The Blood of Peace
The Third Movement, the Fourth Part: a Bloody Serenade
"Shit! Dermeil's forces are coming. Man, we don't have enough soldiers to push that one aside. They are going to get past us."
Duo's prophetic statement was proven to be true in a few hours when the Earthian forces found themselves being pushed back into the green fields beyond the River of the Heroes. Dermeil's forces were better trained and fresh; making easy prey of the tired, and rather demoralized Earthian army. Heero and his brothers had fought side by side, decimating anyone who came near them. But the four of them could only do so much before falling back. It was looking grim. WuFei slashed through his opponents quickly and efficiently, not wasting motion or energy. Altron wept blood as it unerringly found its victims. Still,
WuFei was being pushed back as were his brothers. Their awesome skills and formidable strengths would win in a normal situation, but faced with countless numbers of soldiers who kept on coming, even they could not hold out. His body was exhausted, his sword
arm feeling like it was about to fall off. Still he fought on. Never say die in the face of the enemy.
"WuFei, fall back! There are more of them coming over the crest! We have to fall back! WuFei!"
Heero's command penetrated his haze of tiredness and WuFei reluctantly retreated. All around him, Earthian soldiers were abandoning their former positions and falling back into the next hill. The sun was setting now, casting a dark orange glow everywhere. The world was red. The sky, the earth, his brothers.
"If we don't do something, the Oz bastards are going to overrun us in less than an hour! We need a plan! We need something!"
Duo's voice broke through the noise of clashing swords and running bodies. Duo was next to Heero, fighting as close to him as possible without getting in his way. His hair was still tightly bound into a braid, but it was soaked in blood. It looked like some of it might have been his own, but who could tell when the world had faded into red?
Desperation was palpable. They were losing ground steadily and soon, they would be too close to the Earthian castle. That was not acceptable. Quatre looked around and saw that his brothers were worried as well. As much as they wanted to stand ground, it was just not possible. When had things gone so bad?
Earlier that day, they had still held at the banks of the river. Now, they were so far from the river that they could not even see it. What had happened? They were finally at the crest of the hill which they had chosen to defend during the retreat. The enemy was bearing down on them. The four boys watched the waves of men yelling and running towards them with weapons in hand. So many; so fresh. But they would not give up, not yet. They could not afford to.
"Hell guys, here they come," Duo's voice piped up rather cheerfully. "And I guess we should say hello. After all, people like stories about lost causes, right?"
No, they had not given up. But they were also not fools. This battle was lost and all they could do was try to hold them off until night. The four boys braced themselves like boxers in a ring. They would fight and show these people what a true Earthian warrior could do.
Then, there was a miracle.
Quatre watched in amazement as men in red conical caps swarmed out from the forest to the left of the enemy. With wild and ululating cries, these new soldiers fell upon the Oz forces with a vengeance, hacking and smashing. Blood flew in the air again, and Oz's triumphant cries turned into sounds of surprise which quickly dissolved into horror. Heero looked out onto the valley of the hill in utter disbelief. Where had these people come from?
"Gods, we are saved today. They are here! The Maguanacs are here!"
Quatre's joyous cry reverberated through the carnage. Then he ran down the hill with Sandrock firmly in grasp to join the battle. Moments later, the three remaining boys rallied the Earthians behind them and tore down the hill with renewed energy. They had no idea who the Maguanacs were, but they finally had a chance to salvage the day. They fell upon the Oz forces and proceeded to annihilate them. Oz's confusion at the new threat, and the sudden onslaught from armies they thought they had defeated completely, destroyed them. By the time the sun had set, the Oz forces had fallen back and Earthian had stopped the encroachers from getting further into Earthian. They had lost a lot of ground today, but it was better than losing everything. At least, now there was a stalemate. So, who the hell were these Maguanacs?
Heero's questioning glance was shared with Duo and they both walked up to Quatre. WuFei was already there, having a slight glaring contest with a giant of a man with a full beard.
"Heero! I was looking for you. I want you to meet Rashid, the leader of the Maguanacs."
