dying, my lord! Dying!”

The wolf regarded the wailing man without so much as a twitch.

“I know you are the guardian of this spring…please let me have just a little water, my lord!”

“I will allow you to have water,” the wolf said, “if, when the time comes, you will return the favor that you owe me.”

The poor woodcutter froze, sore afraid. The lord alone knew what it was the wolf wanted…perhaps his death.

“Choose.” The wolf said, coldly. “Either take the water or get out. This is no place for you.”

Tears began to run from the wood cutter’s eyes once more. “I…I…” He would do anything to save his son. Anything. “My lord, I would take the water, but I have lost the bottle I had with me!”

“Hn.” The wolf turned away for a moment, and then handed the man a bottle. “Take the water and go. And do not forget your promise to me.”

Terrified, the wood cutter filled the bottle with spring water, and fled.

The wolf looked down at the spring and regarded it emotionlessly for a long moment. Finally, it spoke.

“Ninmu ryoukai.”

***

“Ne, otou-san!” Duo tossed his braid over his shoulder, waving a silver disc with one hand. “Check it out! I got my new CD! Alright!” He shoved it into the CD player and grinned as the first few bars of heavy guitar began to pound from the speakers, causing the windows of the hut to rattle.

Duo’s father smiled politely, wincing. He couldn’t stand the trash his son played, at times, but he couldn’t deny the boy anything.

Duo blinked. “Did you hear that, otou-san?”

“What?”

With a grimace, Duo spun the volume control dial, and the music volume retreated to a more reasonable level. “Sounds like the door…” The boy stood up to get the door.

There was a long silence.

“Ne, otou-san, I think it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” Duo’s father called back.

“The biggest freaking wolf I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

“WHAT???” Duo’s father sprang to his feet, whipping around. Indeed, it was the bear. Duo stepped aside, and the animal entered the house. For a long moment, the wolf silently regarded the old man. The old man trembled. He remembered his promise. “What do you want?” He finally whispered.

“I have come to collect what is mine.” The wolf said coldly.

“What? What? Otou-san, what is this about??” Duo danced from foot to foot, breathless with the need to know.

The old man just stared at the bear.

The wolf’s bottomless blue eyes flicked for a brief moment toward Duo, a strange softness entering their depths. “Your son.”

Duo immediately stopped bouncing impatiently. “WHAT???”

The old man shook his head frantically. “That’s the one thing I can’t give! Don’t take my son, he’s all I have!!”

“You swore.” The wolf said emotionlessly.

“Please…” the old man fell to his knees.

“Otou-san, what the hell is going on?!?!” Duo yelled, waving his arms
frantically.

The wolf’s eyes narrowed. “Omae o korosu.” he intoned.

Duo’s eyes widened with fear, and without thinking, he whipped out the gun that he always carried, and shot the wolf. The wolf let out an agonized howl and collapsed, but strangely, he did not bleed. Duo continued to point the gun at the bear, his hands completely steady, ready for if it moved again. “You ok, otou-san? What is going on??”

“Do you remember when you were sick, Duo?” The old man put his head in his hands. “The wolf gave me magic water to heal you, but for a price that he did not name. He came to collect on his favor. I thought he would just want me, want my life…but…”

A soft noise drew Duo’s attention back to the body of the wolf…but the wolf was no longer there. In its place lay a young man with dark brown hair, almost black. He was the most beautiful sight that Duo had ever seen. “What the hell…” Then he noticed that the young man was completely nude…and forgot to breathe.

The young man opened his eyes, and they were the same blue as the wolf’s…and just as bottomless. Slowly, he sat up, and Duo forced himself to take a deep breath before he suffocated. They stared at each other for a long time before Duo finally spoke. “Who are you?”

“Heero Yuy.” The young man said shortly.

“What do you want?” Duo forced himself to continue to point the gun at the beautiful face before him.

“I wanted…you.” The young man watched Duo with dead eyes. “If you had come with me, I would have become human again, and we would have stayed together for the rest of eternity…but because you killed my animal form, the evil man who rules the kingdom east of the sun and west of the moon has me in his power again.” The color drained from the boy’s face. “He will make me do something truly horrible.”

Intrigued despite himself, Duo slowly lowered the gun. “What’s that?”

“He’ll make me marry his step daughter.” The boy looked as if he were going to be sick.

