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fic - kd: the movie 06 - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - kd: the movie 06
Series:  Kyuuketsuki Duo
Arc:  The Movie
Title:  Sanguis Draconis
Part:  6

Kyuuketsuki Duo
Sanguis Draconis - Part VI

They walked in a very loose formation.  Dorothy was, of course, near the front of the group since she was their guide.  Duo stayed close to her to keep an eye on her, and Hilde, as always, clung close to him, leaving the four humans to wander along behind as they would.

Quatre attempted conversation with his typically quiet friend.  "So what do you think of the demon realms, Trowa?  It's not quite what I expected."  He glanced again at the scenery that surrounded them.  It hadn't changed much since they had gotten here.  It was still barren, not quite flat, and fairly monochromatic.  To be honest, Quatre was actually looking forward to seeing something different.  It wasn't just that something inside of him would be somewhat disappointed if this were all that another plane had to offer.  It was also that walking around in an environment that rarely changed enough to give them a sense of progress was getting a bit unnerving, almost as if they were wandering aimlessly through some surreal dreamscape, although he liked to think that his dreams would at least have a little more creativity to them.

Trowa also spared a glance or two at their surroundings when asked the question.  "I had no expectations," he murmured in his usual soft tone.

Quatre chuckled quietly, if a bit nervously.  This place set him on edge.  He kept expecting something dark and suitably horrible to befall them, given their location, but nothing had, and it was making him antsy.  To compound the problem, he knew he should stop anticipating it, lest he jinx the party and something horrible did actually come to pass.  Of course, the more he tried to stop thinking about it, the more he thought about it.  Hence, the current conversation with Trowa.  "Well, yes, I suppose not many people sit around and contemplate the appearance of other realms.  And Duo's demon friends...."  He glanced over at their backs.  They were far enough away that they wouldn't overhear if they kept their voices down.  "They're... far different from the little demons I've met over the years.  Maybe because they're, um..."


Quatre flushed slightly.  "It's not my fault Hilde thinks playing with me is fun.  Although I suppose better her than Dorothy.  I'm still not sure what we can expect out of her."

"It's not them we should be concerned with," Trowa murmured, his eyes fixed on the ones walking in front of them.

"I suppose.  Why worry about two particular demons when we've got the whole rest of demonkind to worry about?"

"I wasn't referring to the demons."

"Eh?  Then what...?"  His eyes followed Trowa's gaze to the otherworldly members of their party.  If not the demons, then...  "Duo?  What do you mean, Trowa?"

Trowa's cool regard slipped away unnoticed from the three to glance sidelong at the one walking beside him.  "We don't know what to expect out of him."

"What does that mean?  He's our friend, Trowa.  Now is not the time to be doubting that."

"I trust that he's on our side," Trowa reassured him quietly.  "Just don't assume that he's the same person we knew in high school."

"Well, we've changed, yes, but Duo's..."

"Just because he doesn't look any different doesn't mean he hasn't changed, Quatre," he advised, his attention shifting back to the guardian.  "Although... it seems more like he's just... off."

Quatre wanted to scrutinize the guardian as his friend did, to see if he could spot the signs that Trowa seemed to be studying, but he was fairly certain that he would not be able to get away with it like Trowa could.  Instead, his mind went back to the things it had observed through interaction with the guardian earlier.  Now that Trowa was almost putting a name to it, he could glimpse a glimmering of a pattern beginning to emerge.  Duo did seem a little... darker than he remembered, even compared to when he had been on the job... Why was that?

Meiran walked beside Wufei, wishing he would say something, but he had been rather withdrawn ever since that detestable demoness Lei Fang had showed up only a few days ago.  She sighed silently to herself, knowing that if Wufei heard, he would just glance at her irritably.  That seemed to be his only mood these days.  She pretty much gave up on having any sort of meaningful conversation with him until this was all over.  Hopefully, they'd both still be around for that.

Confidence, she berated herself.  She had to have confidence.  She did have confidence, right?  Someone had to, and she knew that Wufei wasn't as confident or as arrogant as he seemed.

