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fic - kd: the movie 09 - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - kd: the movie 09
Series:  Kyuuketsuki Duo
Arc:  The Movie
Title:  Sanguis Draconis
Part:  9

Kyuuketsuki Duo
Sanguis Draconis - Part IX

Heero had half a heartbeat of warning before the attack came.  In the midst of the shadows, his internal senses raised a cry just a moment before a series of gleaming dark blades hurtled through the air at his position to land at his feet as he jumped back from the onslaught.

'They're testing me,' he evaluated automatically as a trio of darklings stepped forth from the surrounding night.  The creatures were all spindly limbs and wicked claws, and they rushed him mercilessly in a three-pronged coordinated attack.  Recognizing the need to stay away from those unforgiving blades, he pulled from the shadows the scythe his partner had introduced to him, even as he twisted and leapt to escape their assault.

The tactical advantage of eliminating them one at a time was swiftly apparent as the trio dove at him once more from three different directions.  Somewhere in the back of his mind, he recognized that the Shinma whose attention he had been trying to capture were likely watching him carefully to assess his strength and skill in this little trial by fire.  He had need to prove his competence, and thus worthiness, but not the full extent of his power.  He would keep that as an advantage for as long as he could.  Reliance upon his physical weapons would be the way to go, then.

Every move he made was executed with a deliberate precision.  He selected one as his first target and methodically sliced off its sharp limbs on each pass while he skillfully danced his way through the deadly blades.  In several strokes he had succeeded in disarming his victim -- one more, and the darkling was sliced in half, the parts separating in an oddly tragic silence to dissolve into the nothingness from whence they were born.

With their equilibrium thrown off, it was simple enough for Heero to shred the two remaining shadows in the brief moment it took them to adjust their tactics for their decreased number.  The warrior did not relax his vigilance as he cut through the final assailant.  The test was over, but now would come the evaluation of his performance and the presentation of the results.  With a cool glare, Heero looked into the surrounding shadows and indicated clearly to the observers that he knew they were there.

Those hidden might have bided their time in silence had not Heero grown impatient with their games.  Without hesitation, he pulled a set of edged fragments from the darkness and let them loose through the empty space between himself and his intended target.

As expected, the shards missed their mark, but were successful in chasing his quarry from its hiding place.  The shadows shifted as the being dodged to avoid the projectiles, and out emerged a figure.  As if that was a cue of some sort, others stepped forth from the darkness to form a loose circle around Heero.

The first distinguished itself from the rest by moving slightly towards the warrior in the center of their ring.  They regarded each other with impersonal, measuring stares.  The newcomer may have altered his image over the years, but the scent of his aura had not changed any.  Heero recognized him as Walker, one of Trant's men.  He was swathed from head to toe in loose shadows, curling around his limbs to fall in wispy threads that waved eerily in response to the otherwinds.  The ebony coverings concealed all but his eyes, glowing a fiery orange with black tints like sunspots, an age-old combination reminiscent of fire and brimstone.  At least here was a being that disregarded the modern trend of human-like appearance.

Now began a dangerous game of a different sort.  It would be a fine line to walk to keep the Shinma here and talking long enough for Heero to somehow find out what he needed to know.  He had run out of plan -- from here on out, he would have to play it by ear.

"Give me one good reason why I should not kill you where you stand," Walker growled without preamble.

Heero was guessing that Trant had already told him not to.  The assault by the trio of darklings had not been a serious attempt on his life.  If they had really wanted him dead right now, Walker would be trying to eviscerate him.  That was not to say that Walker did not want to eviscerate him -- Walker would gleefully eviscerate anything.  No doubt it stung him to have to stay his hand.

If Trant wanted him alive, then his chances were good for meeting up with the Shinma, and hopefully for finding out what he wanted to know.  Still, he could not tip his hand too early, for that would give the Shinma power over him.  ::Surely I would not be worth the effort.  I am nothing in the eyes of the Shinma, am I not?::

"You are nothing, as you have always been.  For that alone should I erase you from this world.  You are a waste of power and effort."  Walker believed in the purity of the Shinma, and had never quite approved of his master's plan of using Heero, the strange artificial hybrid of a human's creation, as a weapon.

