Chapter 6 - Miracles of Faith
Relena hummed a childhood ditty while she contemplated her next move. Milliardo was giving her that steady look which usually signified that he had the upper hand, but her position was so good this time that he had to be bluffing. Idly, Relena reached out her hand to rub her favorite chess piece, the queen. While the logical part of her brain scanned the board for her next move, the dreamy, girlish part of her mind dwelled upon the beautiful queen. All her chess pieces were carved from the purest white ivory, decorated with gold and pink quartz, but her queen piece was the masterpiece. Unlike her brother's black onyx pieces trimmed with silver, her pieces radiated light. Especially her queen. The eight inch tall piece was exquisitely carved to look like her long dead mother, or so she had been told. The rich golden fall of her hair was solid gold, as was the delicate lace trims of her dress. Her benevolent and peaceful face always calmed Relena when she was upset. Like now. This was the third game of the evening and she had yet to beat Milliardo. It was not acceptable. "Are you going to make a move or fondle that piece until it's rubbed out?"
Relena pointedly ignored her brother's patronizing tone and continued caressing the queen. It was comforting and it helped her think.
"Fine. I'll make a move. You are so impatient, Milliardo."
Relena picked up her queen and moved it half way down the board, placing it just in front of his trapped bishop. Her move made Milliardo whistle lowly, telling her that she had done the right thing. In four moves, this game would be hers. She glanced at Milliardo with a smirk on her face; his facial expression was somewhat akin to a man who had bitten into a bitter fruit. Finally, she had satisfaction. She watched with an ill concealed glee as Milliardo reached out and tipped his black king over, conceding the game to her. As the king rolled pitifully on the board, Milliardo stood and gathered his lengthy blond hair. Relena watched with fascination as her brother ran his fingers through his hair; it amazed her still that he had more hair than she could possibly wish for.
"Stop staring, Relena. It's not polite. You win this one."
"Leaving so soon? Don't you want to play another game?"
Milliardo grimaced slightly as he straightened out his coat. His sister's tone was unpleasant, like a predator asking a prey to stay for dinner. She had only won one game but she was treating it like she had won the biggest victory in the last century.
"It's late, Relena. Go to bed like a good little girl. I'll see you in the morning."
Relena stuck out her tongue at her brother's back. When he shut the door to her room, she let out an expletive which would have earned her a lecture on lady like behavior from her father. She hated being treated like she was a child, not a mature woman who had just celebrated her fifteenth birthday. Sulking, Relena stalked into her bedroom and shooed her handmaidens away. She did not want to deal with people prodding at her with hair brushes and night gowns right now. She wanted to be left alone. Why couldn't anyone understand that she was a grown woman, perfectly capable of doing whatever she wanted? Her father still gave her childish gifts like dolls and ribbons. Her brother spoke down to her as if she had only half a brain. The lords and ladies of court were courteous but they talked to her about nothing, not important matters. And then there was the Guide who had easily dismissed her when it was obvious that she was no older than herself. All things considered, Relena felt the great injustice that was her life. Still mourning her station in life, Relena undressed and tossed her costly and beautiful dress into the corner and shimmied into her nightgown. After a perfunctory prayer to the Darkness for protection and life, she slid into her bed and closed her eyes. She hoped her dreams were better than this rich, pampered reality she had to live.
Relena heard her name in the wind, but she could not tell from which direction it had come.
The whispery voice was everywhere, surrounding her like a cocoon. It was warm.
It was getting hotter. Relena felt the heat of the voice washing over her, through her.
Suddenly, the darkness around her brightened. All around her, there was nothing but a blinding whiteness.
The voice was searing now, an inferno of sound. The whiteness intensified.
Somehow, she found herself answering.
'I am here.'
'Relena, come to me.'
The heat, the whiteness, they became one. She felt the voice with her entire being. The ecstasy was indescribable. It bordered on pain.
'Come to me, Relena.'
The voice and the whiteness swirled around her like a whirlpool and she willingly allowed herself to be swept into it. Endless joy wrapped around her like her favorite dress, caressing her skin and molding to her body. She did not ever want to leave.