She looked down at the dusty ground as if checking her footing, but her focus was really on Wufei's feet, about all she could study of him without him noticing.  She didn't seem to be able to do much at all.  She wasn't quite sure why she was here -- she didn't have great power like Quatre or Duo.  Granted, neither did Trowa, but Trowa was, well, Trowa.  He was special.

What could she do that no one else could?  She had no idea, but she had to come.  Maybe she couldn't help in any big, flashy way, but she just felt that she couldn't let Wufei do this alone.  He was alone enough as it was.  She was somewhat surprised that he hadn't protested more against the idea of everyone accompanying him on his personal mission, but she supposed Duo had managed to knock him off track with the great revelation of Shenlong's true nature, and then just steamrolled him into agreeing with the plans.

She would help however she could.  She could fight.  Not as well as Wufei, of course, but better than the others.  She could hold her own.  And she could do some warding and some sensing... and speaking of sensing, something was tickling the hairs at the back of her neck.  She looked around for something suspicious, but saw nothing.

She was able to dismiss the feeling for all of a handful of seconds before it insisted on her attention once again.  Still, she saw nothing, but it was stronger this time, and getting stronger, and she looked to her comrades to see if they noticed anything amiss, but there was no response from their quarter.  Another half a minute of nervous waiting, and the feeling focused to a single direction off to the side and behind them.

She stopped and turned to look.  Wufei noticed a moment later and stopped as well, shooting her an impatient look.  "What is it?" he asked shortly.

Meiran spared a glance at him before returning her senses to that one direction again.  "Do you feel something?"

The others stopped as well as the rumbling sensation gradually made itself known to them all.  "Something's coming," Quatre said, perhaps unnecessarily.  He looked over to Duo to see if he had anything to contribute.

Duo looked at Dorothy, and might even have said something, had Wufei not cut in.  "What is that?"

'That' was a dark gray wave that crested a hill behind them and rushed down the other side.  It seemed to be a stampede of small creatures, rushing their way in a flurry.

Wufei's sharp onyx eyes picked out details of the demonlings as they jumped over and onto each other in their rush.  "Are those... six-legged... rabbits?"

Six-legged rabbits with sleek, bristly quills and matte, rounded tusks and shiny yellow, faceted eyes, perhaps, but six-legged bunny-looking creatures nevertheless, Duo agreed.  He took them in with a single Look and pronounced judgment.  "They're only running, not attacking.  Just fend them off, and they'll pass us by."

"You're sure about this, right?" Quatre asked as he hastily erected some mystical barriers to protect himself from the onslaught.  He marked everyone else's position and took two steps to the right to cover Trowa as well.  Meiran was doing some work of her own at the back of Wufei, who had drawn his sword in preparation.  Dorothy simply looked bored as she lifted herself off the ground several meters to allow room for the demonlings to pass beneath her.

Quatre did something of a double-take when he saw what Duo was up to.  With Hilde standing close by his side, a puddle of shadows was gathering around his feet.  It looked like a smudge of darkness upon the ground, until it seemed to come alive with a mind of its own.  Hazy black wisps rose from the dirt and spread out in a generous circle around them, ending in a dark pool of emptiness, with lazy tendrils curling up from the surface in the image of a witch's evil brew.  A bit of obsidian smoke drifted upwards to lick obediently at its master's outstretched fingers before returning to take its place at his feet.  Duo had an odd expression of somewhat smug fondness as he ordered his shadows around him.

And then the creatures were upon them, in not so thick a horde as to overwhelm them.  Wufei was able to bat the ones that got too close to them away with his blade, and they flowed around Quatre's shielding, and gave the shadows a very wide berth.

"Trowa!" Quatre hissed at his friend when he noticed that the taller man was calmly walking away from him, but he couldn't move to follow while maintaining the shielding.  "Come back here!"

Trowa ignored him and waded out into the mess of creatures.  To their surprise, they parted naturally around him as he moved through the crowd to stand by Meiran's side and help to expand their area of coverage.