::Obviously your master never thought so.  What does he want with me, Walker?::  Tell me something good, Heero thought to himself.  The sooner he found something out, the sooner he could get out of here.  Although if it was something bad, maybe he would have the pleasure of putting Walker out of his misery.  As satisfying as that may have been, however, he reminded himself that he was here for a purpose, and it was not revenge.  Walker carried with him a miasma of bloodlust that no doubt was affecting Heero's concentration.  Or perhaps it was just his prolonged exposure to this dark and corrupt place.

"He commands your presence immediately."  The hazy figures that had surfaced with Walker shifted towards him menacingly, making it clear that he would have no choice in the matter.  The way that Walker pronounced the commandment told him that he would be more than happy to drag Heero's unwilling and unconscious body through the Dark to be deposited unceremoniously at his master's feet, if only Heero would do him the pleasure of refusing the invitation.

Heero chose to submit with a graceful nod after noticeably surveying the odds.  Let them think they were in control of this situation.  It also placated the thrumming of his nerves, this personal feeling that he was actually the one in charge.  He had expected more games out of his former associates.

A black fog descended upon his senses, a deliberate obfuscation of his orientation as they whisked him away through the shadows and into the heart of their domain.  When his senses were returned to him, he found himself in a corner of the boundary between the Dark and other realms, done up according to the will of its master.  It appeared to be a sitting room, decked out with decadent oaken furniture, wall hangings, even a crystal chandelier that gave off a low light, supplemented by the flickering glow of the fireplace that lent movement to the shadows.

Of those that had brought him here, only Walker remained, but another had been waiting for their arrival.  He stood next to the hearth, the warm tones from the firelight only serving to accent the fact that he was clothed in shades of blood.  Disdaining the typical loose robes, he opted instead for something more clean cut.  A dark half-cloak with ruby highlights hung in neat folds over a deep crimson militaristic jacket above rust-colored breeches.

Heero willfully suppressed the automatic little bow of respect that he had typically granted his former master, as well as the chill that threatened to run down his spine in response to that recalled reflex.  It had been many long years since last he had visited this place, and he'd thought that he'd left it behind for good.  Funny how, when he was in the thick of it all, this place hadn't affected him in the slightest.  It had been commonplace and mundane.  Through the intervening years, he had barely spared this place a thought, and when he did, it had still been commonplace and mundane.  And yet now, being back here suddenly, and knowing that he would not be able to simply get what he wanted and leave, this place seemed sinister and foreboding.  Perhaps its memory was too oppressive, considering all the wild freedom that Duo had given him.

Trant smiled benevolently at him.  He'd gotten a little better at that over the years.  The gesture seemed less a baring of teeth than a genuine statement of affection.  "Heero.  We've missed you.  I hope you weren't inconvenienced by this."

The masked warrior elected to stay silent, unsure of how Trant wanted to play this out.  It didn't help that he was forced to leave his back exposed to Walker's less-than-friendly scrutiny.  There had been a time when he had held that threatening position over others.

Trant let out a small, silken laugh as he moved from the fireplace and glided towards him.  "The years have done nothing to loosen your tongue, I see.  But then, you never had to win your battles with words."  Stopping in front of him, Trant reached out with one hand to brush lightly down the side of his cold mask.  "You were one of the best, Heero.  It's so sad to see you fallen."

Heero shook the hand off his face, and with it, vivid memories of being this creature's pet.  A trained attack dog, perhaps, but a pet nevertheless.  ::I don't work for you anymore, Trant.::

The Shinma returned the errant hand to his side and shrugged so carelessly it could only have been a well-practiced move.  "And I invested so much time in you, too.  Is this really any way to treat your maker?"

::I killed my maker.::

"Ah, yes," Trant said.  He started rather nostalgically, but got colder as his words slipped by.  "That piece of human waste.  Those were the good old days.  He may have given you your abilities, but I was the one that showed you what you could do with them.  I am the one that shaped you.  I took you, a flawed creature, and made you great.  That human you may have killed, but it was on my orders that you did so.  And it was on my orders that you killed and hunted and destroyed and maimed all the rest."

Behind his mask, Heero closed his eyes, and a flood of images from the past came surging to the surface.  Those had never been bad days.  He never looked upon them with shame or fear or anger, but even in his cool indifference, he had felt the rush of power and the thrill of victory coursing through his veins.  But the feelings faded after a while, the excitement dulled, leaving only an endless blurring of time where there was almost nothing of interest at all.  Nothing until he reached the end of his final mission.  His eyes snapped back open.  ::That was then.  This is now.::

Displeasure bubbled behind Trant's flat black eyes.  "Oh yes, the guardian.  The Western guardian, no less.  I sent you to hunt -him- down as well.  And you did, to our unexpected delight.  But you were supposed to bring him to us, not run away with him."

