Gundam Fantasy

Book Three

          "You’re Highness," an attendant announced. "The Mages you summoned have arrived."

"Show them in." She commanded.

Returning to the waiting room, the attendant announced to the two mages, "The Empress will see you now."

"Thank you." Quatre said in return. "Ready?" He asked Trowa, who looked quite nervous over the whole affair.

"I think so." Trowa replied.

"It will be fine," reassured Quatre, "Just follow my lead."

The two Mages followed the attendant into a large throne room. At the far end of the room sat Empress Relena Peacecraft and her aid, Lady Une, and one other, a young man with liquid black hair, pulled back into a tight ponytail at the base of his neck. Quatre and Trowa walked through the thong of courtiers who had nothing better to do with the days than curry favor with the Empress. As they reached the throne, Quatre bowed deeply before the Empress. Trowa followed suit.

"Empress Relena" Quatre said with authority, "I am Prince Quatre Raberba Winner from the Southern Kingdom."

"And I am Trowa Barton." Trowa hoped the Empress would not hear the nervousness in his voice.

"I welcome you both to the Northern Kingdom." Relena said, nodding her head in their direction.

"It is an honor to be of service to you." Quatre said, bowing again.

Relena directed their attention to the young man on her right. "This is Chang Wufei, from the Northern Kingdom, another Mage who has accepted my invitation." Wufei stepped forward and bowed before the two Mages, who in return bowed before him. "Is there not another Mage who should be with you?"

Quatre threw a quick look at Trowa and raised an eyebrow in question. Trowa shook his head and the two Mages turned back toward Relena. "Empress?"

"I sent out messengers to find four Mages of great power: Wind, Water, Lightning and Fire. The last messenger has not returned but I had hoped he would have found the Fire Mage by now. It has already been three weeks. We have followed rumors of his whereabouts, yet still he eludes my messenger. We always arrive where he's been seen last, but when my men get there, they can't find the Mage."

"Empress Relena, perhaps we should go looking for the fourth Mage. If he is hiding then surely with the three of us looking for him he will have less of a motive to hide." Quatre stated confidently. Trowa looked toward his friend and nodded in agreement.

"That was my thought as well, Quatre." Relena replied, "But first you will go to the Western Kingdom and speak to Mage G, the Fire Mage's teacher. If anyone can point you in the right direction it would be him."

"Yes, Empress."

"You three must find him." Relena emphasized. "It is of immense importance that I find all of the Mages as quickly as possible. I wish I could offer you some rest from your long travels, but finding the Fire Mage must come first."

"We but obey Empress." Quatre said bowing again. "We will leave this instant."

* * *

"We are to find him here?" Wufei asked skeptically. "In such a place?"

The three newly acquainted Mages stood at the steps of a local bordello in the Western Region.

"That's what Mage G said," replied Quatre equally skeptic, but proceeded with extreme caution as he remembered the strange conversation with Mage G three days past. .

* * *

"You're looking for Duo, huh?" The older Mage asked, as he continued to throw feed and corn to his chickens. "Well, he's no longer here." The man sounded sour as if the thought of his apprentice irritated him.

"Sir," Quatre began, "It's of the utmost importance that we find him."

"Why? Does he owe you money?"

"No nothing like that, Sir. Empress Relena has commanded us to find him and escort him to the Sanq Kingdom."

G stopped suddenly and turned to face Quatre and the others. "The Empress?" The older man scoffed. "Why would she want a no account like Duo?"

"He is a Fire Mage, isn't he?"

"Yes, yes he is." G replied hastily, shaking his hand in the air as he spoke. Leaning in close to Quatre, he questioned, "Answer me this - is the Empress gathering other Mages as well?"

Quatre took a startled step back from the older man as Trowa took a protective step forward. Feeling his friend at his back Quatre answered cautiously, "Yes she has already found three others. Does this mean something to you?" he asked, as if the answer meant nothing to him.

Mage G abruptly straightened and began pacing frenetically. "I was afraid of this. So afraid." He began to mutter incoherently as his pacing increased.

"Afraid of what, Sir?" Wufei cut in.

"Hmm… what?" G replied absently as his thoughts went into an entirely different direction. "Never mind that, you need to find Duo and take him to Sanq right away."