Relena felt her eyes slide open. She stared at the dark blue canopy above her and breathed hard. That dream.. Lately, it had been coming with more frequency. She was afraid of it, but somehow, it was just too exciting. She looked forward to them like a long lost lover. She ran from it like a whore running from her pimp. She had no idea what the dream meant or who the voice could be. But the sheer ecstasy that the dream evoked was the greatest thing she had ever experienced. Her body still trembled and her breathe still came in small hitches. Her spine still quailed from the minor earthquake the shivers caused and her fingers clenched her satin bed sheets like a life line. Relena internally sighed and closed her eyes again. While most girls dreamt about good looking boys and their wedding days, she dreamt about some voice in a light. Relena willed herself to fall asleep, determined not to dream this time. The dream made her feel too much. She didn't think she could do it twice in one night and come out sane. Instead, she would dream about mundane things, like beating Milliardo in chess five times in a row or getting a novice invitation to the Dreamer's Dome. Satisfied with her thoughts, Relena slipped into sleep. But dreams came to her anyway, dismissing her sincere thoughts without hesitation. The light, the heat, they came flooding into her dream like a tidal wave, crashing against her mind and breaking her barriers. Relena whimpered in her sleep, her body taut as a bowstring about to break. When her mind was about to shatter and become absorbed into the light, she was rescued. In her dream, she was plucked out of the maelstrom of light by a hand burning like fire, cool as the water, swift as the wind, solid as the earth and gentle like a child's soul. And she dreamt no more.
Heero eyed the boy who stared at him in mute distrust. Duo was distributing food with Noin and Sally to a bunch of kids who looked as if they hadn't eaten in several years. There were seven grimy children, their dirty hands out in front of their frail bodies begging for food. Duo had been right – he had needed the food more than he. At this moment, Duo was surrounded by those seven dirty children, laughing delightedly as he handed out hard cheese and bread. Hardly a bountiful fare, but these kids would be happy with anything edible. Heero stared at Duo who looked completely at home in this small wooden shack with a guttering fire. Firmly, Heero quashed his attraction once again, forcing himself to look away. When he turned his head away from the enticing and heart warming sight that was Duo Maxwell, his eyes collided with the boy who looked at him with distrust.
"I don't like you."
Heero snorted at that. It wasn't the first time that someone had told him something like that. It probably wouldn't be the last.
"I don't like you either."
The boy's eyes narrowed and glinted dangerously. Heero felt his body tense for confrontation and saw that the other boy was doing the same. Heero needed this – it would let out some of the frustration that Duo had caused earlier.
"Hey, you two already getting along?"
Duo's loud and chirpy voice cut through the layer of tension and violence between Heero and the other boy. Braid swinging carelessly, Duo stepped into the middle of the potentially dangerous situation and put his arm around the other boy. Heero suppressed the jealousy and annoyance caused by the gesture.
"Hey, Gorgeous, don't go around offending everyone you meet, okay? Let me introduce you. This is my best friend, practically my brother, Trowa Barton. We grew up together."
"Yeah, only someone who grew up with you would be as annoying."
Heero's irritable tone had no effect on Duo, but Trowa visibly bristled. His brown hair which had previously swept over one eye was moved over by his left hand so that Heero could receive the full death glare directed at him. Heero merely stared back into Trowa's verdant green eyes and stood impassive. Duo rolled his eyes and gave Trowa a quick squeeze on the shoulder. If these two guys were left alone, Duo could only imagine what kind of blood and gore would ensue.
"Okay, guys. Time out. Don't make me send you to your corners. Trowa, Gorgeous is always like this from what I gather. Ignore him."
Trowa dropped his bangs and turned his head to Duo. His one visible eye contained the one emotion that he had never directed at Duo: skepticism.
"Duo, are you sure we should ignore him? He seems.. dangerous."
Duo smirked and nodded. Trowa did not know half of how dangerous Heero Yuy could be. He did not want Trowa to find out like he did earlier. Taking Duo's nod at face value, Trowa gave Heero another glare and then walked over to the kids. Trowa's hostility faded and the kids jumped into his arms, practically bowling him over with exuberance. Heero shook his head. These two were totally different around the kids. He bet that these kids did not know that Duo was called the Shinigami nor that Trowa could look at a person like he did not exist. Kids had it good. Duo saw Heero's eyes soften as he looked at the kids. Shaking his head, he walked over to Heero and put a friendly hand on his shoulder. When Heero shook off his hand, Duo swallowed his frown and pasted on his smile. No matter what Heero did, Duo was determined not to let it get him angry.