Duo immediately regretted his hasty action. The girl that Heero had to marry must be horrible indeed, to make the expressionless young man pale like that. He stowed his gun away and reached a hand down to help the other boy up. “It can’t be all that bad, man. Just say no. Stay here if you want to.”

Heero took his hand after a moment of hesitation. A shock passed between them…

The air suddenly grew cold, and Heero’s eyes slid shut. “…”

“What?” Duo gave the boy’s hand a soft squeeze…and the door of the hut flew open. Cold, damp wind swept in, blowing every loose paper around the room. It grabbed Heero, tearing his hand from Duo’s, and as strangely as he appeared, he was gone.

For a long moment, Duo stared at his hand. Only one word could describe what he had just seen, what he was feeling now.

“K’so!!!!”

***

“Are you sure you have to go, Duo?”

“Yeah, otou-san.” Duo slung his pack over his shoulder. “It’s my fault that Heero is going to have to marry some nasty girl. I have to go bail him out.”

“Do you even know where you’re going?”

Duo sweatdropped.

With a soft sigh, Duo’s father spoke again. “I asked around for you, son. If you go into the forest, there is a spirit in a grove of trees near the spring where I met the wolf…Heero. He might be able to help you.”

Duo grinned, a maniacal gleam in his eyes. “Then I’m off to save Heero…bye dad!” Without looking back, he ran down the path, toward the center of the forest.

For what felt like hours, he ran and ran along the path that went toward the spring his father had spoke of. At long last, he heard something that didn’t belong with the other sounds of the forest…the delicate, poignant sound of softly played violin music. The lilting strains drew him off the path and further into the forest until he burst into the clearing that the music was coming from.

In its center stood a pile of lichen covered rocks, and upon the rocks sat a beautiful young man. His hair was sunlight, his eyes the secret green of forests. He was playing sweetly upon a violin…but the moment Duo stepped into the clearing, the boy stopped and looked up, startled.

“Er…sorry, I just heard you playing and you sounded real good, so I thought I would check it out. Hi!” Duo waved nervously.

The golden-haired boy suddenly smiled, and the world lit up. “You must be Duo.” He said softly. “Your dad told me you might be coming.”

“Yeah, he sent me…uh…who are you?”

“My name is Quatre. I’m the spirit of this forest.” Carefully, the boy set his violin down. “What did you need to ask me so urgently? I haven’t even had time to start tea.”

Duo took a deep breath. “Well, there was this wolf that I shot and he turned into a guy…a really great looking guy…but anyway, because of me he’s going to be forced to marry some kind of horrible ugly girl and I feel kind of guilty about it so I’m going to go save him, but all I know is that he’s somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon and I have no idea where that is!”

Quatre’s eyes got round at the volume of words Duo had managed to speak in such a short time. “Aa…” he shook himself back to reality. “I know the life of the forest, and it has told me of the kingdom east of the sun and west of the moon, but not where to find it…I can get you there, late or never, though; I know someone else we can ask.” He smiled sweetly, and a unicorn stepped delicately into the clearing.

“Sugoi!” Duo grinned. “I’ll get going, then!” He headed for the unicorn.

“Wait!” Quatre called, and Duo stopped. The boy blushed pinkly. “Would you…mind if I came with you, at least as far as the next stop?”

It struck Duo as strange, but he liked the blonde boy, so he nodded. “Iku zo!” he said cheerfully.

***

“Ita-ta-ta-ta…” Duo slid off the back of the unicorn. Who would have known how uncomfortable riding one would be! His rear would never be the same again. For a moment, it distracted him from the surroundings, but when he was battered by a breath of chilling wind, he quickly came back to the present. “Where are we?” he asked.

“We’re at the beginning of the sea.” Quatre said, seemingly not bothered by the chill. Instead, he was happier than ever, a bright smile lighting up his face.

Duo eyed the rocky, grey beach they stood on with a grimace on his face. “Man, I’m COLD!”

Quatre didn’t seem to hear…he was listening for something else, head cocked to one side.

Curious, Duo ceased griping for a moment and listened as well. Over the crash of the waves against the rocky beach, he could hear…something…it sounded like…flute music?

