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fic - the faithful and the brave : 25 [novella] - the turnip patch
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turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - the faithful and the brave : 25 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  25



The Faithful and the Brave
Part 25


Duo was jealous of Wufei.  One little suggestion that they get a little practice in during their rare little spot of downtime, and Heero was stripping out of his armor.

Maybe he should have made the suggestion first.  But if he was going to get all hot and sweaty with Heero, he could think of better ways to do it.  Besides, it wasn't like Wufei got the opportunity all that often, so he sorta got dibs.  Even if Duo wasn't all that sure Wufei hadn't suggested it just to keep him away from Heero.

It was kind of interesting to watch, anyway.  Heero was an unusually versatile fighter.  A trusty sword typically hung from his belt, but he wasn't uncomfortable about setting it aside for another weapon, or even no other weapon in this case.  Duo could tell he wasn't as skilled in bare-handed fighting as he was with the blade, and Wufei stopping for teachable moments certainly confirmed it, but he was willing to learn, and his wide experience could catch an opponent off-guard.

The two sparring partners concluded their exercise with a bow traditional to the style, and Duo couldn't let the opportunity pass him by.  "Any time you're up for a little swordplay, Heero, I'd be happy to oblige."

Heero opened his mouth to respond, but closed it after a moment, a slight furrow on his brow to indicate his uncertainty.

Duo let his smirk grow so there could be no doubt as to his innuendo.

Wufei shook his head with a sigh and went over to his pack to get to his water flask.

After a few seconds, Heero did the same, and Duo took his attention off of them.  He was nominally on lookout, though their day camp was not near any particularly travelled area.  There were no significant landmarks nearby, but Quatre would need none to track them down later with his skill in the Libra arts.  Trowa was normally the group's expert tracker.  Perhaps he'd find something to flirt over on the topic.  Though not too outrageously, not with Sylvia present.

Their plan to drop her off at a Winner family outpost in Zeklaus did not work out as intended.  Quatre would trust only a few of his sisters with the task of keeping his dear friend's sister safe, but none had been present at the time.  Heero had been unsurprisingly disgruntled, Sylvia unsurprisingly pleased.  They would return to Zeklaus after their visit to Orbonne, at which time they were assured Quatre's chosen sister would be present.

Heero hadn't been any happier with Sylvia's insistence that she be present during the introductions to her former teacher, Pargan.  His own 'fugitive' status necessitated his distance from the visit.  Quatre was the obvious candidate to speak to the elderly scholar, so he accompanied Sylvia in Heero's stead, with Trowa along as backup.  Duo himself had happily declared a lack of interest in religious academics and volunteered to keep Heero company.  That Wufei also would stay behind did not put a damper on his enthusiasm.

Duo glanced over at Heero, and found Heero staring back at him.  Or his hand, more specifically, which was absently toying with a fifty-gil coin.  He was flipping it across his fingers with a deft skill that required no real concentration on his part.  When he caught Heero watching, he made the coin vanish.

Heero blinked and looked up at him.  Duo winked, snatched a coin out of thin air, and twiddled it along his fingers again, moving several times through a simple routine of disappearing and reappearing.

"Even when I know what to look for, I can't see it," Heero commented, somewhere between impressed and rueful.

"Well, I wouldn't be very good at it if you could see it."

"A good time mage could probably fix that," Wufei said.

"Bah, everyone knows time mages are dirty cheats."

"Illusion and misdirection isn't cheating?"

"It's prestidigitation, my friend, and anything with that many syllables has got to be a fine art.  Don't worry, I'm not trying to intrude on your territory.  I know, you're a right and proper mage.  So's Quatre.  Trowa's got his magic dragon jumpy nonsense.  Hell, even Heero's got a bit of magecraft.  You leave my little bit of 'magic' alone."  He noticed Heero's eyes focused on him.  "Uh.  At least, that's what Quatre said once."

"Did he?" Heero responded mildly.

"He said you did at one point, anyway.  Like, you took classes together or something.  Um.  Is this one of those things we don't talk about?"

Heero graced him with that slightly confused look before he got it sorted in his head.  He shook his head.  "No.  It's... just in the past now."

That almost sounded like a willingness to talk.  Duo went fishing.  "So.  Quatre said you 'lost the knack' for magic.  How does that happen?"  Heero's expression went just slightly pensive, but not the full-on pensive that Duo was used to when he'd gotten too close to something personal.  He wasn't sure if the topic was safer than those others, or if Heero was just finally loosening up now that everything was in the open.

"I grew out of it, I suppose," Heero finally answered quietly.

"I didn't know that was a thing that happens."

Heero considered some answers, and in the end passed the buck to Wufei with a vague gesture.

Wufei raised his brow fractionally, but did as requested and sorted through the many factors at play to approach an answer.  "It's... a matter of faith."

"Faith?  What does the Church have to do with magic?"