One of the demonlings was careless in its flight and wandered a little too close to Duo's pool.  An arm of darkness snaked out from the rest of its brethren and snatched the poor thing around two of its feet.  It screeched, one terrible, high-pitched wail before it was abruptly dragged into the dark cauldron, where it promptly disappeared from sight.  The shadows burbled happily for a moment before settling down to their previous state.

As everyone else was otherwise occupied, no one noticed the shift in Dorothy's expression.  Her face was as bored as ever, but within the depths of her ice blue eyes glowed a deeply satisfied smirk.

And then the creatures had passed, leaving them unscathed.  The humans put away their wards and their weapons, and Dorothy returned to the ground, but that wisp of shadow from earlier had emerged again from Duo's gathering to wrap itself loosely around the guardian's hand and forearm.  With his free hand, it looked like Duo was petting the shadow idly.

"That was a little unnecessary, don't you think?" Quatre asked him with just a tinge of dry sarcasm, referring to the way his shadows had reached out and... and consumed one of the creatures.  Duo was the one that had said merely to 'fend them off' in the first place.  To watch one of them get completely engulfed by an insubstantial force and then vanish without a trace was a trifle disconcerting, to say the least.  Disturbing, he might even label it.

"What was?"  The owner of that low, silky voice rolled his head back to look nonchalantly over his shoulder at the spiritualist with light amethyst eyes.

"...Nothing."  There was something about that look that made him retract his statement.  Trowa was right.  There was definitely something cold and... off about Duo.  It seemed to come and go, but that didn't make it any less real.

Hilde reached up to lay gentle fingers on Duo's upper arm.  With careful, deliberate motions, she slid her hand down the arm until she was near the little shadow, then flicked her fingers at it in a small shooing gesture.  It snapped waspishly at her, until some more stroking from Duo's other hand laid it to rest.  "Come now," he addressed the shadows.  "We're all friends here, right?"  As he spoke, the shadows gradually flattened themselves back into the ground and dispersed, and with their passing, the distinct chill in his eyes slowly started melting away.

"Um, were those things running from something?" Meiran asked, staring off in the direction from which the stampede had come.  That prickly sensation had not gone away yet.  "Or are they just like lemmings?"

Duo's eyes unfocused in the direction she was facing.  "Something else is coming," he declared, then with a blink came back to himself and shrugged.  "Let's get going."

"We're going to run from it?" Wufei asked, a hard edge lining his tone.

"No," Duo answered calmly.  "It'll catch up.  We just have better things to do than sitting here to wait for it.  Maybe it'll be smart and stay away from us.  Whatever."  He shrugged again and started walking as they had been, as if he had not a care in the world.  The others were forced to follow.

"I'm beginning to see what you mean," Quatre whispered to Trowa, once more walking beside him.  Trowa didn't acknowledge the remark, but Quatre was certain that he had heard.

As Quatre was about to go up to the guardian and engage him in conversation to see if he couldn't find the Duo they were all used to buried beneath the cold exterior they were facing, a low growl behind them sounded, proving that the demon that had spooked the earlier horde was really not all that intelligent after all.

At full height, it might have stood as tall as any of them, but it slouched, its hunchbacked form giving it a roundness that spoke of dense muscle mass.  Because of that, however, it moved slowly, although surely its power and thick hide would make up for its lack of speed.

Duo rolled his eyes at it as it began its lumbering charge, then motioned to Wufei.  "Go on.  You can take it."

Wufei, sure that he could and never quite willing to turn his back on an enemy, especially a demon, drew his sword, but he shot a glare burning with resentment at the seemingly youthful boy.  "You're just going to stand there?"

"You shouldn't need my help."

"Please," Dorothy interjected scornfully.  "You're whining about this pathetic thing, and you think you can take on Epyon?  Am I leading lambs to the slaughter?"

"Now that is uncalled for," Quatre said quite firmly, stepping up to Wufei's side in support, although from the looks of things, Wufei probably could take the creature on by himself.  Curious to see what he might be able to do here, Quatre held his hand out and tried to summon an elemental to him.  It came slowly, but a little earth sprite did show up in his palm.

