Duo was pouting, Heero noted with a hint of amusement. In a way, it was sort of... cute. He had his arms crossed over his chest and his knees pulled up to touch his arms. The most adorable sullen expression had covered his face. And the knowledge that he was pouting because of Heero made it all the more funny.
Amaterasu had requested (though it had sounded a hell of a lot more like orders to him, and he should be the expert on orders) they join her in the library to discuss battle plans. Duo had refused, repeatedly and quite loudly, at least till Heero had picked him up, tossed him over his shoulder, carried him downstairs and deposited him on the couch. All of which was why he was pouting now.
Glancing around, he found that he was far from the only one who found this amusing. There was even a small grin on Wufei's face. The only one who seemed unaffected was Amaterasu. That over-serious expression did not belong on Usagi's face, yet that was all the goddess showed. The sternness on her face seemed familiar in a gnawing way.
With the exception of everyone's amusement to Duo's dramatics, this was the most somber group he'd seen since the Christmas War. It was strange. Once again, they were at war for the sake of humanity, but now there was so much more at stake
Before, it had been the possibility of an enslaved humanity. Now, mankind faced something a thousand times worse than even death or enslavement. Now, it faced Vritra, and one look at Amaterasu's too serious face told him just how bad that could - and maybe would - be.
He sank down on the couch next to Duo and stated briskly, "We're ready when you are, Amaterasu."
The goddess stared at him a second as if in thought then turned to the group. For a moment, she was silent, weighing her words carefully then finally she spoke. "The eve of the biggest battle man or the gods have ever faced is upon us. I will not lie to you: this battle will not be easily one. Not everyone will live through it. It will make your previous wars seem like child's play, but we must face it for the sake of everyone else."
Quatre stood, drawing the blonde goddess' attention to him. "The way... Usagi described it to us, you would be doing the fighting against Vritra, not us."
"I will be," she agreed. "However, even I cannot handle Vritra and Sakura and her demons alone. That is where you come in. So few gods remain throughout the cosmos that they will be engaged against the other remaining demons. Only a few, maybe four, will make it to Tokyo to help out." A note of sadness touched the familiar voice.
"We have all the talismans and you now, though."
Amaterasu shook her head slowly. "The talismans will not be of much use in the fight. They have all reverted back to their previous purposes."
"And that is?" Wufei finally spoke up.
A grin faintly touched her lips. "A mirror to spy on your enemies and travel, a sword that will cut through anything, and a pretty jewel that will grant wishes."
The Chinese young man sat forward. "Could we use it against Vritra then?"
The smile finally appeared in its entirety. "There is no one here of the House of the Moon. Only they can have a wish granted upon the Ginzuishou." A chuckle escaped her. "Especially now."
"Usagi is of the House of the Moon," Duo surmised softly. Amaterasu - and, honestly, everyone - turned to eye him. "That's why she never had any trouble using it." He looked like he was about to say something else but stopped himself when he realized the attention on him.
"You are correct, Duo," confirmed Amaterasu, "even on the statement you did not voice."
"So what is the plan?" Heero pushed, sliding his arm around the back of Duo's waist, partially to calm him and partially to hold him back if needs be.
"Vritra and I will meet two days hence for a battle that has been fifteen hundred years in the coming. All I ask of you is that you keep the demons from destroying me till I have expired Vritra." She gestured magnanimously. "Go, get some rest, everyone. You'll need your strength for what's to come."
Their face ranging from scowls to thoughtful looks, the group filed out. As Heero and Duo started past her, though, she touched their arms to hold them back, seemingly ignoring the glare Duo shot her as he yanked his arm back. "I would speak with both of you in private a moment," she began.
"Make it fast," the American snapped.
She held both hands out before her, and the sword and mirror materialized on her palms, both shrunken to miniature. "You will have need for these in the future," she stated simply.
"I thought you said they were worthless now," Heero questioned, eyes hovering over the two objects. It was true Morrigan had died to bring them the mirror and for that alone he wanted it, but it was the sword Kuzanagi that truly held his gaze.
"No. They simply can no longer be used to summon divine beings, like Vritra and myself. Once dark and light have passed, nothing else may be. But the talismans can still be used in the fight."
"Then give us all three," Duo cut in. "If they can still be used, then give us all of them."
"Why?" she asked, an overly innocent smile on her face. "Neither of you can use the Ginzuishou."
Heero suddenly found himself with two armloads of a fighting mad Duo, seemingly hell-bent and determined to throttle Amaterasu out of Usagi's body. Well, he was either trying to do that, or grab Kuzanagi and go after her. Either option was completely unacceptable, and if Duo was thinking straight, he'd realize this.
Holding onto a thrashing Duo was harder than he'd ever imagined it could be, but then again, he'd bent iron bars with his bare hands. It was just that Duo was a lot more slippery than any iron bar... and kicked a lot harder too. He turned hard blue eyes on the woman walking around in Usagi's body. "Just give us all three talismans, Amaterasu."
She smiled again at them both, though this one held a bit more respect than the last one. "All right." Duo stopped struggling as the final talisman appeared in her outstretched hand. "Take them. I'd say you've earned them for now." Automatically, Heero reached out for Kuzanagi, at least partially to keep it out of an eerily calm Duo's hands. The American, on the other hand, reached for the other two treasures. At the last second, she closed her hands on them though.
"What're you doing?" Heero quietly demanded, inwardingly seething. At least he figured that was better than the openly hostile glares Duo was going with.
"I'm giving these to you in trust. You'll give them to their next owners when the time comes."
"Next owners?" Duo repeated, confusion apparently winning out over his anger.
The blonde smiled enigmatically. "Give it a little while, and you'll know what I mean. Just give it a little while. Can you abide by those terms?"
"Of course." Heero glanced to the side at Duo. After all, calm moments were usually cause for fear where the American was concerned. "Now..."
"Of course," she replied, reopening her hands. "Take them for now, and use them well."
Heero watched as Duo tooko both the mirror and Usagi's jewel, and once the American stepped back, he in turn seized the miniature Kuzanagi. He nodded his thanks to the goddess, who silently left the room.
Silence reigned for several long moments till Duo spoke up. "Do you think we might ever get our Usagi back again one day?" His voice sounded so bleak that Heero couldn't help touching his arm lightly in comfort. The other man lifted and stared at the palm containing the jewel. "Do you think if we wish on this thing, it'll bring her back to us?"
"Maybe." He turned Duo to face him. "We will be getting her back. Don't doubt it."
On the other side of the door, Amaterasu leaned away from the wood. "That's right, Hachiman," she whispered, lefting a hand to cover her rapidly beating heart, hoping that alone could slow and quiet its beating. "Somehow you two will be getting your Usagi back."
With a heavy sigh, she moved further into the house to prepare for their next guests.
09 May 2003
At last, it's done!! *small dance* I've been working on this chapter for a while, and Amaterasu makes writing it very hard. Thankfully I have Ryoko around to keep me writing, so I doubt there will be another year break so late in the game.
Anyway, the chapter is done so I can apply some of my Van Helsing-induced creativity towards the novel.