The Blood of Peace
Third Movement, the First Part: Fortissimo
Swords flashed in the midday sun, mirroring the screams of the dying and the living alike. Everywhere, bodies fell and rose. The noise was horrendous, the din of cacophonous sounds drowning out all semblance of a sane world. The River of the Heroes ran in red rivulets now, choked with the bloated and rotting dead. The sickeningly sweet and cloying smell of death lingered in the air and caressed the landscape with every stirring of the wind. In the midst of the soldiers and their fallen comrades, Quatre stood in the midday sun. Sandrock was covered in blood, just like him. His golden hair was matted to his forehead by sweat and blood and no one could tell him what color his clothes might have been that morning.
The battle had begun only three days ago at the edges of the river, men clashing against each other and killing one another. Quatre was sick at heart, but it was war. People died. All around him, men stabbed at one another, drawing blood and breaking bones. Still, he had yet to receive an injury. Sighing deeply, Quatre braced himself as a foolish soldier rushed him with his sword raised high above his head. In a detached corner of his mind, Quatre silently admonished the soldier for his foolishness and critiqued his awful charging stance. Then Quatre swung out delicately and gracefully, cutting the soldier down with barely a thought. He watched as the body fell onto the ground, face first, into the sandy embankment of the river. One more death, and thousands to go.
Quatre swallowed the bile in his throat. His empathic mind was picking up pain, panic, despair, hatred, everything a dying man felt. He could not ignore the emotions roiling around him – they were too strong, too constant. Sometimes, he wondered how much of these emotions were his and how much belonged to others. Most of the times, he didn't even care. At least he was feeling something, at least he could tell himself at night that he was human. Quatre walked around the bodies and headed toward the Earthian camp. The battle was nearly done, neither side having gained or lost any ground today. Oz soldiers were beginning to fall back to their side of the river, dragging their moaning injured with them. Today's battle, ended just after the zenith of the sun, had cost so many lives. Like the one yesterday, and the day before. How many more would there be?
Tired in mind and body, Quatre approached the royal camp. It had been set up rather hastily a few days ago up on a hill that overlooked the carnage below. There were people milling around the tents carrying food and water for the returning warriors. One of them came towards Quatre with a basin of water and a towel. Quatre nearly laughed. That would hardly wash the blood off his hands and he was covered in gore, like he took a head dive into a vat of blood. But it was something. The water and towel were deposited at his feet and the servant scurried off quickly. Quatre couldn't blame the poor guy, really. He did look horrendous and he was still holding Sandrock in his hands. WuFei would throw a fit if he sheathed his weapons without cleaning them first. Quatre sat and washed his hands. Then, he used the towel to clear Sandrock of its day's work. He was so absorbed that he did not hear his brothers approach.
"Hey, Quatre, you are looking positively seedy. Rough day?"
Quatre started and whipped his head around to see a pair of concerned violet eyes. Duo was also covered in blood, but somehow, it looked right on him. But he was glad to see his brothers. Duo. Heero. WuFei.
But no Trowa.
Shaking his golden head at the thought of his beloved, Quatre gave Duo a smile, and decided to match Duo's somewhat light hearted tone. There were enough things to be depressed about now a days.
"I guess I don't look my best today. Neither do you, Duo. Your hair is coming out of its braid."
"Yeah, I know. I can't seem to make it stay put. It's got a mind of its own, sort of like our stubborn prince over here."
Heero merely shrugged at Duo's accusatory tone. He couldn't help it if Duo was still angry about the incident. Quatre picked up on Duo's anger and Heero's nonchalance without batting an eye. Emotions, they were always rampant now. So, Quatre wondered, why were Heero and Duo on the outs with each other? His unspoken question was asked by WuFei in a rather tactless way.
"What the hell is with you two? Neither of you have said anything nice to each other since earlier this morning! And we just finished a bloodbath. Can't you guys say something pleasant?"
WuFei's admonishing and outraged tone did not have the effect he wished. Instead of apologizing to each other over some folly they argued over, Duo burst out with an emotional flare.
"Fuck, WuFei, you don't even know what the hell we're talking about! Do you even know what Heero-I-Am-Invincible did earlier today? He fucking charged a blockade! By himself! He could have gotten his sorry ass shot down today and we were no where near enough to prevent it!"
Ah. Now Quatre understood Duo's emotions. He was more angry with himself than with Heero, of course. Duo must have had a heart attack when he saw Heero do something so foolish. Or brave. It was a fine line there.
"Damn it, why didn't you just say so?" WuFei replied rather heatedly, "then instead of yelling at your sorry hide, I would have ripped into Heero! Gods, what the hell is the matter with all of you?"
The emotions were getting out of hand. All this anger and screaming, it covered up the one thing that none of them wanted to face just yet. The pain. But this could not continue if they were to stay sane and friends.
"WuFei, Duo, please stop yelling at each other."
Quatre's quiet plea actually penetrated the growling pair's conscious minds. His voice had been so dead, so devoid of any life that it had scared them into silence.
"What is happening to us? We argue, we scream, we kill. We don't laugh anymore. We don't cry. We just keep on shedding blood."
Duo could not believe it was his brother Quatre speaking. The layers of innocence that he had wrapped around him like a shroud were gone now, leaving an introspective and hurting boy who could not understand. It made Duo sad, seeing his brother like this.
"Hey, Quatre, don't be so despairing, okay? I'm sorry I yelled at WuFei. Hell, I'm even sorry I yelled at Heero. Please, Quatre, stop being this way. It's not natural. Please."
Quatre looked up at Duo. He was trying so hard to cheer him up. For his brothers, he could do anything. Even ignore the pain and the dullness of his heart.
"I'm the one who should be apologizing, Duo. I'm better now. Really."
Duo was skeptical, but he let it slide. Quatre knew what he was doing. In this war, all they really had was each other and the trust between them. Silently, the four boys began their short walk to the tent they shared. The sun highlighted the blood in their hair and made the angles of their face seem harsher and older. No one could tell that they were only fifteen.