"Yes, but where…"

G ignored the questioning young man and continued to rattle off instructions. "Last I heard from a friend in town, was that Duo had been seen frequenting the various bordellos around the Kingdoms."

"Bordellos, sir?"

"Yes yes." The older man seemed to be preoccupied as he went back to feeding his chickens as he muttered to himself. "So the time has come again…"

The three Mages looked on for a few seconds as they watched the old man clucking and talking to the various birds around him. They thanked him for his help and continued on their way.

* * *

"Well, I shall not go in." Wufei said, folding his arms across his chest as he turned his back on the house. "You two will have to go in and bring him out if he is here. After what happened the last time, I shall not step one foot within such a business again."

"But…" Trowa started to say.

"It's all right." Quatre interrupted, holding up his hands. "I'll do it. You wait here."

Quatre excused himself and entered the Bordello. A strikingly attractive woman met him at the door. "Welcome to the Bathhouse, I am Mistress Melysia. How can I be of service to you today?" She said smiling at him.

"Uh… hello." Quatre said, smiling back. "I was wondering if you could help me find someone." Immediately Quatre realized he had said the wrong thing.

"That's what we're here for." The woman said as she spotted an unoccupied young lady and hooked Quatre's arm onto hers. "Maiya is quite an excellent young woman and should suit you, good sir. If you have any other requirements she will be of service to you."

Maiya cuddled closer to Quatre and escorted him further into the Bordello. "We have all sorts of baths here sir and ..."

"No… oh no... That's not what I meant." Quatre stammered, pulling his arm free from the woman. "I was sent here by the Sanq Kingdom to find a young Mage who was said to frequent your… um… establishment."

"A young Mage? Hmmm… Let me think. We have a few of those. Most don't seem to do well with the regular girls in town." As Maiya thought, Quatre glanced around the front room. He felt uneasy as numerous women in various states of undress passed uncomfortably close to him brushing their hands against his arms, shoulders, and face. "Can you give me the Mage's name?"

"Yes!" Quatre said hurriedly. "It's Duo…"

          "DUO!" She shrieked. "He's always here! He is one of our best customers, and I mean in more ways than just repeat business." Latching herself on to Quatre's arm again, Maiya dragged the helpless Mage up a set of stairs. Quatre had a mental image of a nerdy looking wizard and shuddered at the thought.

* * *

Quatre was forcibly dragged into a back room in which he found two large bathtubs. In the first, which was closest to Quatre, there was an ivory haired man with sharp blue eyes. He was leaning back in his tub, his arms draped over its sides, his every need tended to by four lovely ladies. He was talking to another man in the tub next to his on the right. His companion was a brazenly loud young man whose long, dark brown hair was pulled back into a tight braid that hung dangerously close to the flames beneath his tub. Four women were tending to him.

"Excuse me Duo." Maiya said, raising her voice above the others in the room. The two men looked up at once. Quatre still didn't know whom he was here to see. "Duo, this gentleman is here to see you."

The dark haired man turned his attention to Quatre with a look of annoyance. Quatre stepped forward, "Is your name Duo Maxwell?"

"Who's asking?"

"My name is Quatre Raberba Winner." He said as he bowed. "I was sent here by the Palace of Sanq to find you."

"The Palace, huh?"

"Yes. Your presence has been requested by Empress Relena." Quatre held out the parchment with the invitation to court.

"OH DUO!" One of the ladies shouted and giggled, "The Empress wants to meet you!"

"How exciting Duo!" A second said, fawning over the dark haired Mage, placing a kiss on his cheek.

The ivory haired man turned to Duo and laughed. "So your fame with the ladies has finally spread to the top, hey Duo?"

"You are the pupil of Mage G?" Quatre asked, hesitantly quite unsure of how to handle the situation. He rolled the invitation back up and held it tightly in his hands. Was this the Mage he was sent to find?

"G-G? Yeah, I'm the same one." Duo smiled widely, sitting up in the tub, splashing water everywhere.

Quatre averted his eyes looking anywhere but trying to avoid gazing directly at the various anatomies that were so casually flaunted by the ladies of the House, who giggled and tittered at his discomfort. That's when Quatre noticed the tip of Duo's long braided hair was on fire. "Ah… your hair's on fire," stammered Quatre.