Quatre grabbed his hand and dragged him along the beach, toward the ghostly music. It led them into a natural cave in between two of the huge rocks on the beach. The cave was filled with warm, buttery light, and the flute music echoed sweetly through it. In the center of the cave, reflected by a pool of still, calm water, sat a boy. His long brown hair flowed before his face, partially blocking it from view. His one visible eye was the cool green of rock moss. He stopped playing the instant Quatre made a sound, and he looked at the blonde boy, his face developing a slow, gentle smile.

The forest spirit let go of Duo’s hand and walked quickly to the new boy, reaching out to gently touch his shoulder. The strange boy covered Quatre’s hand with his own, and for a long moment, they simply looked at each other, almost tangible warmth flowing between them.

Duo began to feel jealous, and he fidgeted.

The two looked away from each other and at Duo.

“Ah…Duo, this is Trowa, the spirit of the sea.” Quatre smiled. “He might be able to help you…Tell him what you told me.”

Duo took a deep breath. “Well, there was this wolf that I shot and he turned into a guy…a really great looking guy…but anyway, because of me he’s going to be forced to marry some kind of horrible ugly girl and I feel kind of guilty about it so I’m going to go save him, but all I know is that he’s somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon and I have no idea where that is!”

Trowa’s visible eye widened at the sheer volume of words that fell from Duo’s mouth. After a long moment of silent consideration, he spoke. “I know the cool depths of the sea, and it has told me of the kingdom east of the sun and west of the moon, but not where to find it…I can get you there, late or never, though; I know someone else you can ask.”

Duo’s shoulders slumped. “Geeze.” He muttered.

Trowa was unconcerned. “If you go to the beach, there is transport waiting for you.”

“Ok…thanks.” Duo turned to go.

“Duo, matte!” Quatre said.

“What?” Duo glanced back.

Quatre smiled at him. “Trowa and I want to thank you for bringing me with you. There’s a present for you at the cave entrance. Hopefully, it will be of some use to you in the future.”

“Give it to the person I am sending you to see. He’ll know what to do with it.” Trowa said softly.

“Thanks!” Duo grinned and waved with far more assurance than he felt. Without looking back again, he left the cave, checking by the entrance. A scythe leaned against the rock. It was old and looked junky, but something about it made Duo pick it up. Despite its rusted blade and cracked handle, it felt right in his hand, so he took it with him as he went down to thebeach. It was impossible to tell when strange things would come in handy, after all.

There was a huge turtle on the beach.

Duo’s eyes got very round. “You have GOT to be kidding…”

***

“K’so…” Duo hissed quietly as he rubbed his hands together, trying to force blood to flow back into his severely chilled flesh. “I think I’m gonna just walk next time…” he muttered as he regarded the new cave that the giant turtle had delivered him in front of. “Well, no use waiting.” He walked inside.

Immediately, he was surrounded by heat, enveloped in it. His hands thawed in a painful, tingling rush, and he shook them as he walked, trying to get them to stop hurting. With each step, the cave…no, it was more like a tunnel…grew progressively hotter until he began to consider taking his shirt off, or maybe even turning around. Sweat ran down his face as he spotted a red glow at the end of the tunnel—it was so HOT—but he was determined, and he forced himself through the nearly tangible heat until he stepped into the red-lit chamber at the end…

The heat immediately lessened, as if the searing temperature of the tunnel had been only a dream. He stood on a large cliff over a sea of liquid rock; it colored everything red and orange. In the center of the sea was another rock of black, volcanic glass. On it, completely unaffected by heat that would surely burn a normal man to death, sat a boy in the attitude of meditation. He was dressed all in white, starkly contrasting the rock he sat on. His hair was the same black as the rock beneath him; it threw off red and orange sparks of light.

Immediately after Duo entered the room, the boy opened his eyes and looked up. “Quatre and Trowa sent you to me, right? I am Wufei.”

Caught off guard, Duo only nodded. Then he remembered the scythe in his hand. “Trowa said to give this to you, you’d know what to do with it.”

“Yes, I do.” The boy didn’t move a muscle…there was a low rumble that echoed through the cave, and the molten rock began to seethe. A giant shape burst from below its surface and wound toward Duo. It was a dragon, one with five claws on each foot. Delicately, the giant dragon took the scythe Duo had, and disappeared below the surface of the lava once more.

Duo, for once, was too shocked to say anything. He simply stared at his hands.

