The vicious crack of flesh against flesh rang through the room for a long moment. Oww...he winced as he thought. Don't have to hit so hard, bastard; I'm not the brat, you know.
The tall, tall man in the dark trench coat paced back and forth wildly, but when he spoke, his voice was ice cold. "All right, Yuurei. Let me see if I have this straight: you started a battle to kidnap your wife's brat; you let your entire force except for thirty-one fighters - sixteen of which won't survive the night - be destroyed; you let the brat get taken again, by a single fighter no less; and you didn't capture the person who did it."
"Put that way, it does sound like a spectacular defeat, Gozen-sama, demo..."
"'Demo' nothing! You fucked up, Yuurei! You're lucky I don't feed you your own beating heart. How can you be one of my generals?!? Such utter inept-"
"I found one of the two halflings with wings!" he interrupted suddenly. Remembering who he was speaking to and who was staring at him, he felt all the color bleed away from his face.
"What did you say?" The dark-clad man sounded curious; maybe that was a good thing.
"I found of the first halfling with wings. He's the one who cut through my forces. That's why I couldn't kill him, Gozen-sama!"
"Who is it, Yuurei?"
A small smirk built on his face. There's no telling what all I can get out of this. One look at the blond man's face changed his mind. I'm not that stupid though. "It's their general. It's Enjeru."
Gozen smiled slightly, more than a hint of malice in it. The prince of darkness is getting ideas, Yuurei thought happily. "Enjeru is one of the winged halflings then, eh?" The lord slowly took a seat and seemed to be really considering this idea now. "And your wife's brat seems to be his weak point, coming here after him when he was already injured."
Yuurei felt himself pale just a bit more, if it were possible. "H- how did you know that, Gozen-sama?"
The fair-colored man waved a negligent hand. "I have my ways." He turned a sharply pointed glare in Yuurei's direction. "Nothing my generals do escapes my attention." Suddenly the temperature of his voice dropped sharply, and the glaze became glacial. "And speaking of which, I have reports of you allowing your former troops unsanctified liberties."
"Do I need to refresh your memory? That brat of your wife's, Yuurei; I think he's called Aku. Letting your former troops abuse him horribly -and doing worse than that yourself - is lower than I'm willing to allow anyone serving me to sink. If anything like that happens ever again, I'll get Charon to find the most painful and lasting punishment possible for you. Am I understood?"
And Gozen-sama never lies; I'm so screwed, and it's all that brat's fault. When I find him again, I'm going to kill him.
"No, you're not."
He started at the sudden words. "Excuse me, Gozen-sama?"
Pale blue eyes skipped mildly over him dismissively. "I said, no, you're not going to kill him. The brat is the key to controlling the first of the winged halflings. We lose our leverage if he's dead." Those eyes turned deadly. "But he's the key to get Enjeru's co-operation. One way or another, through deception or violence, he will be our way to control Enjeru."
"But what if he won't help us?"
A smirk built on Gozen's face, frightening in its utter calmness. "I never said he'd help us of his own free will."
"Aku is very stubborn; that's the reason-" A sharp look from his commander "-part of the reason I treated him the way I did; otherwise, he won't obey."
"Won't obey you, you mean."
Several miles away, in another camp, the subject of their conversation had encountered someone even more stubborn than he was reported to be. He was also finding out that Miki had the glacial glare down even better than Enjeru did and that Suzu could curse fluently in multiple languages with hardly a seam between each one and pitch a temper tantrum to frighten the gods. "Gods be damned, Enjeru-kun," she screamed now, her voice easily filling the healer's small tent. "Your body hasn't even started to heal! You shouldn't be up at all!"
He shot her a dirty look of his own and continued to stumble across the room, hanging onto various pieces of furniture as he went. "I'm well enough," he answered her shortly. As if on cue, he stumbled and barely stopped from hitting the ground, thanks to a quick save from Aku grabbing his elbow and his own grip on a chair.
"Yep, sure you are," the white-haired woman retorted, rolling her eyes.
"Deborah-san is going to kick our asses to the moon and back for this, "Miki complained, pinching the bridge of his nose and wincing his eyes shut. He nearly tumbled over himself when he heard the somewhat familiar sound of wings unfurling, and he could feel his own eyes bulging at the sight of their general. "What in the hells do you think you're doing, Enjeru?"
