This story would have been 20 chapters. However, I was messing around with the chapters, and by 'messing around' I mean "screwing everything up". I erased a chapter, and had to re-upload it. Then I had to re-organize all the chapters that followed chapter five. I ended up with 18 chapters with one missing, so I combined two short chapters and fixed everything to fit into eighteen chapters. If that didn't make sense, imagine how I must have felt trying to organize my mistake. Everything should be dandy now, but if you see a chapter mistake feel free to message me.
My mind raced that night. Sally, Trowa, curse... I claimed that I could get to the bottom of this mystery, but that was before I realized how difficult it really was. All day, I avoided Sally because I feared she could sense my suspicion. I was not used to deception, not like this. My family barely kept secrets from one another. But now that I was away, I have been running into a lot of deception, lately. There was no way I could compete with the likes of Sally, who was probably very skilled at it.
I rolled over on my thin mat, too lost in thought to think. I hadn't a clue how magic worked. Was there even a way to reverse Trowa's spell? Though, I resolved myself to stay by his side, no matter what form he was in. Just a couple months ago, I didn't even believe in magic. Now, I was suffocating in it.
The leaves rustled slightly. It was probably just magic.
A hand brushed my shoulder. With a groan, I whispered, "Tao, I am not in the mood...mmph." The same hand clamped my mouth. If it was still Tao, he was definitely crossing the line, and I was going to let him know in a very violent way. I froze in shock as a different Chang came in view. Wufei held his finger to his lips to command me to be quiet, but I was already silenced by my surprise. He lowered his head until his lips were practically touching my ear. What the hell was up with these Easterners!
"Wait until the moon hides behind the mountain, then head past that bush. Keep going straight. You'll know when you reach the place," he ordered silently. Even in the hazy moonlight, I could see the suspicious glance he threw at Sally. I felt better now, knowing I wasn't the only one who distrusted the sorceress. Then, just like that, he left. The trees barely rustled as he disappeared into the darkness.
How cryptic; he must have been taking lessons from Trowa. Without getting up, I craned my neck to glance at the moon that was barely peaking over the mountain. Now, what did Wufei want? The mystery of it all was intriguing. There was no doubt that I was going, regardless of danger. My skin was itching with anticipation. Hopefully, this meeting with Wufei would be quick. He was a blunt kind of guy. I couldn't imagine him wasting his time on mind games. I've had quite enough of those.
I sat up as soon as I couldn't see the moon anymore. Momentarily, I glanced at my sleeping 'companions'. Tao and Meilin were very still. Sally had her back turned away from me. I couldn't really tell if she was awake. I took my chances.
Though, not as stealthy as Wufei, I still managed to sneak away in relative silence. It was dark, and the moon was hidden, but I felt my way around the branches. All in all, a clean get-away.
In front of me, there stood an unmistakable clear wall of magic - Sally's field. I briefly wondered if she could sense anyone walking through. Well, I've thrown caution to the wind before. I stepped out of the field before, I could do it again. I barely felt a tingle walking through the magical wall.
Wufei should be expecting me. Now, if only I knew where he was. He did say that I would know when I reached my destination. However, cryptic messages were...well cryptic. I much rather preferred a solid sign.
The path I chose was clear enough to adapt an easy stroll, and the forest was very welcoming that night, warm for that time of year. It was just like a midnight hike. As enjoyable as the walk was, I was still anxious to find Wufei. Where was he? Had I walked right past him? I contemplated turning back. No, he said I would know. If I didn't find him, it was his fault for not being specific enough.
Hopefully, Trowa hadn't noticed I had left, or if he had noticed, then I hoped he wouldn't worry. Though, he was cute when he tried to act like my protector...even if I didn't need his help all the time.
"Ack!" Familiar coils wrapped around me. I was whipped up the treetops. Leaves, twigs, and bugs hooked onto my hair. Really, surprises like these shouldn't even phase me anymore, but Trowa somehow managed to take the breath out of me.
"The treetops? Again?" I questioned in greeting as soon as I reached eye level.