Wufei sighed softly. “There must be something else, or they wouldn’t have sent you to me. What is it?”

This was familiar ground. Duo took a deep breath. “Well, there was this wolf that I shot and he turned into a guy…a really great looking guy…but anyway, because of me he’s going to be forced to marry some kind of horrible ugly girl and I feel kind of guilty about it so I’m going to go save him, but all I know is that he’s somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon and I have no idea where that is!”

Wufei watched Duo, his sloe eyes widening slightly at how many words Duo managed to get out in one breath. Finally, he snorted. “Those incompetents.” he said, but his voice was affectionate. “I know hidden fire at the heart of the earth, and it has told me of the kingdom east of the sun and west of the moon, but not where to find it…I can get you there, late or never, though; I know someone else you can ask.”

“What, again? That’s what Trowa and Quatre said, too. Doesn’t ANYONE know where this stupid kingdom is???” Duo demanded, exasperated.

A small smirk pulled at the corner of Wufei’s mouth. “The person I will send you to definitely knows. They know every thing, every place, every person.” The dragon rose from the lava again, and Wufei walked up its back to the ledge Duo was standing on.

“The north is cold, and full of old knowledge.” the Wufei said quietly. “It is the place death comes from.” He held out a hand, and the dragon delicately handed him a scythe.

It was not the scythe that Duo had had before. This one was shining with cold fire, its blade honed so thinly that it was translucent. It LOOKED sharp. Very sharp. Wordlessly, Wufei handed it to him. It was hot to the touch, but not burning. “Wow…” was all he could think to say.

Wufei smiled slightly. “Now go save that idiot Yuy.”

“You know him?”

“He’s an old…friend of ours.” Wufei crossed his arms. “There is transportation waiting for you outside.”

“Thank you…” new scythe in hand, Duo turned and left. He was almost glad to be in the cold outside. The sweat on his face dried almost immediately in the chilled breeze. Then he stopped in his tracks.

In front of him stood a dragon.

“Sugoi!!!!”

***

“This isn’t promising.” Duo looked around the barren cliff that the dragon had left him on. There were no loose rocks, nothing at all. Just a matte black cliff of stone much like Wufei’s rock of volcanic glass. There was nothing there, at all. “Oi! Is anyone out there!!!”

The only sound was his own voice echoing back at him. Duo sighed and clutched the scythe more tightly. “Great, I got this far, and now I’m gonna die on some barren cliff…”

The quality of the silence changed ever so slightly. There was presence now…something…something big. Very big.

Slowly, Duo turned around.

Behind him stood the biggest gundam he had ever seen. It was black, and seemed to whisper a single word into the air…death.

“Uh…are you the one I’m supposed to see?” Duo said, suddenly feeling very foolish about talking to a machine…but…it wasn’t just a machine.

And suddenly, he knew what to do. He walked up to it, and climbed inside. “Yoshi.” he muttered, feeling strange familiarity, strange knowledge. “You must be Shinigami.”

Assent.

“Let’s go, then.”

And they went.

***

Duo was impressed, and after what he’d seen lately, that was an accomplishment to brag about. He had never seen a dwelling as lavish as the palace before him in his entire life. It was huge, at least a hundred rooms, and completely surrounded by ornamental gardens so vast that they never seemed to add. In one corner of the gardens, there was an enormous hedge maze that was overgrown and ill-tended. Duo had hidden Shinigami at its heart.

There was ivy growing up all of the castle walls. Duo eyed it speculatively. It was just right for climbing…but not yet. It seemed to be a better idea to enter the palace with permission first. If that didn’t work, THEN he’d resort to guerilla tactics.

He was in luck. There was a sign by one of the side doors that said “help wanted, inquire within.” Duo knocked on the door loudly.

It opened right away, revealing an old, haggard woman. “Yeah?”

“Uh…the sign said for work, I inquire.” Duo smiled disarmingly.

As cranky as the old woman looked, not even she could stand up against the full charm of Duo’s smile. “That’s true.” She said reluctantly. “We need a new maid.” She eyed Duo for a long moment. “You’ll do, I guess. You’re pretty enough that the master won’t complain…shouldn’t even notice you’re a boy if you don’t talk loud. Lucky for you.”

“Shouldn’t…notice…” Duo narrowed his eyes as the old woman pulled him into the kitchen.