"Why don't you go play with the kids? You seem to like them."
This time, Duo walked in front of Heero and drilled his violet eyes into his cobalt blue ones. Duo did not like denials – they were too much like lies. "Don't do that. You like them, I can tell. Even Trowa likes them. You don't have to pretend, you know, like you do with me. Kids don't give a damn who you are, as long as you're nice to them. Just say hi. They are kind of curious about you and all."
Heero gave his best glare, but Duo did not budge. Sighing in defeat, Heero stomped over to Trowa and the mass of children. Duo watched with a small smile of satisfaction while Sally and Noin goggled at the sight of Heero playing with the kids. Trowa, on the other hand, looked like he was in the process of having a heart attack.
When the kids went back to bed after eating and playing, it was about three hours to sunrise. The seven little children were all laying on the floor, draped against each other in a care free manner only children had. By the fire, Trowa and Duo sat next to each other talking softly and Noin and Sally nervously fidgeted. Heero stood in the corner of the shack, his eyes closed but his ears open. He heard Duo and Trowa's whispered conversation without classifying it as eavesdropping.
"Why do you have to go with these people? The children need you."
Heero heard Duo's sigh of regret before he answered.
"Look, Trowa, I don't want to go, but these are Star Dreamers. They don't just pop up and tell you things for the hell of it. They really need me."
"I'm going if you're going. That is all there is. I don't trust that boy Heero."
Heero nearly grunted at that obnoxious statement, but refrained. They might figure out that he could hear them.
"Trowa, you know the kids need you. You can't abandon them."
The conversation ended. Heero strained his ears, but it really seemed that Duo and Trowa had said everything to each other. Then to his surprise, Sally scootched over to the boys and spoke.
"Trowa, Duo, I'm sorry but I heard what you were saying."
Sally raised a delicate eyebrow when the boys showed shock.
"Well, it wasn't like you two were exactly talking privately."
Heero chuckled at Sally's response. It almost seemed like something Duo might say.
"Anyway," Sally continued, "if you want to come with us, Duo, we have to leave by daylight. And Trowa, if you want to follow Duo, I know someone in the area who can look after the kids. Even give them regular meals and a warm place to sleep."
Duo and Trowa stared at Sally as she talked about a nice girl she knew around these parts who could take the kids. They were absolutely flabbergasted. Sally was willing to help out kids that everyone else had abandoned. It was unbelievably touching, even if she was only doing it because she needed Duo to come to the Dome. Sally droned on about the wonderful girl who would treat the kids like her own when she noticed something in Duo's eyes. They looked like tears. Horrified, Sally tried to make amends.
"Oh, Darkness. Duo, I'm not trying to take them from you. I just wanted you to consider options, if Trowa wanted to come.."
Duo gently cut off Sally's apologies and excuses with a shake of his head. Tears had yet to fall, but apparently Sally did not deal well with them. Filing away that information for future use, Duo responded to Sally's near incoherent speech.
"No, it's not that. I'm just happy that you are willing to help them out. No one ever has so it caught me by surprise. Thank you, Sally. Just for that, I will go to your Dome, save this miserable world and anything else you want."
Sally's own eyes misted over but she ducked her head to hide it. Noin took pity on Sally and took over. Sally hated showing others that she could cry and Noin would not let her pride shatter.
"Then it's decided," Noin said authoritatively, "In the morning, we'll show the kids their new home and you will come with us."
"I'm coming, too."
Trowa put in his two cents and received an annoyed nod in response. Noin did like interruptions.
"Fine. As I was saying, Duo and Heero are coming back with us, and you may accompany us. Hopefully, we'll find the other three Warriors."
Consensus was reached. Morning would spell a new life for the kids sleeping so peacefully. Morning would also bring the Darkness one step closer to fighting the Light. At least, that was the Star Dreamer's hope.