He carefully plucked a black beetle from my hair. His eyes held an amused light. My aggravation melted away, slightly. Trowa wasn't being patronizing and protective; he was just being playful. Although, I would have to teach him some new games. There were better ways of getting my attention than flinging me through the treetops or pulling me into a lake.
His form was draped over a thick branch with casual grace, lightly bathed in the dim starlight. He was the most seductive looking monster I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. I almost forgot why I was traipsing around the forest in the middle of the night in the first place. Couldn't I just stay here all night?
Regretfully, I admitted, "Sorry, but I was planning to meet someone else, tonight." That did not sound very innocent.
He just smirked, that playful glint still in his eyes. "I know," he replied, as his coils unwound from my midriff. For a moment, I missed the feeling. How did he know? Was I not quiet enough when I snuck out?
Wufei imposed, "That is because I told him." He leaned against the trunk of another tree, looking as contemptuous as ever. Was I right? Was Wufei taking midnight 'cryptic lessons' from Trowa? It certainly would explain this odd scenario.
"Trowa?" I inquired.
"Truthfully, I am really jusst asss in the dark asss you," he revealed. "It wasss Wufei'sss idea."
"Originally, I just needed Trowa. I don't really trust any of you, but he seemed the least deceptive." He really thought that the mile-long snake looked the most trustworthy? Additionally, he seemed to think I was 'deceptive'. I felt like laughing. Wufei definitely looked beyond the obvious. I would bet my left arm he was skeptical of anything that appeared harmless.
He continued, "Trowa would not agree to meet me unless I included you too. He assured me that anything I tell him, I can tell you. He was very clear about that." Wufei ended that last sentence with a little growl in his voice.
"You wanted to include me?" I was gifted with a small, sincere smile. "But I didn't...," I gasped out. The thing was, I was perfectly willing to take on an important task by myself. The thought to include Trowa hadn't even crossed my mind. He must of thought of me as an insipid brat..
"Don't worry about it. I know your reassonsss," he assured. He looked so serene that a warm feeling just seeped right through me. The serenity had washed over both of us. And I understood exactly how he felt then. Trowa didn't expect me to live up to any standard, just accepted me and every thing I did. I leaned forward and kissed him soundly. It was definitely an action that was brought on by the moment. If I hadn't kissed him then, I would have blabbered on about how much I loved him.
We were allowed our brief moment of lover's bliss due wholly to Wufei's complete shock. However, he made his presence known as soon as he was able to. He first yelled at us in a different language then berated us so we could understand, "We do not have all night for that...that indecency!" He clenched his fist in emphasis. It was amazing how well he could balance on such a shaky structure. He held his hand to his head, as if trying to ward off a headache. Even in this light, I could see how incredibly flushed he was.
Graciously, we parted. Trowa still kept his hand on my hip, and I was still smirking. Well, I did quite enjoy the forked tongue. And there was a small, impish part of me that was amused by Wufei's reaction. The Easterner unclenched his shaky fists and took a deep breath. "Okay, that was unexpected. So you guys are...are... involved. It does explain some things, but that's not important right now. It seems that we have something in common." His voice was all business now.
"Really?" I encouraged.
"I believe we are being used by the sorceress. Well, in your case, manipulated. You should at least be partially aware of it. If not, then I am sorry I have to be the one to tell you." He sounded more patronizing than sorry.
"How did you come to that conclusion?" I asked in astonishment. Sure, Trowa and I were being used by Sally, no doubt about that, but Wufei?
He didn't look at us directly when he answered, "She is too personal." Wasn't that just a little bit paranoid? "Her interest in my life is unnatural. That woman wants something from me"
"Maybe she's just interested in you...you know, romantically," I provided. I was probably just agitating him further, but I found nothing wrong with a woman getting close to a man. Though, by the way Wufei sputtered, I don't think he agreed with me. He began to pace, almost forgetting that he was balancing on a tree limb. He was very amusing when he was flustered.
"That is not the case!" Wufei spat
"How do you know?" I challenged, having just a little more fun with him. Though, I should probably not push too much. Otherwise, he might really get angry.
"Is she romantically interested in you or snake-man? Is she?" he bit back. I looked at Trowa who offered me a non-committed shrug.
"Well...no. I don't think so... Why would you say that?"
