Title: Enemy of My Enemy part 03
Author: Em (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Warning/Label: AU, fantasy, OOC, original characters, angst, weird, original bit characters.
Archived: www.gwaddiction.com, under Lys ap Adin, and sundry other places
Enemy of my Enemy
[10 May 1243 Post Alliance]
"Damn it, damn it, damn it!"
The screech of utter frustration echoed across the courtyard as a very exasperated woman paced up and down the paving stones, ranting and gesticulating angrily. "I don't need this! Why do I put up with this job?! A person of my skills could have a career with an emperor!" She raised her eyes to the heavens. "Why me?! What did I do to deserve such misfortunes?!"
"Istas, Istas, please," a man, looking harried and impatient, pleaded. "There's no need to work yourself into a state--just because four of the housekeepers quit at once and we're short five maids in no reason to panic--"
"No reason to panic?!" Istas screamed. "It's a perfect reason to panic! I'm the one responsible for keeping this castle clean and in running order, damn it! How can I possibly do that without a sufficiently large staff?!"
The man, who was one of the castle stewards, continued to try to placate the distraught woman. "I'm sure it will work out, Istas, just calm yourself--"
"Calm myself?! Calm myself?!" Istas was ready to launch into another tirade when she caught sight of a timid figure lurking at the edges of the courtyard. "You! Girl! What do you want?"
The young woman crept forward, anxiously smoothing her masses of chestnut hair. "I-If you please, ma'am, I was told that there are jobs to be had here at the castle," she whispered, dark blue eyes darting to and fro anxiously.
"Can you scrub a floor?" Istas demanded briskly, tantrum forgotten.
"You're hired. Come with me."
"Istas--Captain Yuy specifically ordered that no one be hired without his express approval," the steward said warningly.
Istas glared at him. "Hush, Wacamol. If Captain Yuy would like to fill in as a cleaning girl while he interviews all my prospects, he's perfectly welcome to. Until then, he can stay out of my way. Come, girl. What's your name?"
"You can call me Aminta..."
Swinging her legs over the side of the Telati wagon like one of the children in the caravan, Sally grinned at Cathrine. "So, you never did say where we're going."
Cathrine laughed. "Where ever the road takes us."
The healer considered this and added her own laughter to Cathrine's. "That sounds good... this one goes north, to Catalonia, doesn't it?"
Cathrine inclined her head. "Yes... it's somewhat more comfortable there... the people are sparser."
Sally nodded. "I see... Are you sure you don't mind me coming along?"
"Are you sure you want to come?" Cathrine countered. "Life on the road's hard, I told you that."
"I'm quite sure," Sally said determinedly.
"Then we're glad to have you..." The wagon crested a hill, and Cathrine pointed to faint blue shadows on the very edges of the horizon. "See those? Those are the Dragon's Spine. We'll be there in about four days."
"What will we do there?" Sally asked eagerly.
"The lord of Dragon Keep is getting married in a few days--We should be able to trade at the festival." Cathrine grinned in anticipation.
Trowa turned around, exasperated but also somewhat amused. "Don't you have somewhere else to be?" he asked he blond shadow.
"Hmmm?" Quatre tore his gaze away from the tight muscles flexing beneath the smooth surface of Trowa's skin. "No, not really." He smiled. "I'm my own man, my ranger friend... and you have yet to tell me how I may service you--er, be of service to you--for saving my life."
Trowa forced his face to remain carefully neutral. "That isn't necessary, Quatre."
"But it is! I can't put a stain on my honor by not repaying a debt," Quatre said smoothly. "It would ruin my good name." Mentally, he congratulated himself on the swift improvisation.
Trowa winced, knowing that he had lost the battle. *With any luck, he'll get bored if I don't give in to his advances...* "Fine. If your honor demands it, then I can't refuse."
Quatre positively glowed. "How should I do you first--I mean, what should I do for you first?"
*Oh, gods...* Trowa smirked slightly. "You can help me bury the bodies from yesterday."
Quatre's face fell immediately.
[11 May 1243 Post Alliance]
Meiran stopped short on the threshold of the training room, finding it already occupied. She recovered her composure swiftly. "I didn't realize you ever descended from your ivory tower to busy yourself with outside concerns," she remarked bitingly.