"What?" Duo reached back and pulled his long braid forward. "You mean this?" He indicated by holding the fiery tip in his hand. The heat of the fire harmlessly flickered around his fingertips. "Don't let it worry you. It's always been like this, as long as I can remember. I mean I am a FIRE MAGE." Duo stressed laughing heartily.

Quatre laughed as well but only to release the tension and uneasiness he suddenly felt. "We really need to get going. The others are waiting downstairs."

"Eh? Others?"

"Yes, two others are here with me to find you."

"All right then!" Duo exclaimed, slamming his hands into the water, yet again splashing water everywhere, which caused the four women to squeal and laugh. "Give me a minute to get dressed and we'll go see this Empress Relena of yours. But she better be pretty! I don't do ugly girls! Bwahahahaha." He laughed again, cackling like a madman.

"Thank you. I will wait for you downstairs." Bowing quickly Quatre excused himself from the room.

* * *

Quatre hurried downstairs and out the door of the bordello where he found Trowa and Wufei waiting quietly for him. Quatre looked upset, if not disturbed, by the whole affair.

"Well, was he in there?" Wufei asked.

Quatre nodded his head. "He's there." He said, trying to find the right words to describe the missing Mage. "He's... he's..."

"He's what?" asked Trowa, seeing the uncertainty on Quatre's face.

"... spirited. Very spirited."

* * *

"Well, I'll be seeing ya Milly." Duo said addressing the man in the other tub after he finished dressing. "With any luck I'll be over at 'Catnip Palace' in a day or so. I'll see you then."

"Sure Duo." The other man answered as he watched Duo head for the door.

"Duo!" One of the ladies said after him, "You almost forgot this!" The woman made reference to the large wrapped item leaning against the wall by the door.

"Silly me!" Duo laughed as he slapped his hand to his forehead. "All this talk about the Empress and I forget to take my toy with me. What is this world coming to?" The toy in question was a parting gift from Mage G. Why G had it commissioned for the Fire Mage, Duo wasn't going to ask. He was just happy to have it.

Milly - short for Milliardo - watched with keen interest as Duo left the room. Why would the Empress want a Fire Mage? Milliardo gently pulled at his face, pondering the thought. Especially one the likes of Duo? Leaning back into the arms of one of the lovely ladies, Milliardo pondered.

* * *

The four women who had tended to Duo in his bath escorted him to the front door of the bordello. As he prepared to leave, each lovely lady gave him kisses on his cheeks, ears, and throat, and the last bit his nose gently before planting a long and involved kiss square on his lips. She then whispered something in his ear. An even wider smile spread across his face.

"You mean it?" He asked grinning like a maniac. The four ladies only winked and smiled as they re-entered the bordello. "Oh yes! I am the man!"

"Um... Duo?" Quatre said, timidly as if trying not to bother the laughing lunatic. "Are you ready to leave?"

The Fire Mage snapped his head to the right and saw Quatre standing there pensively on the porch of the Bordello. "Huh? Oh yeah right. The Empress. Well, let's not keep her waiting. I'm a busy man you know." With that, Duo headed down the steps of the bordello.

"That's the Fire Mage?" Wufei whispered, staring in disbelief, pointing as Duo walked passed him.

Quatre nodded his head and said nothing.

"No. Seriously?"

"Where's the coach?" The braided figure whined. "She couldn't afford transportation?"

Again with the head nod from Quatre.

"He's a disgrace." Wufei continued to point out. "I mean look at his clothing. They are in shambles." The Fire Mage's dark colored tunic was torn and tattered, hanging off his shoulders loosely and he didn't seem to mind one bit.

Quatre raised his hand up as he walked past Wufei, as if to tell him I know I know. Trowa said nothing and followed after Quatre, as he gently grabbed Wufei's tunic sleeve and pulled him along as well.

"So... the Empress sent you guys to come fetch me, huh?" Duo said, turning to face the other three as they caught up with him. "I must be pretty important."

Wufei leaned in close to Trowa and whispered, "Doesn't he ever stop talking?" Trowa did his best to suppress a small smile.

"Actually..." Quatre began, "we all are. We've all been summoned by the Empress."