"Does she follow you around without consent? Does she pry into your childhood? Has she managed to corner you at impromptu times?"
"Actually, she has done all those things," I conceded. By the sounds of it, she was giving him the same treatment as me. Maybe, she was trying to rope Wufei into her plans? Who knew? But that just didn't make sense.
"She is too touchy-feely, always trying to put her arm around me or lay her hand on mine," he stated as if it was some sort of crime.
"That, she has not tried on me," I informed slyly.
"Me neither," added Trowa.
"It...it still isn't normal for a woman to seek out the company of strangers? Am I supposed to accept that she will poke and prod me for information while keeping everything to herself? I know that she, and to a lesser extent you, are not being entirely truthful. It wouldn't even concern me if she wasn't leading us around like sheep. If all she wanted was to reach the Northern pass, then that would be fine. But she wants something more from me!"
Trowa questioned, "How would you know that?"
"I just do," he added. He tapped his foot agitatedly.
"And what isss it that she wantsss from you?"
"I don't know what it is exactly," he admitted. "That is what I want to know from you. What is going on, and do I have to worry about Meiran or Tao being involved? Just what is she getting us into?"
"You're right about one thing. She is not entirely trustworthy," I admitted. "Trowa, is it alright with you if I tell him?"
"If you think it isss best," he reckoned. The added support was all I needed. I really wanted to tell Wufei. I honestly felt he could help out, in his own critical way... Help was help, we couldn't be picky.
Wufei was propped against the tree. He tried to hide his impatience, but he wasn't very talented at that.
"Truthfully, we haven't known Sally long...," I revealed. "We met her by chance... To make a long story short: Trowa is actually a prince from the North who was cursed to be a snake and framed for killing the prince - you know, himself? - all because his uncle wanted the throne. Well, that was a while ago. Trowa, since then, has lived his life as an outcast, wondering around in this part of the continent because his uncle would like nothing more than to have him dead the moment he set foot, or well, umm...coil in his own country."
Trowa interrupted my narrative, "Though, he didn't need to bother. I have no interest in the throne," he informed.
I assured, "Well, you aren't really the ambitious scum your uncle is. You would rather think of others before yourself. I think you would make a better leader."
Wufei groaned, "If you don't mind..."
"Sorry. Continuing, I met Trowa a few months ago - it's really been that long? Anyway, Trowa just happened to be wandering around my town and got spotted. They thought he was a demon and offered me as a sacrifice. That was how I get mixed up in all this. Next time I'll think twice before battling wits with an angry mob." I laughed at my own misfortune, but Wufei was not even slightly amused. At least Trowa smirked.
Wufei glared at me, clearly saying without words, "Get to the point."
"While I was travelling with Trowa, I did run into your brother...," trailing off, I recalled how Tao played around with me. I was embarrassed and I didn't care to resurface all those times I fell for his antics. It wasn't as if I could blame Tao; he gave no inclination that he was sincere in his romantic pursuits. I just took everything he said at face-value and probably amused him greatly. Trowa was the only witness. I only wished I had exercised more reserve with him watching. Granted, I did not know he would be my future lover back then. It was just best not to bring up past flings.
I continued for Wufei's sake as well as my own.
"Well, by the time we ran into Sally, Trowa and I have traveled together for a while. It turned out, she knew Trowa since he was young. Sally had been the court sorceress for Trowa's father. But Trowa's uncle accused her of assassinating the king and had his sorcerer banish her from the North with magic. Sally told us she was framed, but we only have her word to go by. The fact is, we really don't know much about her. It's difficult to believe her when we already caught her in a big lie. You see Trowa and I were well...in disagreement. She told both of us that Trowa could turn back into a human. Only, she told Trowa that he needed a potion, and she told me... something different. Except, she advised me to keep it secret from him. I don't know why she told us that. It's like she didn't even consider that we might have time to talk to each other or trust one another with information."
"So that's it?" he questioned. Was that it? I was out of breath!
"Well...yeah." I looked at Trowa encouragingly.
"That'ss it," he confirmed.
Wufei crossed his arms and stared at the tree, as if the answers would suddenly materialize on the bark. I wasn't an impatient person, but it was getting very late in the night or very early in the morning. I prodded, "So you have no clue either?"
