Gundam Wing Fan Fiction ❯ In which Hero loses Relena ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Searching for the Sun Lands, a Gundam Wing fanfic by Raberba girl
Chapter 4 – In which Hero loses Relena (rough draft)

He was having a horrible dream, that he’d just killed a little girl by accident, so he was more glad than annoyed to be shaken awake by the princess.

« Hero!  Hero!  This dragon of yours is getting close to the ground very fast! »  The note of panic in her voice alarmed him, but when he shot upright and looked around, he saw nothing amiss.

Except for one, rather important thing.  « Wing, » he growled, « does this look like the mountains to you? »  The dragon only snorted.  « Wing!  We need to go to the mountains.  What are you doing back at the desert?! »

Sure enough, a sea of sand stretched away as far as the eye could see, while at its edge sat a sprawling city, surrounded by an outgrowth of houses and scraggly farms.  It was still far off, but they were approaching quickly, and Hero knew that Wing would have to either turn around or land soon if he didn’t want to be seen.

He fell back with a grown, knowing that Wing was too stubborn to change whatever stupid plan he was nursing.  The young man rubbed his hands over his face, wishing the princess wouldn’t keep making those little noises of distress.

« He’s going to crash, we’re going too fast, Hero, are you seeing this?!  Make him slow down! »

« Wing has been flying since long before your grandparents were born.  He knows what he’s doing. »

Wing finally settled down on the ground, tucking his legs under him as if he intended to stay put for a good, long time.  Relena looked nervously at Hero, but he didn’t move.  It was time to show this dragon who was boss.  « Wing, I am giving you to the count of ten to get back in the air on a course for Peacemillion. »

The dragon slowly turned his head.  Hero recognized the dangerous spark in his eyes just as the great mouth was opening.

Immediately Hero grabbed the princess in his arms and dove onto the expectantly outstretched wing, protecting her as best he could as they rolled down it.  The blast of Wing’s fiery breath just missed them, flaming along the bright scales and devouring everything in its path.

The dragon then turned his head and seemed to smirk down at Hero, who glared at the incinerated remains of his travel pack scattered in black streaks across Wing’s back.  « Don’t think you’ve won, » Hero answered sourly, then turned and tramped in the direction of the city.

‘I nearly died,’ Relena was thinking, over and over again, when she suddenly realized that Hero was leaving her.  « Hero! » she cried, and ran after him.  « Where are you going? »

« Might as well stock up on supplies while we’re here, » he mumbled.  Now that they had no supplies.  « You don’t have to come.  It’s a long walk. »

« And stay behind with the creature that tried to kill me? » she said hotly.  « I don’t think so. »

He shrugged.  « Have it your way.  But I’m not waiting for you. »

o.o.o.o.o

In fact he did have to wait for her, and slow his pace for her, and even (near the end) carry her on his back.  The distance was just too great without a horse, and not many people, much less a pampered princess, could have matched the young assassin’s pace.

He wanted to reach the city of Barandeh before dark, which was not going to happen if he took the princess back to Wing.  And despite his words, he really couldn’t leave the girl wandering around in the middle of nowhere, especially with night coming on.

So her giggle really irritated him.  « Sorry you had to wait for me after all. »  No answer.  « Am I too heavy? »  Nothing.  She sighed and absently tried to run her fingers through his tangled hair.  « I wish I had a comb.  You need it. »

« Stop touching my hair, » he growled.

She rolled her eyes.  « Fine.  You are my kidnapper; I suppose it doesn’t really matter whether or not you’re properly groomed. »

« It’s not like I wanted to do this, » he muttered, almost to himself.

Relena hesitated.  Then she asked that question he had refused to answer, in the first terrifying hour when he had carried her away.  « Hero, » she said softly.  « Why did you take me? »  Before, she had been panicked, demanding.  Now she sounded simply curious, and almost…compassionate.

But he very well couldn’t answer, « Because a fairy told me to, » so again, he said nothing.

They were very close when he realized that he couldn’t let the princess enter the city in the clothes she was currently wearing.  His completely black outfit would already stand out in this desert city, but if anyone here had already received word of the princess’s disappearance, her ruined but recognizably fine clothes might raise suspicion.  So he abruptly halted, shrugged her off his back, and ordered her to strip.