Wufei ignored her, continuing to work through the kata with concentration focused entirely on the motion of his body and his sword. Grudgingly, Meiran admitted to herself that he did seem to possess a certain level of skill--more, by far, than she would have given the scholar credit for knowing. Eventually, upon ending the kata, Wufei turned his attention to Meiran. "I don't spend all my time with my books, Lady Ron. To give le focus to any one area is a grave mistake, especially for a leader responsible for the welfare of his people."
Meiran's eyes narrowed. "Are you insinuating something, Chang?"
"Should I be, Lady Ron?" he retorted.
"There's nothing to imply," she snapped.
"Then don't be so defensive," Wufei shrugged.
"I'm not being defensive! You're the one hinting at things!" Meiran railed. "And, if I my remind you, sir, while we are on the training grounds, we are in my domain, not yours."
Wufei snorted. "You're too confident. It's foolish."
"Foolish?" Meiran's tone turned dangerously calm. "Shall we see who is foolish?"
Wufei paused. "If you think it will prove something."
"I think it will, at that." Meiran stepped into the large room and onto the mat. "Your preference?"
"Bare hands," he said evenly, walking off the mat to stow his sword away, then returning. They eyed each other warily, slowly bowing in accordance to form, then began circling each other, sizing up potential weaknesses. Then Meiran whipped forward, aiming a strike to Wufei's chest. He dodged, countering with a blow aimed at her head. She dropped out of harm's way, swiping a leg out in a move intended to take his feet from beneath him. He flipped out of the path of her leg before returning the favor.
Strike. Block. Strike. Dodge...
Ruefully, Meiran was beginning to wonder if she had underestimated the strength of her betrothed. For a man of a scholars' clan, he was amazingly proficient in the warriors' arts. Of course, he still hadn't managed to land a hit on her, either.
Strike. Block. Strike. Dodge...
"This is pointless, Meiran," Wufei said eventually, stepping back from the smooth punch intended for his solar plexus. "We're not proving anything by this."
"That is no less than what I expected of you," Meiran snorted, spinning out of the way of Wufei's roundhouse.
"Is there any way to be reasonable about this, or is that too much to ask?" Wufei inquired caustically. "We're only wasting our energy here."
"You can stop fighting. I won't, though," Meiran reminded him.
"We're going to be married in three days, Meiran. Do you want to spend the rest of our lives like this?"
"I didn't ask to be married off to you!" she flared.
"Neither did I. The clan elders decided it was to be so, and it is our duty to obey them."
"I don't want to marry a weakling scholar!"
Wufei smirked. "Are you that sure that I'm just a weakling bookish man now?"
Meiran glared at him. "I hate you."
Wufei grinned, ducking under a punch and seizing her wrist, using his leverage to pin her to the mat in one fluid motion. "Then we're pretty much even, Lady Ron."
Her eyes grew round with disbelief. "You--How?" she sputtered.
Wufei let her up. "A trick learned from a book. Good day, Lady Ron." He left the training room.
Meiran stamped her foot in a childish gesture of her pique. Strangely enough, it made her feel better.
"Thinking of him again, Father?" Iria asked respectfully, as the duke sighed.
He smiled at her wistfully. "So perceptive... just like your mother."
Iria dropped her gazes in faked modesty. "Thank you, Father."
"I just can't help wondering where it all went wrong," he said sadly. "He has everything a young man could want--So why force me to disinherit him by running off and behaving like a criminal?"
"Young men are sometimes like that, Father. No one knows what it is that makes them run wild," Iria counseled him.
"Such a wise girl you are... I ought to see about getting you a husband," her father said thoughtfully.
Iria sucked in a sharp breath. *NO! Not that, not now!*
He shook his head. "No, no, what am I thinking? Forgive your selfish father, Iria darling, I can't bear to give you away just yet... not when I depend on you so."
Iria sighed, relieved. "Let it be as you say, Father."
He smiled at her fondly. "Now, if only Quatre would come home... all would be forgiven."
Iria turned her eyes away carefully.
[12 May 1243 Post Alliance]
Striding down the hallway, Heero stopped short, eyes going cold. "You're new," he snapped, studying the servant girl kneeling next to a bucket intently.
Wide, frightened eyes of a vivid blue-violet darted up to meet his anxiously before falling away quickly. "Y-yes, sir," she stuttered, her voice a low, husky whisper.
Heero cursed. "I told them not to do this," he complained. "Who are you? Where are you from?"
"They call me Aminta, my lord.... I came from the lower city."
