What can I say except thank you to all those fans who have more than saintly in their patience. Do not worry, this fic will not die. I would probably be angry myself if I let that happen. The next chapter, in large part thanks to ShadowSorceress, has already been started, so hopefully I'll get that up and running shortly. Thank you once again, and please enjoy the next installment.
To say that he felt ridiculous was the absolute understatement of George De'Sand's life. He wished with every scrap of dignity in him that all three of his companions had not so whole-heartedly declared it necessary.
Domon's idea had been well accepted, as no other option could be thought of on such short notice. There was an underlying urgency in all their actions as they helped George to disguise himself. He would become the dirty informant in clothing, manner, and most importantly appearance.
The Frenchman cursed his vanity as he tugged at his now short locks dyed a terrible mud color. The long and ratted trench that the informant had worn had, thank the higher powers, possessed a hood so that George's bright violet eyes could be hidden. The look, he mused bitterly as he pulled the hood over, was unnerving. As was the feeling pumping through his veins steadily; the feeling of guilt laced with raw fear.
"Looks like you're set there, Frenchie," Chibodee said though his tone of amusement had a lackluster quality to it despite his efforts. "Domon," he motioned to Neo-Japan's fighter and the King of Hearts made his way over to the darkened corner of the alley to inspect their work one last time. Domon nodded and they made their way onto the streets again.
Argo lead the group of four at a pace that was unprecedented for the grim Russian. George could see that he longed to break into a run; his steps shook with contained energy. But, every fighter there knew he risked losing something more precious if they drew attention to themselves: Mirabeau was still out there and had his lips close to the attentive ear of one Monsieur Défit En Acier.
Neo-France's fighter strained as he tried not to shake in anger. He knew it was all his fault and no one had dared contradict him. Blindly and foolishly, he took the bait that had been laid before him. What felt like bile rose in his throat; there could be no disgust as strong as what he felt for himself. George took a steadying, but shaky breath...thoughts like that had caused this mess. Uncertainty, doubt, selfishness...all players in Acier's great plan. Mirebeau saw George's downfall, Neo-France's downfall, and most of all, an end to the hard won peace all without lifting a finger.
The only desire left within George was one of salvation. Rectification was the only card he had left to play. And he prayed that their trump would save those most dear to them...and all of space.
The three tense fighters in front of him slowed, and he knew it was his signal. He turned sharply and crept along the gates while the others strode through the entrance and awaited an escort. George paused in the shadow of the brush surrounding the palace; his heart burning in his ears as he watched them stride inside with purpose. He swallowed, turned, and raced towards the servant's entrance. His stomach lurched, his heart threatened to burst, and his breath felt like it burned him from the inside. George De'Sand could feel it: this was his last chance.
"What are you doing here?" Marie Louise's voice squeaked as the one person she never expected to see again marched through her door as if it were her room and not the monarch's own.
Allenby Beardsley stared the Princess down, but held a fragile smirk on her petite face. Marie's own face was marked with one of intense surprise, and she could not help but bask in the power that left her with. And it was power she knew she would need to have to help Neo-France win back its heir. With a quick lick of her lips she leaned against the one of the four posts on Marie's bed. The space between the blond and herself was immense, but she was sure that the element of surprise had awarded her the Princess' undivided attention: the space between them was rendered practically non-existent.
"I'm still fighting, Princess Marie Louise," She began in a delightfully cordial tone, "but, from all accounts it would seem that you are not."
Said Princess pulled her self up in her bed and sat up a little straighter, her arms shaking with effort and annoyance. Her voice, however, was still breathy as she said, "I would expect more of a greeting coming from you, Neo-Sweden's gundam fighter," Marie sank back into the safety of her sheets, "but I hardly care as of now."
"Can you really sit there," Allenby contined as if the Princess had said nothing, "and not be ashamed of yourself?"
Rain shot the aqua haired woman a warning glance, but it did nothing to faze the young woman.
"Ashamed?" Marie repeated in a heated whisper.
"Yes," the object of both women's glares made her way over to Marie's side, her eyes flashing. "You were the girl who disguised herself and ran after the man who stole her heart, right? Hmpf...were is right. You're nothing like that girl now. She was strong, independent, and nothing like the scared, selfish girl lying in this bed."
"Allenby!" Rain shouted, alarmed at this sudden and heated turn of events, "Enough."
Marie Louise sat up straight, her face redder that it had been in a long time, "I...I am not...selfish! How dare you accuse me of such a thing: selfish! HARDLY!" Her voice was hoarse, but it seemed to crack with a clear note of power that Rain had thought vanished.
"You're heart was broken Princess, true enough," Allenby continued ruthlessly, the expression on her face changed to a deep seated anger, "but you are not as special as you think! We have all had our hearts broken. So, yes, how dare you. You don't have a monopoly of grief, you selfish brat!"