"'Faith' in the academic sense.  A bit of archaic terminology that's stuck around for all these years.  Nothing to do with the Church.  For magic to work, you have to have a certain amount of faith.  Faith in the universe.  Faith in the intangible.  Faith in yourself.  Magic is formed of the energies in the world around us, and it responds to the energies within us.  You are familiar with the concept of magical compatibility, yes?"

"Sure.  Not in any technical kind of way, I'm sure, but... I dunno, I've always thought of it like everyone being a note, like in music, and some notes sound good together, and some don't."

"That's an acceptable metaphor.  Your faith can alter the timber of your note, if you will, or cause your note to go a little flat, a little sharp.  Those little changes can put you out of sync with the music that is the magical energies that comprise this world."

"So you, uh, go through a rough patch, come out of it sounding a bit different, and... the universe kicks you out of the orchestra?"

A small, wry laugh escaped from Heero, but he didn't seem interested in adding any commentary beyond that.

"Things just aren't the same as they used to be," Wufei corrected.  "And you have to consider multiple orchestras, multiple instruments, multiple scales.  Even multiple notes within the same person.  And I think we've reached the end of this metaphor."

"Heh, well, if the universe doesn't want you in its orchestra, you can be in mine."  His grin was properly rogueish.

Heero might have responded, but Wufei got the first word in.  "Heero's not completely locked out of the 'orchestra'," he said, almost sternly.  Almost in defense of Heero's virtue, Duo thought.  "He is still an excellent channeler.  That's an uncommon skill."

"Ooh, new vocab word.  What's channeling?"  He asked the question of Heero, but Wufei answered.

"Facilitating the movement of these energies we were speaking of.  Most people with access to this energy can do that, but typically not without losing some of it in the process.  You may have noticed after Quatre's summoning of the ifrit, he was quite exhausted, but he felt better after Heero channeled some of his own energy to him."

"Is that what happened?"  He recalled a brief pause in their flight from the Inquisitor to agree on a change of direction.  Heero had put his hand on Quatre's shoulder and Quatre had perked up a bit, which he'd noted at the time but then they were off again.  He'd thought perhaps words of concern or encouragement had been exchanged or something.

"Yes.  Your average mage would probably tire himself out in the process, and for little gain.  Such is not the case with Heero."

"Uncommon skill, you said?"

"Yes.  And not a learned skill, either.  Of course, it helps that he has good compatibility with Quatre.  And that he has a large amount of raw energy of his own to access.  But even so, not many can transfer even a small amount of energy without feeling the effects."

"Sylvia can as well."  Heero's firmness implied that that was enough praise for now.  "And Quatre was exhausted.  He didn't need much."

"Channeling good for anything else?"  Duo once again asked the question to Heero, hoping that maybe Wufei would stop with the lecturing for just a moment after Heero's sidelong chiding.

"Things esoteric and irrelevant," Heero replied just as firmly.  "It is not a skill with much everyday utility."

Wufei begged to differ.  "You would make an excellent summoner."

"If only I had all the other skills that make an excellent summoner.  Or even a poor summoner."

"I've always wanted to meet a moogle," Duo piped up.  The others looked oddly at him.  "What?  Wouldn't you want to meet a moogle?"

Wufei refused to dignify that with an answer.

Heero had no such compunctions.  "Why a moogle?"

"Why not a moogle?  They're adorable.  Or at least, I'd want to see if they're as adorable as all the lore makes them sound."

Heero smiled faintly.  "Quatre refuses to summon moogles."

"Aww, really?  Why?"

"Ever since he heard the theory that moogles retreated from this realm because they were tired of people squeezing their pompoms.  He thinks they should be left in peace."

"Oh.  Man.  Now I kinda totally agree.  I mean, that'd be like some random stranger walking up to me and pulling my hair."  He reflexively gathered his braid protectively over his shoulder.  "Their pompoms are part of their adorableness, but I'd never squeeze one without asking!  And even then, like, I'd have to be on my deathbed or something.  Pretty extraordinary circumstances!  That's just rude."

Was it his imagination or did Heero's smile get ever so slightly less faint?  "Still want to meet a moogle?"

"Well.  Yeah.  But, you know, maybe not really summon one so much as, I dunno, lay out a good spread of moogle treats or something just to let him know he's welcome if he ever wanted to drop by.  And we could chat about humanity's total lack of respect for personal space.  Sounds like we'd have something in common.  Has Quatre ever summoned one?  I mean, before he heard that theory?"

Heero shook his head.  "He heard it in class.  Almost failed that class.  Moogles were part of the final exam."

"Almost?"

"Summoned an ifrit instead."

Wufei let out a dry puff of a snort in reminiscence.  "He would have passed out at mealtime afterward, if not for you.  He only made it to noon meal by sheer stubborness."

Heero shrugged.  "He acted brashly.  But he passed."  He glanced over to Duo and explained.  "Ifrits are second year material."