"It just seems too simple," he replied.
"Sss-sssimple?" inquired Trowa. It was easy to tell when he was frustrated. Trowa was a very even tempered person. He did not have a wide range of vocalization. However, he had a harder time controlling his S's when he was flustered.
"I suppose I should be relieved that you can not relate with her motivation. That means that my trust in your integrity was not entirely misguided." For once, he did not sound judgmental. Actually, Wufei seemed more at ease. "If you had followed through with your plans to turn human...Trowa, tell me, where would your final destination be?"
Trowa answered, "The Barton Palacsse, I would imagine."
Wufei questioned, "And would Dekim be happy to see you?" He talked down to Trowa. I imagined that he treated most people that way, but it still bothered me because it was Trowa.
I intervened, "We already concluded that he would have to fight his uncle." The thought of Trowa in bloody combat has crossed my mind more than once, and the images were not pleasant.
"He would have to fight the man who has scorned the sorceress," he broke it down, "Either Dekim or snake-man is going to die. Maybe she's betting on both of you killing each other off. She may have a vendetta against your whole family. Every single action points to revenge. It's just natural. Anyone could have seen it. She was probably just playing off your naive acceptance." He pointed at me. I was insulted, but his blunt analysis of our situation stunned me. That accusing finger shifted to Trowa. "And your passive nature and reliance on him."
Defiantly, I searched for holes in his theory. "Then why did she lie to both of us when there was a chance of us confiding in each other? And what does she want with you?" I tested.
He pointedly looked away from me. "I can't say for sure. Who knows, maybe she even has that planned out. You could be playing right into her hands and not even know it. However, I feel more at ease knowing she has no leverage on me like she has with you. There's no way in hell I'm participating in that woman's revenge scheme."
There was a few moments of collective silence. Then, Wufei concluded, "Thank you for your cooperation."
"But I thought you wanted to help us out?" I deplored.
He looked at me, something between pity and contempt. I didn't know which one was worse. "I wish you luck. However, it's a full time job worrying about my own problems. I don't have the luxury of carrying a stranger's burdens." Immediately, I thought of his brother and Meiran and their doomed marriage. "There are not a lot of people willing to help out for nothing."
"I would!" I countered passionately. I felt somewhat betrayed. My own expectations of Wufei's integrity misled me. Maybe Wufei was right about my - what did he call it?- naive acceptance. Was believing the best out of people first such a handicap? Or should I be skeptical of everyone like Wufei?
"Well, it's your own choice," he acknowledged. He shook his head, and I knew what he was thinking, 'There was no point arguing with fools.' Trowa, sensing my irritation, wrapped his tail around my wrist. The light touch of his scales was enough to relax me. There was no point in arguing with a man who thought of you as a fool, but that didn't mean I would let him get away with it.
Before he jumped off his tree branch, I commented, "I may be a naive fool, but at least I can admit my feelings to the one I love."
Quickly, he objected, "I am not in love with that conniving sorceress!" Someone protests far too much.
"I didn't even mention anything about her," I revealed in triumph. I wished there was a way to somehow instantaneously capture his expression at that moment, so I could frame it, like a portrait, so I would be able to enjoy my victory longer. I almost felt retributed for his callous treatment. He recovered from his fumble enough to honor me with one last glare. He leaped from his perch and nimbly descended. If I wasn't so vexed, I might have admired his athleticism. I watched him, square-shouldered, stalk out of sight.
"Do you really think Ssally isss hitting on Wufei?" Trowa asked curiously.
Smirking, I admitted, "Probably not. It's just funny how a grown man could get riled up like that over a little teasing." Wufei's reaction to my teasing was probably the only time he was being entirely truthful with himself. Otherwise, he was far too unapproachable.
Deflated, I slumped against the tree trunk and sunk down until my legs dangled off the edge. "This meeting wasn't as I hoped it would be," I groaned.
"No, but at leasst he wasss a little informative," consoled Trowa.
"Knowing about Sally's motivation isn't very helpful, Trowa," I said, dispirited.
