The Blood of Peace
Third Movement, the Eighth Part: Syncopation
Relena looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was up in intricate braids, held in place by a string of bright red rubies. Her dress was a woman's dress made from the finest silk and chiffon in red and white. It even showed a bit of cleavage and more of her shoulders than she was accustomed to. She fingered her diamonds and ruby necklace which matched the earrings and her bracelets. Overall, she presented an image of a mature queen with great self confidence and supreme will. Inside, she was quaking from uncertainty and nausea. She walked away from the mirror to a chair on unsteady legs and practically fell into the seat.
She had been in Treize's royal camp for more than a week now. She had left Earthian without Heero's knowledge, only leaving a note which she kind of hoped that he did not find. In that short amount of time, she had talked to Treize ceaselessly, arguing points, debating issues, butting heads. He was a formidable political opponent, probably the best she had run into in her reign as queen. And he was persuasive. Sighing, she smothered her need to scream. Lately, everything seemed to be going out of control. She felt like a twig caught in a raging river current, tossed from one place to another until she could not tell where she was going or what she was doing. After all the talking, she still had not managed to convince Treize that this war was wrong. She still could not get him to tell her about her brother Milliardo. After all her efforts, all she had done was agree to become his bride to protect her kingdom. She had lost her battle.
He had been so convincing and she had been so heartsick. All the death and blood, this killing of one another, had nearly driven her insane. Yes, war was wrong. Yes, she felt like she had betrayed Heero when she had told him she would not. Yes, she could feel the empty spot in her soul where life used to reside. Yes, she still heard Duo's angry words telling her to grow. And yet, here she was, in a pretty dress, about to be crowned as the Queen of the World. What would Heero say? What would Duo do? Those questions scared her more than anything. But she had no choice! The Earthian alliance that would have kept her kingdom from war had been demolished by Heero's feelings and her words. His love for Duo would not have stopped him from marrying her, but it had stopped her from wanting to marry him.
Sometimes, she wondered if she should have married Heero anyway and avoided all these confusing thoughts. But that would have been no good to anyone. This way, her kingdom had nothing to fear from Oz nor Earthian because Oz would no longer invade Sanque and Earthian would be too busy fending off superior forces to worry about her small country. And this way, Heero was free. It was better this way. And maybe after the war was over, she and Heero could talk, straighten things out. After all, they were both leaders – they should be able to come to an understanding. Treize, Heero and she did things necessary for the advancement and protection of their respective countries. What she had done to Heero, it wasn't personal, it was politics.
She had no idea how long she sat and thought. Trying to justify one's actions to oneself always took a long time. And concentration. So much concentration that Relena did not register another's presence in the tent.
"Relena, you look so pensive. Are you doing okay?"
A sudden smile lit up Relena's morose face. It was Dorothy.
"You're finally here. Treize told me he sent for you, but I didn't know you would be here so quickly. Have you been treated well? I suppose I didn't need to send you in as my envoy since I'm here. I don't know how things got so out of hand. I –"
Dorothy gently grasped her queen's hand and stopped her words. Relena would have become hysterical if she was to continue.
"Relena, things never go the way you plan in life and war. So here we are. You are my queen, no matter what you do. I will serve you in my every capacity. You don't need to justify anything to me."
Dorothy's hard voice had become soft and soothing, the usual bits of cynicism wiped clean for her distressed queen. This marriage, it seemed so much harder on Relena than the one she had dreamed about only months ago.
"I just don't know anymore, Dorothy. All I want is for this war to stop. I don't care who wins. In the end, what do the common people care about who rules them as long as the leader is good to them? Heero and Treize, they are cut from the same cloth, you know. So dedicated, so immersed in their love for their countries. It's a wonder that they don't see how similar they are."
"Maybe they do. That is why they fight each other. They both want the same thing, but each want to achieve it in a different way. That is why we're here. To help them see."
Relena smiled. Dorothy was astute and manipulative to such a high degree that it amazed her. And she had that gleam in her eyes that said she had something up her sleeve.
"Dorothy, I know you. You have something planned. What is it?"
Her question was met by a rich and vibrant laugh. Dorothy sounded positively happy.
"Oh, Relena, I always have some plan. But right now, I'm more or less playing it by the ear. It's war. We should be as unpredictable as it is. That's the only way we can prevail now. Heero can't know you are to marry Treize. Treize can't know that you mean to defend Earthian once you become Queen of the World. My queen, we are a pair of women in a man's war and we would change the face of it."