Duo slapped his knee in amusement.  "Go big or go home, eh?"

"Well, you know Quatre.  He's..."  Heero trailed off as one of their grazing chocobos squawked congenially.  A chocobo farther away answered faintly.  "...nearby, I take it."

"Or Trowa is, at least."  Chocobos typically took well to him.

They were both right.  The others arrived in camp not too long after.  They dismounted and let the chocobos loose to join their feathery brothers and sisters.

"Well?" Wufei prompted, interested as to why Quatre needed such a prompt at all.

The white mage seemed thoughtful.  "Well, indeed.  He filled us in on more of the myth surrounding Ajora and the Zodiac Braves."

"And?"

Quatre waved his hand dismissively.  "Interesting, to be sure.  But I felt the magister was keeping something from us."

Heero noticed his sister beside him open her mouth as if to interject, perhaps in Pargan's defense, but she settled back with a small sigh.  They had likely discussed the matter on the way back to camp.  "Something of ill intent?"

"No... I do not think he is a part of this conspiracy.  No, his secret seemed... older.  A burden he has borne for some time."

"Are you certain that it has something to do with the information that we seek?"

"Yes.  It was stronger as we spoke of the myths.  It faded as we spoke of other things."

"Did you press him?"

"Somewhat.  He had duties to attend to.  He invited us to do research in his library, if we had further interest in the topic.  He was generous with his knowledge.  And yet... there was something reserved.  Perhaps we might visit him in his library tomorrow, see what else there is to learn from him."

"Why not tonight?" Duo suggested brightly.

"Tonight?"  Quatre was a mix of puzzled and startled.  "I wouldn't wish to impose upon him...?"

Duo shrugged.  "Well, I mean, it's not like we'd have to trouble him or anything."

Trowa's shoulders lifted in a silent laugh.  "You want to break in to the old man's library?"

"It's not breaking in if he invited us."

"True, he did not specify a time."

Quatre frowned.  "That's a bit... more than I was planning."

"Aw, come on," Duo responded quite reasonably.  "If he's hiding something, we can probably figure it out faster if he's not there."

"If he's hiding something," Wufei inserted.  "What makes you think we could find it in his library?  Where he invited us to search?"

"Well, since we were there, maybe we'd accidentally get a little lost and wander around a little... You know.  By accident.  And like you said.  No sense in bothering the old guy.  I'm sure he's got better things to do."

"That's terrible."  Sylvia turned to her brother in support, but Heero apparently had his own ideas.

"Quatre.  If we visited him tomorrow.  If you pressed him further, and he still did not yield up his secret.  I am certain you do not intend to be rough with him.  What then?  This is our only lead."

His frown deepened for a few seconds before his expression resolved into a decision.  "Let me tell you what he told us.  Perhaps we may together glean some insight from his omissions."




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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
tanuki02 From: tanuki02 Date: May 22nd, 2016 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like the "orchestral" metaphor for magic skills! And I, too, am as curious as Duo about St. Ajora and the Zodiac Braves.
Thanks for the update!
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 24th, 2016 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)
This information is somewhat relevant and not just a vehicle for Duo to flirt with Heero, I swear.
ramenkuri From: ramenkuri Date: May 23rd, 2016 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
So Sylvia and Heero can channel well. And I'm with Duo; I'd like to see a moogle.

Practical Duo. Wonder what Pargan knows!
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 24th, 2016 07:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I could resist squishing a moogle's pompom, but I'm not sure I could resist squishing the moogle himself.  They're so squishable! (i mean, i'd ask first...)
ramenkuri From: ramenkuri Date: May 30th, 2016 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure I couldn't resist squishing either -_-;
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: May 25th, 2016 08:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed the talk about magic. The magic itself was interesting, and it was great to see Duo learning a bit more about Heero (even if it was mostly through Wufei).
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 27th, 2016 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Wufei.  Ever the interfering chaperone. ^o^ (even if heero did request he do the telling.)
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: May 26th, 2016 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought I had outgrown bouncing gleefully, but apparently not...

So many little tidbits! I heartily agree with Quatre; yes to ifrits, no to unsuspecting moogles.

Now, I hope Duo gets to make his midnight visit to Pargan's library. ^__^

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 27th, 2016 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd kind of say no to ifrits, too.  They're not nearly as cute as moogles, and much more likely to fry you to a crisp if you make a wrong move.  But good to unleash against enemies, I guess.
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: May 27th, 2016 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Could you unleash an ifrit against the moogle squishers? Or would the ifrit also succumb to the inherent squishiness of moogles? That would probably not be a good idea... ^__^

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 28th, 2016 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, the moogles took off ages ago, so technically, there are no more moogle squishers... Most people probably think they're just made-up creatures that surface occasionally as a trend in children's plushies.
11 comments or Leave a comment