"We did learn sssomething elsse. He wasss right, you know." I knew but I didn't want to admit. "Quatre, you're a very trusting perssson, and I admire your ability to look at a persson and see thieir qualities. It'sss jusst that there are many people willing to take advantage of your trusst. You do need to be more careful. I sshould tell you that more often. I sshould tell you a lot of thingsss. In that way Wufei wass right."
"Ugh," I griped, "It's almost like you arranged this entire meeting so you could tell me that."
"You give me too much credit," he leaned over me. I could see the amused expression on his green face. "I am only bending according to the situation."
"Isn't that being 'passive'," I teased half-hearted.
"I like to think of it as adaptable. It'ss really hiss choice what he wantss to think of me, and it iss my choice how I am going to let it affect me. I choosse not to let it get to me," he advised. The logical side of me agreed fully with him. Then there was the other side that questioned myself and judged myself against others. A lot of my own faults could easily be traced to my 'naive acceptance'. I didn't want to trust the wrong person and hurt Trowa in the process. I also didn't want him to worry, so I smiled and resolved myself to not let that happen.
"If anything, he sure gave me a lot to think about...I'm never going to get a good night's sleep," I lamented.
My companion consoled, "Iss there anything I could do to help?"
"Let's just stay here...like old times." Call me a nostalgic fool, but I sorely missed the simplicity of those few months following my fist meeting with Trowa. When it was just us, no magic, no curse, and no schemes.
The coils I loved curled around me. His smooth scales sliding over my hips and abs were like caresses. Trowa laid his chin on my shoulder, a ghost of a touch. He could be so tentative sometimes. I turned his head towards mine and kissed him. My own fingers snaked down to his barely human hips.
He pulled away and told me, "I think you might expect too much from me."
I pulled him into another kiss, one that was longer but softer than the first. "What do I expect out of you?" I whispered. I laid my hands on his chest, my thumbs lightly tracing the collar bone. To be completely honest with myself, I was a young teenage boy, first discovering the trills of intimacy. I hadn't a clue!
Trowa's circumstances were different, however. He was just a teenage boy like me, but trapped in an alien body. I didn't even know if he experienced the same hormonal responses; I never found a way to ask that question. However, he was emotionally responsive, and could return kisses and caresses. Did his body feel the same way mine did, except he felt too awkward or incapable of performing? Actually, the mechanics kind of baffled me as well. But Iria always insisted there was more than one way of skinning a cat. Now, I regretted covering my ears whenever she spoke in detail about her boyfriends.
Candlelight eyes glanced at my hands splayed against his chest. Trowa looked sheepish, almost like he disappointed me. Being as confused as him, and twice as accepting as the average teenage boy, I assured, "I expect whatever you're ready to give me. Anyway, I'm too tired to do anything else tonight. We deserve a rest." I felt the heavy weight of exhaustion as soon as I said that. I definitely deserved a long uninterrupted nap after this night.
I know that the tone of the story has changed, a little less whimsical. Whether of not this is an improvement, it's your decision. However, I am unable to adapt the same voice as I had years ago. I am more critical and less risky. This is something that has bothered me slightly, so I decided to just announce it. My style has changed, and the rest of the story is not going to follow the same tone as the first half. This is somewhat okay, as the leads are about to travel to an entirely different place. Considering, I have been looking forward to writing about the North since I started this story, it might actually encourage faster updates. Anyway, I had a nice chat with windwraith about other characters. The rest of the main cast of GW will make their debut in the North. BUT that's the only spoiler you'll get out of me. I also made a small change in chapter five that seems unimportant (trust me, no one will notice), but it will become important. THAT is all I'm going to give away...really.
This week, I am hassled with putting together a portfolio, and going out of town. I might now have time for review replies for a while.
Something sort of silly and ridiculous. I feared that Tao's character was too over-the-top flirty and annoying. However, the past few months have proven me wrong. In the truest, sickest example of life imitating art, I acquired an admirer a lot like Tao. I don't fear for my characterizations anymore. I fear for humanity.
Note: I like Wufei. That's why he gets mercilessly teased. It's harmless really and no real prelude to any pairing that involves him. I don't even know if I want to pair him with anyone.