Relena shook her head at Dorothy's wild proclamation. She had a great flare for the dramatic, her spymaster. But she was also right in a way. She would stop this war. Not through strength of arms, but through strength of the mind. Even if she had to forsake both Heero and Treize. She had lost the battle, but not the war.
It was a gray morning filled with sullen clouds that threatened rain. There was a slight chill in the air already, as if winter could not wait to come and bury the dead underneath the cleansing snow. Zechs stood and surveyed the surroundings. Today, Oz would push Earthian as far as the castle. He and Treize had stayed up late into the night planning and briefing each field marshal on the plan. Cut, divide, flank, conquer. Simple tactics vamped up with massive numbers. Mathematically speaking, it was feasible. Realistically, it was inevitable. Zechs wondered if Heero had recovered yet from the arrow. That had happened maybe two or so weeks ago, so if he had lived, he should still be in bed. But knowing Heero and his determination, Zechs figured he was already up and about, ready to fight. If that was the case, then he hoped to meet him today in battle. They had some unfinished business.
"General Marquise, I have a message for you from His Excellency."
The messenger handed him the message and quietly faded back into the massive army behind him. Zechs tore the wax seal and read the short memo. So Treize had abided by his wishes and had not told Relena of his position in the army yet. Zechs wondered why he kept it from her. After all, she had been crowned as Queen. Moreover, she had married Treize. That still bothered him a little bit. She was his little sister and only fifteen. But he supposed that it was for the best. Maybe he would tell her after this battle. He would explain to her why he had chosen this path and she would explain why she had chosen hers. Then they would sit and talk like they used to over some tea and cookies. He missed those days. A wistful smile graced his lips briefly before disappearing into a grimace. It was time. Blood was calling.
Duo cursed loudly and plunged Deathscythe into yet another warm body. Shinigami was out in his full form today. The violet eyes held a menace unmatched by any human being, his body moved with a grace that belonged to the gods themselves. The dark blade was one with his body and the death count was high. The fact that it was pouring rain had no deterring effect on his deadly skills. He did not feel the heaviness of his soaking wet braid or notice his long, choppy bangs clinging to his face. He did not slip in the maddening mix of mud and blood beneath his feet nor lose concentration from the chill in the air. The rain, the mud, the dead, they were all inconsequential. He did not fight to lose. As hard as he was fighting, he could not shake the feeling deep inside that something was massively wrong. He looked off to his left and saw Quatre cut down Oz soldiers like overripe wheat and further off, he saw WuFei giving the phrase 'fighting with a vengeance' a new meaning.
Ever since WuFei had come back from Treize's camp telling them he had failed in his mission, he had not been the same. Hell, none of them had been the same since that day. Quatre was recovering his emotional barricades nicely, but Duo still heard him sob at night. WuFei's newly married life must have done some good because the only times that WuFei did not beg for forgiveness for failure was when he was with Meiran. She made him happier than he knew what to do with. Of course, WuFei did not show it, but Duo could see it. After all, he was also head over heels in love with someone.
Then there was Heero. After scaring the ever living fuck out of him by getting shot in the chest with that arrow, he had recovered. Sally had assured him that nothing vital had been hit and that Heero would be fine. But still, Duo had worried and spent every night listening to Heero breathe. Now, Heero was back at the camp, safe and sound but furious. Odin himself had ordered that Heero stay put and get better. So Heero was sitting at camp right now while Duo and his brothers fought this stronger palace army. Even though Duo's thoughts were on his brothers, his body was fully engaged in battle. Any soldier who even glanced at Deathscythe met his maker. But the bad feeling persisted. Where was the feeling coming from? Then he saw it. The Oz army was pulling back. It was wrong. It felt WRONG. What was the plan?
Duo's eyes met Quatre's briefly before they both realized it. It was a lure. Follow the falling army and they would step into a trap. Before Duo or Quatre could get any words out, Odin came galloping on his white horse and sailed past them screaming, "After them! Don't let them get away!" And the men followed. Who would not follow such a dashing and heroic figure into death? Duo, Quatre and WuFei joined the men running after the Oz soldiers. They exchanged looks that acknowledged each other's fears that this was a trap. But they could not stay behind while the rest of the army surged forward. The best they could hope for was that they came out alive.