“You look like you need work. Don’t be too picky.” She made him sit at a cluttered, rickety table in the corner of the kitchen, which was what the room was. “Let me get your dress and apron.”

“Dress…?”

***

Duo had never felt so foolish in his entire life. He was dressed in a short—VERY short—black dress with a tiny white apron. The old woman had twisted his long braid of hair into a bun, and made him put on lipstick…and he looked like a…like a…girl.

There was a mirror across the hall from him. He glared at it, then immediately smoothed his expression back into a pleasant smile. The ruler of the castle was rounding the corner, and he dropped into a low curtsy. “Master Treize.”

The man stopped in front of him for a moment. The scent of roses, which would have been quite pleasant if it hadn’t been so strong, wafted around him like an almost tangible cloak. “Are you almost done here?”

“Yes, sir.” Duo said.

“Good. The room next to my step daughter’s is in need of cleaning.”

“But, sir…your step daughter left strict instructions with us that we were not to go into that room.” that bitch. Duo added mentally. He had only met Treize’s step daughter Relena once, but it was enough for him to decide he didn’t like her. She was just so…so…unhinged. Yeah, that was the word. The girl seemed to be off in her own happy little world where everything went her way, and it got on Duo’s nerves.

Especially, he acknowledged internally, because Heero had said that he was going to be forced to marry her.

“My step daughter is not Queen of the World yet. You will clean the room.”

“Yes sir.” Duo curtsied again, not wobbling too badly for once. He was starting to get a hang of the dressing like a girl thing, which was a bit disturbing. It meant that he’d been here too long, which he had. He’d been up to his eyes in soapy water and dust more times than he could count while cleaning the palace, and he’d seen almost every room by now. There was no sign of Heero anywhere.

But one of the few rooms he hadn’t ever been in was the one next to Relena’s room. Which made it very promising.

As Treize walked away, Duo did an internal little dance of joy before he walked down the hall, to the room. He flung the door open.

It was completely bare, the wood floor coated with dust. With a soft sigh of disappointment, Duo stepped inside to take a better look around…

And froze. The south wall was alive with rose bushes, covered floor to ceiling with the thorny plants, eagerly drinking in the light that flooded through the windows of the north wall. The room was almost cloying, the scent of roses was so strong. But that wasn’t what made Duo freeze; no, it was the fact that wound so tightly in the clutches of the rose bushes that there could be no possible escape was Heero. His head hung forward, and he was covered head to toe with scratches from the thorns of the roses; he’d obviously struggled.

“Heero…” Duo breathed softly, in shock. His entire body felt hot, then cold as his eyes took in Heero’s situation a little more thoroughly.

Slowly, the other boy looked up, his face betraying no emotion. When his eyes found Duo, they widened, and something sparked in their ancient depths; hope. “Yume…?” his voice was very soft, disbelieving, and afraid.

Duo shook his head, swallowing hard. “Yume ja nai yo.” he said, just as softly as he fell into Heero’s eyes.

Heero’s head dropped forward again. “You’re too late. I’m supposed to marry…” his lips curled in distaste, “Relena tomorrow.”

“I’ll bust you out.” Duo took a few careful steps forward until he was within reaching distance. Slowly, he reached out and touched Heero’s arm where a rose thorn had cut him badly. Dried blood came away on his fingers, and he felt himself go cold with rage once again. “Does it hurt?” he asked softly.

Heero took in a sharp breath at the touch, one that had nothing to do with pain. “No…” he said. “You’re here.”

The words proved to be too much for Duo, and he did something he’d been wanting to do since he’d first seen Heero. He tilted the other boy’s chin up and leaned in, carefully brushing his lips against Heero’s. They both froze.

And then Heero kissed him back.

For a long, long moment, Duo felt as if he was going to set fire to the floorboards.

Then the door of the room was flung open, and a too familiar, annoying voice shrieked “GET AWAY FROM HIM, BITCH!”

Duo jerked away from Heero. The other boy grunted softly as the rose thorns scratched him, sending a few fresh drips of blood running down his arms. Duo turned his horrified eyes toward Relena. She believed him to be a woman, because of how he was disguised. It was just as well; things would have only been worse if she’d known Duo was a boy.

She had a gun pointed at him. “What are you doing kissing MY fiance?!?!”