The general shrugged stoically, not even glancing behind him. "It hurts less this way," he answered slowly, stretching the white feathered-covered limbs slightly, as if stretching a long unused muscle.
"And he's going to heal faster this way," the older healer finished, slipping back in the tent with a stealth that belied her age, startling the fighters just a bit. "Opening his wings is letting his other powers work, and it's about damned time he did this, I might add. Being part ningen may have its advantages, but healing is not one of them."
Suzu giggled just slightly. "I suppose that's one way to put it," she laughed. "Maybe not the way I would have put it, but still one way to say it." Enjeru cast her one of his better dirty looks, and she grinned back in the face of it. "What, Enjeru-kun?"
The general sighed in what sounded like defeat, but a small grin, just barely noticeable, clung tenaciously to the corners of his lips. "You're impossible, Suzu-chan." With a bit of help in the form of leaning on Aku, though not as heavily as one might have expected, he limped out of the tent.
Two pairs of shocked eyes stared after the pair. "Was it just me..."Miki trailed off.
"...or did Enjeru-kun just call me '-chan'?" She glanced over at Deborah, an absolutely terrified expression on her face. "He's not sick or dying or anything horrible, is he?"
The old woman chuckled at the younger woman's overly apparent worry. "Of course not, little girl. In fact, I'd say he feels better than he has in a while."
"How long till he's back to normal?" asked Miki softly.
"He'll be completely healed in a few days, if he keeps letting his wings out. Two weeks, if he doesn't." A faint smirk on her wrinkled face, she turned slightly away. "Whether or not he's the same snarly, ice-cold Enjeru we all remember, though, is something of a different story. Something has awakened his heart that has been in hiding since Lady Kiera-sama's death all those many years ago."
"Aku," he surmised. "Aku has changed him."
She nodded faintly. "Already the change is noticeable to you, his closest friends, is it? Even young Aku seems to have noticed a change in our general, though he has not commented on it yet." She shook her head slightly, the smile growing. "At least, if nothing else, Aku is loyal to Enjeru. He never left his side the whole time he was here." She slowly bent over (there was a strange moment where Miki was sure he heard every bone in her body creak and pop) and started to pack up the bandages and Bassei. "He must feel in his debt for taking him in and for saving him from Yuurei." She glanced slightly over her shoulder, a sly look in her eyes. "Don't you think that must be it?"
Suzu shook her head sharply. "Call me a romantic, but I don't think that's it at all."
Miki nodded his agreement with the white-haired young woman. "You haven't seen them together, not like we have. There's something about them. There's more there than just gratitude."
"I'm sure of it..." Suzu finished, turning to stare after them.
"Good." Both turned to stare at the old woman. "Then help them out along the way. There's someone coming who won't like this one bit at all."
"Who?" the younger woman had to ask. Even though she already had a pretty good idea...
Sharp grey-green eyes met hers. "Michael, of course. He and Gabriel are on their way here as we speak. They'll be arriving at the end of the month. Now, if you'll excuse me..." She pushed past them and out of the tent.
She turned back to the tall man beside her and stared up at him with worried golden eyes. "If Michael and Gabriel are coming, then we're really in trouble."
He draped a casual arm around her shoulders. This time she reached up and grabbed onto the dangling hand. "You're the master of understatement, Suzu-chan. We're screwed."
24 July 2001
Gomen. I let one of my irl friends read this, and it got kind slammed, and I haven't been in a writing mood ever since. Know what he hated most? Take a guess, minna-chan. Don't know? He disliked the shounen no ai the most, which was my favorite part, so it kinda ruined it for me for a while. Finishing this happy has been a real effort (ask Tenshi-chan; she had to put up with me bitching the whole time I wrote it), but I'm glad I'm done.
So what's going to happen next? Only time, reviews, and e-mails will tell. I can't write anymore without your feedback, minna; I'm a review junkie.
See you in the next chapter!
Table ni naranderu
zankoku na kajitsu
seihai ni michite iru
renbin no namida
Spread upon the table
Is the fruits of cruelty
Filling the holy grail
Are the tears of mercy
-"Saigono Baisen" (The Last Supper) by Weiss kreuz