Duo clearly had an influence on him, or else he wouldn't be tempted to say, 'gee, sorry.'  ::I lost to him.  He overpowered me and I failed in my mission.  At that point, you would have gotten rid of me.  What difference does it make to you where I ended up?::

Trant's hand raised again in a flash to seize his throat.  Although Heero could feel the prick of sharp claws against his skin, he remained calm and still.  "Your death should have been *mine* to deal.  I did not hone you to a fine edge, only to have another reap the fruits of my labor.  But perhaps now the opportunity to reclaim your life has arisen."  The claws tightened their grip on his neck, and behind him, he could feel the bloodlust rolling off of Walker jump up a notch.

::If you truly held such a grudge against me, you would have sought my destruction long ago.::  East or West or anywhere in between, if the Shinma had wanted him dead, they would have pursued his death relentlessly.  He was in a position to know, having been sent on a few such missions himself.  When the Shinma hated, they hated coldly and absolutely.

"And perhaps we shall yet lead you to your destruction, Heero."  Trant's eyes glinted dangerously in the fire's light, but he released the grip he had on his ex-weapon and backed off a few steps.  "You think you know it all, do you?  Well, I know a few things of my own.  Would you like me to share them with you?"  He continued without pause for answer.  "For instance, I know that you're here running an errand for your precious little guardian, despite your statements to the contrary.  I know that you seek information.  And I even know what about."

And now here he paused, a nice, dramatic pause meant to increase the tension in the room.  Heero didn't fall for it.  Although he wasn't happy that Trant had it all figured out, he supposed that it was inevitable.  It would have been easy enough for him to research Heero's activities in the Dark and draw the correct conclusions.  His mind made use of the time to anticipate the coming words and map out his options.  There were, disappointingly, very few.

After an appropriate span of silence, filled with a timely pop from the wood in the fireplace, Trant continued.  "You want to know about Epyon."

If he was waiting for a response from the taciturn warrior, he was waiting in vain.

"You want to know about Epyon, and I'm the only one that can give you that information.  And you know it."  Trant's expression twisted with a dark satisfaction as he closed in for the kill.  "So the only question left to answer, then, is what are you willing to pay for it?"

::How can I be sure that you really have the information that I want?:: Heero asked straightforwardly, not bothering to pretend that Trant was wrong.  This approach to the matter was actually slightly more convenient for him.  The other possibilities that had occurred to him for acquiring this information from Trant had involved subterfuge and trickery, which probably would have taken too much time and not have guaranteed results.

"You know I do, Heero, or else you wouldn't have wasted your time looking for me."

He figured that Trant was working with Epyon in some way.  That would be the most likely reason he might know what he knew.  Epyon was very good at keeping his secrets to himself, otherwise.  It would also explain why he was the only one that knew; Trant was very good about keeping his secrets to himself as well.  ::Why would you be willing to sell that information?  To me?::

"Don't flatter yourself by thinking you're special, Heero.  You aren't.  I'm willing to sell that information because I really don't care what you do with it.  Epyon bought our cooperation, not our loyalty.  Now we've had our fun -- let him deal with the consequences of his actions.  And as for why to you?  Why, you're the only one that can pay the price."

He had something specific in mind, and Heero had already unfortunately come to the conclusion that he had only two things Trant could possibly want from him, and one of them was completely out of the question.  There was no way he was going to hand over the guardian to him, so that left only the other option.  He was already resigned to the fact that Duo was going to be flaming pissed at him when this was all over, and that was if things went well.

One last sanity check before he signed his soul over to the devil:  Was there anything else that he could offer?  No.  Well, yes, but practically speaking, no.

Was there any method he might employ, other than bargaining?  No.  It would be absurd for him to try to pretend betrayal of the guardian and persuade Trant to take him back, and his presence had already been discovered.

Was there any other source from which he could get the information he sought?  No.  Trant was affiliated with Epyon somehow, and Epyon kept his lieutenants and his secrets close by his side.  Trant was his only way in.