"Hn. Who hired you? What are your duties?"
"Istas, my lord. I clean the floors." She waved a hand at the bucket of soapy water.
"Istas." Heero glared and the girl cringed away automatically. "I should have known as much." He paused, and softened his expression in order not to terrorize the poor girl. "It's not your fault, although I will speak to Istas about her hiring practices... again..." He walked away briskly.
The servant on the floor smirked inwardly as Relena's chief guardian wolf moved away. For some reason, those in charge never paid attention to the people who kept things running smoothly for the ship of state... in all the years he had spent undercover for his ... jobs .... for Zechs, Heero Yuy was the first to even acknowledge his presence.
Or, rather, "Aminta's" presence.
Returning his attention to the floors, the assassin placed Heero on a higher rung of his personal ladder of respected figures.
[13 May 1243 Post Alliance]
"Tell me, Zechs, how are things going with the assignment I gave you?" Treize asked lazily, while admiring the deep red color of the wine in his crystal goblet.
"I sent my preferred agent, of course. Given his efficiency, he should be within the castle walls by now," Zechs said slowly. "Knowing him, he will have your ... obstacle... removed within a matter of days."
"You don't anticipate any difficulties?" Treize seemed skeptical.
"Yuy might prove troublesome, but given my agent's motivations, he will not fail," Zechs said confidently.
"Ah, yes, the price of failure... is high indeed." Treize smiled. "But that makes the game all the more exciting, don't you think?"
"I shall send Une to Escand, so that the first report of success will be ours," Treize announced. "Do send her in on your way out, hm?"
"Yes, sir." Zechs bowed and exited.
Une entered a few minutes later. "Your Grace?"
"Ah, Lady Une, so good to see you rested. Would you be so good as to jaunt down to Escand for me? We're expecting exciting things for the Peacecraft duchy very soon."
Une's eyes glinted behind her glasses. "I'd be honored to do this for you, Your Grace. I shall depart at once."
"Thank you, Lady Une."
Alone once more in his study, Treize gazed into his wine, willing it to show him the future.
"...Papa?" came the childish, questing voice of his daughter.
Treize smiled without a hint of cynicism for the first time all day. "Mariemeia... come here and give me a hug."
Smiling gladly, his daughter did as bidden. "You never come to tuck me in at night," she scolded, squirming into a comfortable position on his lap.
Treize chuckled. "I'm a terrible father, then." He smoothed her hair. "I'm busy trying to make you into a princess, my dear."
Her nose wrinkled. "I'd rather you tucked me in."
"Such an impractical child. Don't you want to be a queen someday, Mariemeia?"
She shook her head. "I want to be a wizard when I grow up."
Treize smiled. "Then you shall be a wizard. And you can be a queen in your spare time."
Mariemeia considered this proposal. "Okay, that will work."
There was a tentative knock at the door before a woman cautiously entered. "Treize? Forgive me for disturbing you--ah, there you are, Mariemeia."
The little girl frowned. "I wanted to see Papa, Mama."
"It's all right, Leia," Treize told his wife gently. "I rather liked the surprise visit."
"Mmmm," Leia said noncommittally. "C'mon, Mariemeia, it's time for bed."
The girl pouted. "But--"
"No buts, child. Wizards and queens need their sleep," Treize admonished her. "Let's go... I'll tuck you in."
[14 May 1243 Post Alliance]
Relena sighed, snuggling a little on the arm of her consort as they walked the paths of the castle garden. "It's such a lovely night," she murmured, gazing up at the stars.
"Yes... although... I have one complaint," Ralph replied.
"And that is?" Relena inquired.
Her consort nodded his head to the path behind them. "That shadow of yours really makes a romantic mood impossible."
"Did you want me not to do my job?" Heero, walking a discreet ten paces behind the couple, snapped.
"No, Yuy, I just want to have an hour's peace with my wife," the annoyed man told him. "Is that so much to ask?"
Relena sighed. "Ralph, darling, you know that Heero, paranoid as he may be, is convinced that my life is in danger."
"It's not paranoia if you're right," came the nasal rejoinder. "Just ignore me, you two."
Ralph grimaced. "That is it. Heero. I am ordering you to take the night off. Go. Away."
"Relena, talk to him, please?" Ralph begged.
The duchess turned to face Heero. "Please... Heero, isn't there anyone you'd like to spend this evening with?"
"No. My life is your service," Heero replied stiffly.