"Damn it all to Hell! If I don't come back alive, Heero's gonna fucking kill me."
Duo's oxymoron of a statement went unnoticed as a flanking army poured out from either side. It was horrifying. The feinting army ahead of them now turned and came, brandishing weapons and screaming war cries. To the right and left, more soldiers came. They had one option, to retreat, but that was impossible with the bottleneck created by the three walls of Oz. A simple trap. And Odin had fallen squarely into it. There was a thick layer of panic among the Earthian soldiers now. They were just trying to get out of this trap, ignoring commands and protocol. This battle had every markings of a massacre. Then, the worst thing that could happen, happened. Duo watched in horror as Odin Lowe, King of Earthian, fell from his horse to receive the sharp edge of a blood red blade. Zechs. The three brothers ran towards their king, killing everyone who tried to get in their way. When they got there, Zechs had already moved on to other prey and Odin was bleeding profusely. With a heavy heart, Quatre and Duo picked up their dying king and started towards the Earthian camp while WuFei cleared their way. This battle was lost, their king was lost, but they would make it back to Heero and win another day.
Heero listened with a grim intensity as the latest messenger from the battle told him the bad news. The majority of the front line army was currently being decimated by a bottleneck trap created by Oz. The battle was lost, no matter how one looked at it. The fact that it was raining made retreat even harder. There was nothing good this messenger could report. Heero waved him away and fumed. Here he was, sitting in the tent while his people and his brothers were out there risking their lives for him. Dying for him. With a frustrated sigh, Heero stood and bucked on Wing. His chest still throbbed painfully from the wound, but he didn't care. He was going to go out there and fight. As he was about to exit the miserable tent, the same messenger he had sent away rushed in and nearly knocked him over. Grimacing at the pain and the hasty messenger, Heero almost yelled at him. That was, until he noticed that Duo and Quatre were carrying his father into the tent. His bleeding, dying father.
Carefully, Duo and Quatre laid Odin down onto the bed. His breathing was labored and the bleeding had yet to stop. Sally rushed in carrying her medical packs and shooed everyone out of her way. Heero watched with wide eyes as Sally did some medical things that he did not completely comprehend. Then he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. Concerned violet eyes looked deeply into his shocked ones and relayed a mountain of support. Heero bent his head and rested it on top of Duo's shoulder. He could smell the mud and the blood on his beloved, the mud of battle, the blood of his father. It made him sick, so sick that he wanted to cry out. Then, all of a sudden, Heero felt tired and leaned into Duo more. He would not falter now, not when his father was bleeding out the last of his life. Slightly afar, Quatre, WuFei and Meiran watched the couple. If they wanted, the rest of them would be there as support as well.
"Prince Heero, your father wishes to talk to you."
Sally's tired and grieving voice penetrated Heero's mental stupor. Heero detached himself from Duo and walked to his father. His father, once a strong and tireless man, looked gray and ashen. He looked like a dying man. Ignoring the lump in his throat, Heero sat by his father and spoke.
"I am here, father."
"Heero," his father began with a thick voice laced with pain, "I am dying. You know this."
"Yes, father." Heero's voice had no emotions. He could not display them now. He would not break down before his father and show weakness.
"Then listen to my final words to you. Be a good king. Be a king who cares and loves, not one who inspires fear. And son, my son, live according to your emotions. They will guide you true."
Numbly, Heero nodded in acquiescence. It was all he could do.
"Live, my son. Live.. according.. to your.. emotions.."
With a parting sigh, Odin Lowe let go of his mortal life. His cobalt blue eyes, still open to the world, no longer held the spark of life. His chest did not move with breathing but was still. There were no sounds in the tent.
Heero sat there, still numb, looking at his father. His final words echoed in his head.
"I will, father. Good bye. And thank you."
Heero reached over and gently closed his father's empty eyes. Then he stood slowly, like an old man. His voice, however, was still strong, still devoid of emotions.
"I am ordering a full retreat. Everyone will go back to the castle and we will set up defenses there. Move out."
Quatre, WuFei and Meiran left to pass on the message to everyone at camp. Duo remained, staring at his beloved. He felt Heero's pain and wept in his heart for him. He stepped towards Heero and reached out to surround him in a supporting hug. Suddenly, Heero turned and stepped right into his arms. They held each other tightly, clinging to one another like a life line. But there were no tears. Just a silent and dry grief.