Was there any other way this source could be persuaded to give up the information?  No.  Trant held the upper hand here.  They would play by his rules, or not at all.

Did he understand Trant's motivations behind the deal?  Yes.  For all that Trant seemed incensed by Heero's own betrayal, he wouldn't mind betraying his own allies.  Only a vision of what he might gain from the partnership would bind him to the demon, and presumably he had already gotten it.  Knowing the Shinma, he sought chaos and recognition, and not simply on the coattails of another, but his very own.

Would he be able to recover from this?  ...  Yes.  In a maybe almost certainly probably definitely sort of way.  Duo didn't need him immediately, just the information.  Heero didn't have as large a problem with lying and breaking oaths as his partner did, at least in cases not involving Duo.  And when this business was concluded, Duo could come after him if he felt like it.

Well, that was that, and all that was left was to take the plunge.  ::Me.::

"You?" Trant repeated archly, as if he didn't understand, when it was all too clear that he did.  "You would return to us?"


He laughed smugly, and Heero got the feeling that he was missing something.  It sounded as if Trant was about to refuse his offer and demand the second, but that couldn't be right.  Heero hadn't miscalculated, had he?  He understood that Trant would have to appear reluctant to accept the price at first, but he had thought that it would be enough.  "You?  And just why would we want you back?"

::As you said, I was one of the best.::  He said it without a hint of pride, for he knew it to be true.  ::I still am.  And you haven't replaced me yet.::

"That was then," Trant repeated mockingly.  "This is now.  Things have changed."

::Like what?::  They certainly hadn't changed enough for anyone to expect him to start begging.

"You are not as you once were, Heero.  You've gone soft after all your years with the guardian.  Not to mention your punishment."

Oh yes.  That.  Heero hadn't miscalculated then, just forgotten to mention one tiny detail.  He spent half a moment to consider whether or not it was necessary before regrettably concluding that it was.  Ah, well.  It was a secret he had held in reserve for moments such as this.  He was rather surprised that no one had figured it out yet, though.  ::So if I weren't bound by my punishment, you would consider the offer?::

"That's a big 'if', Heero," Trant drawled confidently.  "But alright.  Maybe you haven't gone soft, but your bindings limit your abilities, no matter how skillful you think you still are.  But if you were freed, I'd be a lot more willing to entertain your offer.  Of course, I hope you don't expect me to undo your punishment for you."

::No,:: Heero said calmly, hiding his smirk well beneath the surface of his face as he reached up and took his mask off as if he did it every day, which really wasn't that far from the truth.  "I don't expect you to do anything of the sort."

Trant's face blanked out for a moment, proof of the effort it took for him to maintain the facade of humanity on his face.  It seemed that he had never expected Heero to offer anything so interesting, but had proposed the bargain in the first place only to see his former subordinate squirm.  In his surprise, his expression's control slipped his grasp, but the blankness cleared itself quickly, to be replaced with a slightly belated laugh.  "Why, Heero, you've been keeping secrets from me."

"So you will consider the offer?"

"Prove yourself to me, prove your -loyalty- to me, and then we'll see about getting you that information."

An internal growl resounded within Heero's mind as he resigned himself to the fact that there was no way he'd be able to get the information first.  Trant was no fool.  "What does 'prove my loyalty' mean?"

"Well, I would hardly want to hand over the information to you without knowing whether or not you'll uphold your end of the bargain, after all.  Surely you cannot fault me for that."

Heero shook his head, somehow both a slight and a severe gesture.  Trant had to have something up his sleeve -- he had to know that Heero had no intentions of sticking around forever.  Did he simply not care?  Was it enough of a payment to have an opportunity to play with his old toy?  Or had he finally come up with a way to force Heero's servitude?  "But what does it entail?"

Trant took a few steps forward and repeated his earlier action of running a hand down the side of Heero's face.  "Ah, that's more like it," he whispered in appreciation of Heero's revealed face and the stern expressions that came with it.  "We've missed you so."  A thin hiss from Walker's quarter left a bit of room for doubt in that simple statement.

Heero took a step back and the hand fell again, forcing Trant to continue as if Heero had not rebuffed him.  "Oh, I'm sure we can arrange for some little test of your power and loyalty.  There's always someone to terrorize, after all."

yay, i've decided that i'm not too good at this whole epic thing.  i'm much too... vignette-oriented.  *shrug*  oh well.

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