She slapped him.

Hero stood there for a moment, wondering why he had allowed himself to be struck, then realized it was because he had COMPLETELY NOT EXPECTED a pampered girl like the princess to raise a hand against him.

Why had she slapped him, anyway?  Oh.  Perhaps she felt uncomfortable at the thought of him seeing her unclothed.

« I didn’t mean get naked, » he finally said, once he had processed these thoughts.  « Take off that dress; you’ll be recognized. »

After a pause, as she processed this herself, she gathered enough of her wits to retort, « Did it ever occur to you that I might want to be recognized? »

Hero realized, with a sinking heart, that he was going to have to get the dress off her against her will.  Resigning himself quickly, he was just reaching for her when she hurriedly stepped back.  « What are you doing?! »

« That dress is coming off right now, » he said brusquely.

« I am not going to parade around in my underwear, you pervert! »

« You can wear my cloak, » he offered impatiently.  « You were the one who refused to stay with Wing.  So get undressed. »

Her face reddened.  « Not when you’re watching.  Go away! »

Rolling his eyes, he pulled off his cloak and handed it to her, then waited while she changed in someone’s outhouse.  When she came out, self-consciously gripping the cloak tightly around herself, he studied her critically.  « Your underclothes are made of silk, » he finally said.

« Who’s going to notice my hems? » she said in exasperation.

« I would, » he pointed out.

She groaned and reached down to knot up her underskirts so that they wouldn’t show beneath the hem of the cloak.  Then she straightened and glared at him.  « Anything else? »

Without speaking, he pulled a length of cord out of one of his pockets and came toward her.  Thinking wildly that he was going to strangle her or something, she ducked away from his grasp, and it was only after a brief struggle that he finally got her to hold still enough so he could tie up her hair.  The people of Barandeh would certainly recognize her as a foreigner from only one glance at those long, fair locks.

« You could have warned me! » she said indignantly when he let her go.

He only looked at her.

« A girl doesn’t like it when a guy who kidnapped her suddenly comes toward her with a rope. »

For a while he didn’t answer.  Perhaps she was right.  « I’m going to put the hood over your head, » he finally warned her.

« You’re…what? »

He took hold of the hood and pulled it over her hair; this way it would hide her blue eyes, too.

« It’s hot, » she complained.

« Keep the hood up until I can find a better cloak for you. »

She opened her mouth to reply, then stopped as she thought about that.  Why did she get the sense that he was trying to take care of her as best he could?  She didn’t like the fact that Hero refused to fit into the villain’s role she kept seeing him in.  The picture of a frustrated young man with a burden too big for him just didn’t fit.

« How old are you? » she asked curiously, following this train of thought.

However he had not been following it, so he didn’t bother to answer such a random question.  Instead, he turned his attention to the discarded dress she had brought out with her.  « Hey, what are you…? » Relena started to ask, when she saw him pull out a knife.  Then, « HEY! » when he began using it to pry loose the jewels that had been sewn into it.

« The dress is dangerous, but we can use the money. »

« You mean I can use the money.  Those belong to me! »  It made no difference to Hero, who did not protest when Relena snatched up the jewels as he freed them one by one.  When he had finished, he rolled the dress up tight and buried it.

« Are you finished? » Relena asked in annoyance.  « Can we go now? »

Again he didn’t bother to answer, simply stalking ahead once more.

They were just barely able to reach the city gates on time.  Trudging past the guards, trying to look like ordinary travelers of little interest, Hero kept a tense eye on his companion, making sure her head stayed down and there was no glimpse of her fair hair showing.  The two of them were pushed about in the busy streets, knocking into each other, or other objects and people, several times.

« Is it usually this crowded? » Relena complained.  « Even back home it wasn’t like this. »

« Wasn’t like this last time I was here, either, » Hero mumbled.  « Maybe something’s going on.  Come on, we need to find a money-changer before it gets too late. »  He grabbed Relena’s hand so he could drag her along more easily and not have to worry about losing her in the crowd.  They found a place to exchange one of the jewels for coin only just in time; the man had actually started packing up for the night before they hurried up to him.  The next order of business was an inn, but one place after another turned them away, saying they were full.