Relena shook her head. "Heero, please... The two of us, just for a couple hours... let us be normal? Please?"
There was a long silence before Heero answered. "This goes against all of my principles."
"I understand, Heero... and you'd understand, too, if you had someone of your own," Relena smiled.
"Two hours. That's all." *And I'm staying in the area,* he added silently.
"Thank you, Heero."
The duchess and her consort watched with relief and a sense of giddy freedom as Heero melted and disappeared into the darkness. "I thought we'd never get rid of him," Ralph said contentedly. "He's so overprotective of you... Say, you don't think--"
"Absolutely not. He's just... driven by duty." Relena smiled sadly. "It's the only way he knows how to live."
"Pity. Well... where were we?" Ralph asked rakishly.
Relena giggled like a girl. "Oh, right abut here, I'd say," she told him, pulling him closer and fitting her arms around his body.
"Oh, I see... what the--" Ralph stiffened, pulling away from Relena. He reached for his shoulder, starting to speak, but crumpled to the ground in a boneless heap before the words left his mouth.
Relena screamed as loudly as she could, rushing to her consort's side. "Ralph? Ralph!"
"If I were you, Your Grace," drawled a lazy voice, "I'd forget him and worry about me."
Relena started, rolling away from Ralph's prone body instantly as she had been taught by Heero. The reflex saved her life, as a blade whistled through the space where her neck had been just moments before. Impossibly fast, the direction of the blade changed. This time, she was not quite swift enough, and it bit deeply into her side as she scrambled back.
"Who are you?" she demanded shrilly, pressing a hand to the tearing pain in her side. She was able to make out details of the assassin... a tall man, slender, with the green light that flickered across the curved blade of his--scythe?--reflecting in glittering violet eyes.
He laughed, tossing a long braid over one shoulder. "They call me Shinigami, Your Grace... Please don't take this personally."
He lunged forward, intent on finishing the job as he brought the scythe around in a sweeping arc.
A dark blur rolled between the assassin and Relena, bringing his own sword up to bear. Metal screamed against metal as Heero parried the blow. "You don't mind if I take it personally, I hope," the bodyguard growled. Then his eyes narrowed as he took in the features of the assassin. "You!"
The man laughed. "I do hope you had a word with Istas... it'd be a shame for this to happen again."
"Bastard--I'll kill you!" Heero wrenched his sword away from the scythe, bringing it back around in a massive strike.
The assassin dodged, no longer laughing. "A lot of people have promised me that, but they're all dead now," he said darkly. He swept the scythe over Heero's sword, trying to disarm the warrior.
"Well, I never break my promises," Heero smirked, as the garden began to fill with the light of torches and the shouts of soldiers. He twisted his sword around the scythe's blade in a parody of the other man's own action, and yanked the staff out of his hands through sheer physical force.
The assassin screamed a protest, dodging Heero's killing blow. "Bastard! I can't fail this mission!" He dove after the scythe, but Heero threw himself in his path. "You don't know what this means!"
"It means you die," Heero said coldly, raising his sword.
The violet eyes went flat as soldiers raced up the path. "If they die, I will hold you responsible," he growled, casting a handful of powder into the air.
"Shit!" Heero coughed as a cloud of smoke filled the air. As the night breeze wafted it away, he saw the assassin had vanished.
Heero looked to Relena and saw that the extent of her injuries were bad, but not beyond hope. "See to the duchess!" he yelled as the first soldiers burst onto the tableau. "I'm going after the assassin!"
Heero sprinted off into the darkness, swearing vengeance on the laughing assassin and already castigating himself for the lapse in his attention to duty that had allowed the entire scenario to occur.
A weary knock interrupted the idle chat between Treize ad Zechs. An exhausted Une stumbled into the study when so ordered.
"Well?" the duke asked.
"Your Grace... Duchess Relena Peacecraft was gravely, but not fatally, injured this evening by an unidentified assassin, who escaped without being apprehended. At last report, Heero Yuy was in pursuit," Une stated.
Zechs swore roundly as Treize sighed. "Thank you, Lady Une... You may retire."
"Thank you, sir." Une withdrew.
"This changes very little," Treize mused. "Relena is now incapacitated, at least for a while. The plan is still eminently feasible."
"Forgive me, sir. I never dreamed he'd fail--"
"He is only human, Zechs. However, I do suggest that you extract the penalty."
"First thing in the morning, sir."