Duo backed away slowly, shooting an apologetic look at Heero. Heero glared at the girl. “Omae o korosu.” he threatened. Relena ignored him. Death threats had no place in her own little fairy tale world. “Well?” she shrieked again.

Duo backed up another step. “Look, I don’t think the fiance thing holds any water. I don’t think Heero ever said yes.”

Relena cocked the gun. “Of course he did. He loves me.”

“No I don’t.” Heero said flatly.

Relena ignored him. “He just needed a little time to think it over.”

“Geeze, you turned him into an animal!” Duo yelled, a little exasperated on Heero’s behalf.

“For over three hundred years.” The other boy added stonily. His right hand twitched as he stared at Relena, as if trying to pull the trigger of a gun.

“Now he’s back, so we’re going to get married.”

“Man, you really ARE a troll, aren’t you! EEP!” Duo suddenly realized that it probably was not the best thing to say. Trolls never like admitting that they’re trolls. He dove to the side.

Just in time, it seemed. Relena’s gun went off. A bank of windows shattered as the bullet went through them.

“Shit! You really ARE crazy!” Duo scrambled to his feet. He shot a wild look at Heero, hoping that the other boy could see the promise to return in his eyes, and dove out the window, just as Relena pulled the trigger again.

The ground came rushing up to meet him at a rapid rate, and Duo slammed into it a lot harder than he’d intended. “AYA!” he shouted. Spitting out a mouthful of dirt, he scrambled to his feet and bolted for the hedge maze.

Behind him, he could hear Relena shrieking. “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERO!!!!!”

***

“Oh yes, Relena, you are going to pay…you should never have messed with Death…” Duo laughed softly, now standing before Shinigami. “Oh yes, you are going to pay…we’re going to make sure of it, right, Shinigami?”

Assent.

It had taken a lot longer than he’d wanted to get to Shinigami; he’d hidden the gundam a little too well, it seemed. Then he had to doctor the cuts he’d gotten from all of the falling glass…not to mention the broken ribs from hitting the ground a little too hard. So dawn was now touching the horizon. This was the day that Heero was supposed to marry Relena.

Duo gritted his teeth. Not if HE had anything to do with it. Nothing could stop the God of Death.

One small problem, though. Shinigami didn’t have a weapon.

“Man, what’s death without a scythe?” Duo grumped, trying to cover his steadily rising panic. He needed to move, and move NOW if he wanted to save Heero.

Scythe.

Slowly, Duo turned to look at the scythe that Quatre and Trowa had given to him, the scythe that Wufei had re-made. It was pitifully small beside Shinigami, but something…something made him go pick it up, and carry it to the gundam…and put it in its hand.

The scythe disappeared.

“Nani??” Duo shook his head, then glanced at the side. “Not enough time. Shinigami, man, I hope you know what you’re doing, because I sure don’t.”

Assent.

Without another word, Duo climbed into Shinigami’s cockpit. With unnerving silence, the black gundam made for the palace. By the time he’d reached the wing of the palace that Heero was held in, it was full light. Duo could see into the windows of the room…

Relena, dressed in a white, ridiculous dress that seemed to be made entirely of lace was leaning in to kiss Heero…

“NO!!!!!!!!” He couldn’t be too late. He refused to be too late…sudden rage consumed Duo, and a miraculous thing happened.

A scythe, blazing brightly, hotter than the fire that was Wufei’s domain, appeared in the hands of Shinigami. Duo didn’t stop to think. He struck…

***

Where the old palace of the kingdom east of the sun and west of the moon lies, there is only rubble, melted shards of rock that look as if some giant reached down from heaven and destroyed the building with a single blow. The tangled wreckage is laced with thousands of roses. The roses are redder than any rose has a right to be; the red of heart’s blood. Some say it is from the blood of Heero, who was held so cruelly by them. Others say that it is from the blood of Duo, who tore the cutting vines away with his own hands on that morning so long ago.

There is now a new palace, one much smaller and more modest, but infinitely grander because of the two that live in it; or five, rather. The three spirits of earth, sea, and fire have rejoined their old friends there.

Many search along the difficult path that Duo traveled, and never find what they are looking for…but if ever they make their way east of the sun and west of the moon, there lies a great kingdom, and all will be welcome there.

“Ninmu kanryou.”