« It’s like the story in the Holy Book, » Relena said dryly, almost amused despite her tired feet.  « And there was no room for them at the inn. »

Hero, who had no idea what she was talking about, simply marched on to the next establishment.

« No vacancies, » the proprietor said at once, eyeing Hero’s foreign looks with distaste.  « And there’s not going to be room anywhere else, either – the whole city’s been booked up for months now. »

« Why is that? » Relena finally burst out.  « Is there something special going on? »

The innkeeper stared at her as if she was an idiot.  « You have traveled all the way to Barandeh, and do not know that it is the sultan’s birthday tomorrow? »

« I take it that’s a big deal around here, » Relena said with a sinking heart.

« A big deal!  The streets will flow with wine and gold, the feasting will be so lavish that even the slaves and beggars will have their fill, and people have come from all over the land to pay their respects to the exalted one!  And the woman says only, ‘It’s a big deal!' »

Hero squeezed Relena’s hand hard in warning.  She frowned and tried to wrench her hand free; it didn’t work.  « Fine, » she said.  « Let us sleep in your stable, then.  We will pay full price for a room. »

The innkeeper burst out laughing.  « The stable was booked up weeks ago! »

« What?! »

« Let’s go, » Hero finally said, dragging her away.

« And where are we supposed to go, Hero?!  There’s nowhere for us! »

« We can’t be the only ones in this position.  The stragglers will be sleeping in the square tonight. »

Which suddenly reminded Relena of another, much less pleasant story from the Holy Book.  She dug in her heels and dragged Hero to a halt.  « I’m not sleeping in the square. »

« You don’t have a choice. »

« Hero, » she pleaded, « please, keep me safe. »

He looked at her in annoyance.  « You’re in my charge.  Nothing and no one can get to you except through me. »

Which was, very strangely, quite reassuring.  « You’re not going to sleep, » she commanded anxiously.  « You’re going to stand up all night, weapons drawn, glaring your face off, guarding me.  Okay? »

« I’m not letting anyone near you, » was all he would say, impatient with her theatrics.

After settling down with both cloaks wrapped around her, watching Hero watch out for her, it took Relena a very long time to fall asleep.  Again.

o.o.o.o.o

Barandeh, unsurprisingly, was hot as blazes once the sun rose, and the crowds did not make it any better.

« Hero.  I’m wilting.  Can I please wait somewhere cool while you finish your errands? »

« I’m not an idiot. »

« But I’m not going to run away! » she pleaded.  « Really, I just want to rest somewhere!  You won’t be long, right?  You just need to pick up some food and stuff, and then we can leave? »

No answer.  Again.

« You’re so boring! » she shouted at him, pent-up anger suddenly bursting out of her.  « You’re like a rock!  You’re just a shrimpy thug!  You’re not the boss of me!  Let me GO! »

« Shut up, » he hissed, jerking on her wrist.  « You’re attracting attention. »

« Maybe I want to attract attention! »  Then an idea occurred to her.  « HELP!  HELP!  He’s kidnapping me! »

The people surrounding them, nearly all from a culture in which women were mere property, either laughed or paid no attention.

« Argh! »

Hero suddenly turned, shoved her against a wall, leaned his face very close to hers, and hissed, « For the last time, shut up.  I don’t want to hurt you, but I will. »

She stared back at him, fear and fury warring in her heart.  « Maybe I’ll hurt you back. »

He only rolled his eyes, which infuriated her all the more since she knew he was right; she had no hope of hurting him.  « Are you done making a scene, or do I have to knock you out? »

She jerked free and continued walking, her teeth clenched together.  Hero had bought her new clothes, including a sort of body-wrap which covered even her head and the lower half of her face.  It was a style that blended in well, since many women were wearing the same, but Relena felt stifled.  Not just physically, either…she felt like she was being hidden away, erased from existence – not only torn from her home, but forced to go unrecognized.  Tears came to her eyes as she thought, ‘No one is going to find me.  No one is going to take me home.’  The tears came spilling down her cheeks, and she didn’t know whether to laugh or get annoyed when she noticed Hero shooting her wary glances.