Quatre sounded so happy that Heero could not admonish him for not telling him what the heck a Maguanac was. So he inclined his head at this giant man, Rashid, as Quatre cheerfully introduced him to his other brothers. When the introductions were done, Quatre finally answered Heero's burning question.
"Heero, Duo, WuFei, would you like to meet the rest of the Maguanacs? They are my family's private army and bodyguards. They have been our protectors since the beginning of the Winner family."
A private army? Quatre's family had some interesting connections. This army, the Maguanacs, were well trained and fully equipped with fine weaponry. Heero had known that the Winners were wealthy and powerful, but never to what extent. Quatre had never found the time or inclination to reveal that information. But whatever the reasons, he was just glad that the Maguanacs came out today to throw back the Oz army.
"Your Highness," began Rashid in his extremely baritone voice, "I am glad to be of service to you and Earthian. Our primary goal is to protect Master Quatre, and since his duty is to you, we will also protect you. Please, accept our services."
And with that, the Maguanacs were incorporated into the Earthian forces. And now, they had a chance to win this war.
Dorothy walked with her head held high, showing the slightest of disdain towards the soldiers eyeing her and smirking at her. She was walking under the flag of truce, unarmed, by herself, in the midst of this Oz army. She had been told that this was the palace infantry unit, headed by a Zechs Marquise. He was the emperor's key general, and the person to meet to negotiate a term to meet with the great Treize himself. Dorothy wondered about this new general. Her informants could not find too much information on him, so she had no idea what he looked or acted like. But he should be easy to pick out since he wore some kind of mask to hide his face. Finally, she spotted him. The fire from the cooking flames glinted off his silver mask. Dorothy frowned. There was something awfully familiar about him; his long hair, the way he moved, the way he held himself. Almost like.. like..
Gods be damned.
Stunned, Dorothy stopped in her tracks about five feet from the man who called himself Zechs. Then the masked man slowly turned around and greeted her with a half smile.
"Dorothy. How have you been? Is my sister well?"
If Dorothy was the type to faint, she would have. As it was, she was feeling light headed and dizzy. This was absolutely crazy. How the hell had Milliardo end up as Oz's chief general?
"Milliardo! What.. Who.. Uh.."
Dorothy, who was famed in Sanque for being extremely articulate and impossible to fluster, was at a loss for words. Why hadn't Noin told her about this?
"Milliardo is dead, Dorothy. There's only Zechs Marquise now. Shall we talk?"
Zechs motioned her to follow him to his tent. Numbly, Dorothy complied, forcing her wooden legs to move. When she entered the tent, she nearly fell down into a chair facing Milliardo, or Zechs, whatever it was. When she realized that she was acting like an idiot she pulled herself together. She was Dorothy Catalonia! She did not lose her train of thought because of a surprise. Zechs was glad to see the usual intelligent light shine in her blue eyes again. For a while there, he had been half afraid that he would have to dunk her in some cold water to make her regain her senses.
"Now that you're back to normal, Dorothy, let's begin. Did Relena send you to talk to Treize?"
"Yes." The ice was back in her voice, as was the usual bit of mockery. "She wants to see if Oz and Sanque can reach a peaceful accommodation. She has had enough of war. Earthian will not negotiate peace, so she will. And she will make Earthian follow."
Zechs looked mildly amused. Relena, convince Heero to submit to Oz?
"You believe that Relena can do it, don't you Dorothy? That is.. interesting."
Dorothy sniffed at that. She knew that Relena could not convince Heero. From what she had observed, the prince of Earthian was completely, if not absurdly, in love with his Master of Assassins. Those two shot sparks off each other when they were miles apart. And it seemed that only Duo had any real influence on Heero's decisions. His other brothers advised him, but Duo commanded Heero's heart. Relena had never had a chance. But she had to try.
"Zechs, I know Relena cannot hope to convince Heero. But she can salvage his country after they are defeated in war. She will keep Treize from ruining Earthian."
"Is that what you think Treize would do? Burn Earthian to dust? Foolish girl, he wants to preserve all people. He loves humanity as much as Relena. I fight for him so that Relena can realize her dreams. Why are you here if not to achieve the same goal?"