Rain was almost made a move to take Allenby away, but a sudden jerk from her right stopped her dead in her tracks. Marie Louise, in her ire, had jumped from her bed, the sheets tangled around her feet and torso, holding her in place as she leaned against the bed with such a look of pain and hatred that Rain was surprised it didn't heat the room.
"What is it that you are saying to me, Allenby Beardsley?" The shaking monarch spat. "What? That I am not allowed to be human? Must I be Princess even in grief?!" She made a noise that had the sound of a laugh, but the pain of a sob, "My heart feels as if it has been torn! Torn, and I am STILL bleeding! Mon Dieu!" Tears threatened to leak from her emerald eyes, but instead of letting them fall, her shaking only increased. "The..." her face twisted, "...strength you speak of...cannot heal me!" she shrieked her pain at the gundam fighter.
Allenby was silent, but her face held no part of the anger she had shown before. Finally, she gave a watery smile to the Princess and said, "You could have fooled me...I nearly thought you were going to strangle me..."
Marie Louise's anger did not vanish, but confusion mixed with it, swimming through her. She looked to her left, to see if Rain was just as confused at Allenby's behavior, but she was not there. It suddenly dawned on the Princess, and she turned all the way around slowly. Her eyes followed a trail of sheets on the floor and only then did she find Rain at the end of them; staring at the the head of the great bed. Rain, it seemed, looked more surprised at Marie Louise's movement, and less perplexed at Allenby.
The Princess turned around again slowly and suddenly became aware of how she felt. It was like looking in a private mirror. She felt...warm. She still shook, yes, but...there was no weight pulling her down. Carefully, as if still searching for a way to describe it, Marie Louise placed her palm above her heart. It was then that she realized what she could not have alone: she had lost herself. Her eyes widened and seemed to come alive for the first time since her knight had left. It was those same wide eyes that looked back up at Allenby in shock.
"Why, Princess Maire Louise," Allenby's voice was clear and resonant, "there you are."
"You do understand the need to keep her 'sedated', yes?" A strong voice echoed in Marie Louise's work room. Various papers all with her neat signature were sprawled across her large mahogany desk as were various happy photographs containing memories dear to her. The man currently seated at the warm desk, however, looked neither warm or happy.
"Yes," An insulted voice replied back, the tone was harsh and carried a sinister pitch, "You need not remind Mirebeau, Acier. If the Rose's lovely little lady is not here, you can be here. Which let's Mirebeau see your triumph." The sinister pitch carried a maddening melody to it, and Acier seemed tempted to cringe.
"Precisely so," the man called Acier smoothed back his gelled hair and straightened his bold, blue waistcoat. If he was on edge, one could not even tell by looking into his gray eyes. There was an air of perfection turned obsession that seeped from him balanced only by a teetering amount of control. Mirebeau was one kind of madness, of course, a mind too stretched by both a poisoned body and soul. But his was the kind of madness that was even more the lethal: a hidden one. And let the man be damned who figured it out. "The King was only too willing to let me take her place while she tried to recover. My voice on the council is gaining power, it may or may not please you to know, and I fully intend to carry our plans out in less than a week."
Mirebeau's eyes danced harshly back and forth from his employer to the vacant work room, "You say so, then why can't Mirebeau have his life? Why not now?" The lanky man seemed to unwind, like a spring pulled taut, "Mirebeau wants the Rose's life...his pain is Mirebeau's to have!"
There was a calm edge to Acier's sigh, "We have...dicussed this before. Should you wish to cause him pain, killing him is a rather ineffective, blunt, method." The man smoothly uncorked a bottle of wine that sat on the desk, and poured himself a glass, "As I have explained to you, once I have my place as Supreme Head of the Council, there will be no need for..." he motioned around the room with the filled wine glass in his hand, "this charade. You will be free to dispose of her." He downed the wine in one swig, and sighed again, but this time in pleasure, "And that is how you will kill George De'Sand."
Mirebeau's only response was to laugh.
Acier put a hand to his temple, but his crooked smile did not vanish. With a wave of his other hand, he simply said, "Now please, go back into hiding, when the time is right...I will call you."
The deranged man before him staggered off to the left of the work room, still laughing, too consumed by the insane hilarity of blood lust. He fell against the ornately painted wall, and a passage creaked open. He soon fell into into the darkness, his laugh getting softer but still echoing.
"If you are going to be mad," He spoke to Mirebeau, though he knew his hired distraction could not hear him as he got up and shut the hidden panel in the wall, "at least have some dignity in your madness." His face contorted into a genuine, frightening smile.
Please stay tuned, I am commited not to let this fic die. Be well.