« Aw, don’t cry, pretty lady! »

Relena came to a surprised halt.  A little girl had bounced up to her, and was now holding up a flower.  « This is for you!  Come see our spectacular show!  That’ll dry your eyes in no time! »

Touched, Relena was just reaching to take the flower when Hero pulled her away.  « Not interested. »

Relena planted her feet and pulled back.  « Don’t speak for me!  What if I’m interested, you lout? »

« We don’t have time. »

« And what, exactly, is our deadline? » she challenged.

« I didn’t come here to haul you around! » he suddenly burst out.  « I came here to complete a mission, and instead I find myself flying all over the country, wasting time!  Let’s just get this done and get out of here! »

Relena turned away, leaned down to the child, and smiled brightly.  « Sweetheart, I would love to see your show.  Please lead the way. »

The little girl, who had unusually fair skin and wide blue eyes, gave her a cautious smile.  « Sure, lady.  Your boyfriend’s not gonna hurt you or anything if you come, is he? »

« He’s not my boyfriend! » Relena snapped, then gasped, « I’m so sorry, darling.  He’s simply an annoying acquaintance, that’s all. »

« You’re not watching some show, Relena. »

‘Try and stop me,’ she thought, and let the little girl lead her away.  She felt Hero trailing her unhappily, oozing surliness, which was rather fun to ignore.

A knot of people had gathered around the street-performer, who looked as foreign as the little girl; a long brown braid swung down to his waist, and bright blue eyes twinkling in his laughing face.  « …and for my next trick, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to need an assistant from my fine audience here?  Any takers? »

« Me! » the little girl cried at once, bounding up to him.  « I’m here! »

« Excellent, » he said, beaming as he reached down to pat her head.  « Little Hilde here has been working so hard today, I think she ought to get a treat, don’t you? »  As he spoke, a little cake appeared with a twist of his fingers, seemingly out of the little girl’s ear; she laughed and reached for it, then suddenly flung it into the air, where it scattered as a flock of snowy white birds.  The crowd rustled and murmured, showing only the mildest interest; their own magicians considered such acts as children’s tricks.

« Ooh, we’ve got a tough crowd today, Hilde-chan, » the performer laughed.

« Show ’em the gold one, Duo-nii! »

The mention of money sparked the crowd’s interest.

« Hm…shall we give it a try then?  All right, but it’s going to require a bit of participation from eeeevery one of you. »  He swept his finger out across the crowd, winking conspiratorially.  « See, the way this one works is a bit of give and take…you feed my little friend here, » (he glanced down at a floppy hat on the ground, which contained a few coins, and nudged it meaningfully with his foot) « and see what shiny things show up in your pockets. »

The crowd rustled uneasily.  Was this a trick?

Relena looked at the magician, who looked as if he was about her age; she took in the threadbare fabric of his shirt, the faded colors on the little girl’s clothing, and the little hollows in their otherwise handsome faces, as if they did not get enough to eat.  She drew a few coins from her purse and dropped them into the hat, ignoring the little sounds of annoyance Hero was making behind her.

Duo’s eyes widened at the sight of the gold coins (he had no idea she had plenty more where that came from), and Hilde gaped openly.  Then Relena frowned as she noticed that her money purse was suddenly heavier than before.  Peering into it, she exclaimed in surprise, « Now where did all this money come from?  I could have sworn I didn’t have that much…. »

There was a sudden rush for the hat, as heaps of coins were tossed into it; then exclamations of delight as money-purses grew fat and heavy.

« Thank you! » Duo called out, beaming.  « Thank you, my dear ladies and gentlemen!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get Hilde-chan some breakfast…glorious day, isn’t it! »  Within moments, he had whisked his things together and disappeared around a corner with Hilde in tow.