So Zechs firmly sided with Treize for Relena's sake. That was a relief. It meant to Dorothy that Milliardo had not betrayed his sister, but was still serving her, albeit in a different capacity. That was acceptable.
"So, Zechs, hypothetically speaking, if Earthian was to surrender, you're telling me the war would be over completely, no ill feelings?"
"No. The war will continue as long as it has to. Only after complete devastation can there be a rebuilding. You must purge before you can continue. So I will fight until Earthian is crushed. There will be no surrender. They would not give it, we will not accept it."
Shaking her head, Dorothy mused out loud.
"That makes no sense. Treize won't destroy Earthian, but is willing to crush its populace into a pulp? There is no logic here! What is going on, really?"
Zechs laughed. It was an empty sound, filling the tent with an ominous air.
"Why don't you stay and find out for yourself, Dorothy? Join me. Serve Relena the best way that you can."
Interesting proposal. Smiling, Dorothy looked at Zechs straight in the eyes. Different shades of ice blue clashed and then came to an understanding. Two like minds, one mistress. Indeed, an interesting proposal.
Heero approached the Oz envoy with care, his hands at his sides. Much to Duo's dismay and objections, he had come alone. As they were about to rest after a hard day's battle at the hills, a messenger had come to ask Relena to join Lady Une and princess Mariemeia at the Oz empirical envoy at the edge of the river. Instead of Relena, Heero had decided he would go since Relena had revealed that she wished to negotiate with
Treize. He could not afford hostages at this point, and Relena would make an excellent one. As for himself, he could get out of certain situations which Relena was ill prepared to do. Quatre, for his part, had also objected, insisting that it had to be the Master of Secrets who went instead of him. Still, Heero had overruled them all and then to make sure they would listen to him, had commanded them to stay put. So, here he was, in the moonlight, approaching a potentially hostile camp by himself. At least he had Wing. When he got close to the tent, a tall man materialized out of the darkness. Heero's eyes widened, but he did not falter. It was Trowa.
"We asked for Queen Relena. Who are you?"
Trowa's familiar voice did not betray that they knew each other. Heero would play along, for now.
"I am Heero, prince of Earthian. I am here in her stead. Lead me to meet the Lady."
The two of them walked side by side, pretending not to know each other. When they were granted entrance to the tent, Trowa positioned himself just inside the tent flap while Heero took a seat across from a tall woman with severe hair. Her eyes were cold, and when she spoke her voice brought down the temperature by at least ten degrees.
"You must be Heero. I have heard about you. So, you're here to negotiate for Relena?"
"No. I'm here to see what you want. Then I'm leaving."
Une smiled at this young boy who spoke like a grown man. He was no milksop. That was good since she hated dealing with weak people.
"I'm here to propose to Relena in His Majesty's stead. Will you ask her to come with us so that she may be Empress of Oz?"
Heero let out a mirthless laugh. So that was Treize's plan. Conquer Sanque by marrying Relena. Une continued, ignoring Heero's laugh.
"I realize that she is your betrothed. But since you have not married yet, I think she can consider this proposal. May I trust you to relay that message?"
"I am not a messenger boy. Now that I know what you intend, I'm leaving."
Heero stood and turned towards the flap. He did not expect a childish voice to ring out.
"How dare you laugh at my father's plans! You will show more respect, Heero of Earthian. Guard, capture him!"
Mariemeia's command was not in the plans apparently since Trowa looked stunned and Une sucked in a breath. Trowa, caught between duty and honor, hesitated a little. Mariemeia cried out again.
"Capture him! I command you!"
Lady Une made a motion towards Heero at the same time Trowa did. Heero and Trowa exchanged a brief look filled with a tacit understanding. Then Heero lashed out and elbowed Trowa in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. He leapt over the fallen form and dove out of the tent, unsheathing Wing in the same instant. He cut down the two approaching guards and then he ran along the river. Behind him, he heard Mariemeia's voice shouting, "capture him at all costs! He's my prisoner!"
Heero looked behind him. In the moonlight, he saw Trowa at the lead of the pursuit team, Heavyarms in hand. Smiling, Heero ran. Soon, Trowa would be reunited with him and his brothers.