As Wufei took his first swing at the creature, the sword of Shenlong lit up with a bright green flame along the length of the blade.  The fire bit into the demon and it howled, swinging at the man with one oversized fist, which he dodged easily enough.

Having already summoned the elemental, Quatre decided to make use of it.  With a polite thought, he sent the earth elemental down into the dirt at the demon's feet, where it stirred the ground into rebellion.  A jagged shard of earth heaved itself up from its resting place and thrust itself at the demon's underbelly, pushing it back in a stumble.

While Wufei closed in for the easy kill, Meiran closed in on the guardian and his companions.  She was starting to like Dorothy only a little more than Lei Fang.  "He's not whining," she directed at the uncaring demoness, before turning her attention to Duo.  "But you didn't have to be so kind as to grant your permission to him, as if he was some sort of underling."

The demon remarkably regained its feet before Wufei reached it by rolling itself back upright.  Duo did not take his eyes off the proceedings as he responded to the girl, who also watched the battle with a keen eye.  "Whatever are you talking about, Meiran?"

"What is wrong with you, Duo?  I don't remember you treating your friends this way."

Duo was about to ask her to clarify again, when all of a sudden he knew exactly what she was referring to.  A small flame of anger sprang up in his chest, and it was enough to chase off some of the indifferent chill in his mind for now.  The anger was directed at himself.  He had let the power sneak up on him without him even noticing, and that both irked him and frightened him.  He was well aware of the threat, and had thought himself better prepared to face it than this.  "Yes," he answered somewhat distractedly.  "Yes, perhaps you're right."  He tried to find that spark inside of him that cared enough to push the shadows back, but it kept slipping through his mental fingertips.  Well, at least he knew it was there somewhere.  He'd be a whole lot more worried if he had lost it altogether.  For now, he let it be.

The demon died with a wet gurgle and a thud as it crashed into the dust.  With a flick of his wrist, Wufei shook the grime from his blade.  It slid off smoothly, like water on a well-oiled plane.  "Hey, neat," Duo said with a hint of his more familiar good cheer.  It sallied forth for only a few moments before it sank away beneath the surface of his mind again.  "A self-cleaning sword."

Wufei only gave him a steady look as he resheathed his sword.  Duo thought briefly about apologizing for his earlier behavior, but felt the moment had passed.  Besides, he was sure that it would happen again, despite his vigilance to the contrary.  He couldn't apologize every time, now could he?  That would undermine his image, and it would lose its effectiveness over time.  He knew this would happen, and he accepted it as inevitable to at least some small degree.  The others would just have to deal with it.

Meiran had witnessed the battle from Duo's side and had seen Wufei receive not a scratch, and yet her eyes automatically surveyed his form to make sure that was so.  When her gaze reached his face, he favored her with a look as well.  She knew what that meant.  He had heard the words they had spoken, and he didn't need her to fight his battles for him.  "You were busy," she muttered defensively at him, and she was gratified to see his expression become something a little drier, with the barest hint of something wry twisting his lips.  She had defended his honor without weakening it.  Meiran might not agree with everything Wufei said and did, but she did understand him.

"Just so we're clear," he said distinctly, turning his eyes back to the guardian.  "You do not command me."

"Of course," Duo agreed.  "And you do not command me.  You were just getting your feet wet."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You're about to become a participant in the Game, Wufei, whether you care or not."  He noticed the blank look of non-recognition.  "The Great Game.  The power struggle that demons engage in to show off to each other.  The more powerful the demon you defeat, the more powerful you are acknowledged.  And you, Wufei, are going after a powerful player indeed."

"Are we done yet?" Dorothy asked.  The amusement had been drained from her, leaving only the boredom again.  Duo had taken a step or two backwards.  Their attacker hadn't even had the good grace to test the limits of Duo's little groupies.  No matter.  Surely there would be something out in the unclaimed lands that would be entertaining.  There had to be some power out there that would resonate with the guardian's already restless energy.  He would fall again, and she would be there to see it when he did. 

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