« What a magician! » someone was saying admiringly.  « I’ve never seen a trick like that before! »

« We’ve got to get him back, » someone else said greedily.  « I’ve got to give him, more, much more; then I’ll have…I’ll have…. »  He was now staring into his purse with dismay and growing fury.  The crowd around him became angry as everyone realized that the gold they had magically received had transformed into nothing but dead leaves.

« Find him! » they shouted.  « Cut off his thieving hands!  Make him pay! »  Then they were off, charging after the magician, who was of course nowhere to be found.

« Idiots, » Hero remarked.  « Even you could have seen through that one, » he said to the princess.  When she did not answer, he frowned and turned to look at her – which was quite impossible, since she was gone.

o.o.o.o.o

Relena’s heart hammered in her chest as she shoved her way through the crowded streets, certain that the assassin was right on her heels and about to grab her.  « Stay away, » she gasped, as if addressing him, « Stay away from me…please let me go…. »  And then it was like she hit a wall of people.  No one was moving forward; they seemed to be standing, waiting, talking so loudly she could barely hear herself think.  Panicked, Relena whirled around, but her frantic eyes caught no sight of Hero.  They caught no sign of an escape route, either.

Then the crowd surged, shoving her to the side; a sort of pathway was opening up in the center of the road, and the sound of trumpets was heard in the distance.  It felt like ages to Relena, crushed in the midst of the crowd, waiting for who knew what; but then the first members of the procession passed by, and Relena forgot to be frightened or impatient.  Musicians, dancing girls, exotic animals, men who threw out handfuls of money to the crowd…Relena had never seen the like, and it captured her full attention.  She was so busy staring at the sight, that she almost missed the fact that the sultan himself was passing, a rather large man borne along in a lavish litter, carried on the shoulders of four slaves.  He lifted one pudgy hand to wave lazily at the crowd, surrounded by guards on horseback.  Relena was staring at him, her hood thrown back around her shoulders, and was completely unprepared when their eyes met.

The result was electrifying.  The sultan abruptly froze, then sat up so quickly that the slaves carrying him stumbled.  He raised his hand and called out in a commanding voice, some foreign garble of which Relena didn’t understand a word.  Then, to her horror, she saw that hundreds of eyes were suddenly focused on her; people where shoving to get away from her, leaving her in a little empty place; and one of the guards had clopped his way to her side and leaned down to seize her by the shoulder.

« Beeyah bauman, » he ordered shortly.

« Wh-What? » she gasped.

« Beeyah! »

« I-I don’t understand, » she tried to say, though she thought she understood quite well.

Then someone else was riding up, a young man too finely dressed to be a guard.  His pale yellow hair and light eyes were quite at odds with the dark faces around him, and he smiled so kindly at her that Relena forgot to be afraid.  « My father is asking you to come with us, » he said in her own language.

« What! » Relena cried, alarm rising up into her voice again.  « I-I can’t, I…. »

The sultan was saying something again, and the young man listened for a moment before turning back to Relena.  « He asks if you are married. »

« I…n-no, but–« 

« Eeshoon neastan, Pehdahr, » the young man called back.

« Pàss beeyarehshoon eenja! »

The boy turned back to her and shrugged.  « Please come, miss.  Don’t worry, we’ll send a message to your family once we get back to the palace. »

And for the second time, Relena found herself being carried away against her will.  She was suddenly wishing very much to be back with Hero.

To be continued….

Author’s Notes:  The scene where the sultan calls Relena out of the crowd was most likely subconsciously based on a similar scene from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, my absolute favorite books.  (It’s in The Horse and His Boy, when the Narnian royals who are visiting Tashbaan see Shasta and pull him out of the crowd.)  Again, it’s not intentional, but I think it’s different enough to where it falls more into the « homage » category rather than « rip-off. »

The online Arabic-English dictionaries I found are useless.  « Barandeh » is the Persian word for « Winner. »

Translations of the Persian phrases:
« Beeyah bauman » – « Come with me. »
« Eeshoon neastan, Pehdahr. » – « She is not, Father. »
« Pàss beeyarehshoon eenja. » – « Then bring her here! »
And yes, I’m going to make the Winners Iranian instead of Arabic, because I very handily have a native Persian-speaker in my household.  Sorry if the spelling isn’t standardized.

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