"You're all Mages?" He questioned, pointing a wagging finger at the three of them.

"Yes." Quatre said. Wufei and Trowa nodded their heads.

"You mean, she only..." Duo looked hurt.

"...wants you for your Magic." Wufei finally said, smiling. That should keep him quiet for a while.

Duo frowned thoughtfully. "Well, I can show her more than Magic, which will impress her!"

* * *

Milliardo… The voice in his head said sharply, catching him off guard. Return at once! The young mage tried to show no expression on his face or in his eyes that something might be wrong as the voice continued to call him. You are needed.

The young man brought a hand up as if to massage his face. I understand My Lord.

"Ladies, I must be leaving as well." Milliardo said, rising from his bath.

"Must you?" One of the women whimpered, pressing herself against him, as she wrapped a towel around his waist.

"With Duo already gone what fun is there for us if you leave as well?" A second woman said.

"It can't be helped." Milliardo smiled, "I too have places to go… but I promise I will be back."

* * *

Retrieving their horses from the stable, the four Mages headed back toward the Palace of Sanq. Quatre reined his horse next to Duo's.

"Umm… Duo… Why exactly are your clothes such a mess?" Quatre timidly inquired of the spirited young man who rode beside him and who didn't seem to have a care in the world.

"Well, actually that's quite an amusing story. It all began when I was still training with…." Duo's voice faded into a memory.

* * *

"Duo, you have almost completed your training with me and that is good, because once you are finished then I can send you out into the world and let everyone else deal with you." Mage G said with great enthusiasm. "Finally, after years of irritation I'll have some peace at last! What was I thinking when I took you in as a pupil." He pointed an accusing finger at the young man. "You have been nothing but a hellion, these past seventeen years to me. Getting into all sorts of mischief."

"That's not a very nice thing to say G-G." Duo said, looking a little hurt. "Besides, don't I do a lot around here? I cook, I clean, and I'd even straighten up your study if you'd let me." Duo addressed the older man. "But do I get any thanks? No sirree! Why I even…"

Mage G grabbed the sides of his head as if trying to ward off a splitting headache. "Gahh, hush boy! You're making my head hurt again." He muttered. "Anyway, I fully intend to reward you for all your hard work over the years."

G pulled a velvet pouch from within the folds of his clothing. Upending the pouch, a burning ember fell out and landed in his wizened palm. With a few short words under his breath, the ember flared up into a golden flame and flickered and danced under Mage G's expert manipulation. He worked and shaped the little flame for a few moments while Duo looked on, and when he was done the flame died down and a gold cross with a blood red stone in its center and delicate chain lay nestled in his hand.

"This necklace is a very important artifact that will become very important to you later on in your life. It is endowed…"

"A necklace!? I don't want a necklace. It's stupid!" Duo shouted. "What use is it? Not to mention…. I'M A BOY!! BOYS DON'T WEAR NECKLACES!!"

Mage G hung his head down and slowly shook it. He was trying to find the strength to be patient with the chestnut haired boy. "Good Gods child! Will your jaw never stop moving?" He shouted, looking up. "I have kept you quite sheltered for many reasons, but it is past time I finally kicked you out! Besides, even though you've never actually seen one, girls really like pretty boys like you and they like 'em a whole lots more, if they're wearing beautiful jewelry." G held out the necklace for Duo to take. "But since this gift doesn't fulfill your desire for reward, I will tell you a secret." The older man leaned in close to Duo, draping a feeble arm over the young Mage's shoulder. "All those years of boring chores that I made you do, did more than just get you out of my hair." He laughed, remembering all the times he had Duo doing the gardening and gutter cleaning around the cottage.

G broke out into little fits of laugher when he remembered the time when the townsfolk of a nearby village tried to evict him from his small cottage. He had sent Duo out to deal with them, giving the boy only a broken, ratty looking broom to use as a bat for protection. "They also trained you how to fight." He giggled even more when he recalled sending Duo out into the pouring rain to wash the windows - Wax on… wax off… And the look on the poor boy's face when he would finally came back into the cottage, soaking wet, looking like some kind of drowned animal.

"Really?" Duo said looking confused, as he put on the necklace.

"To complete your training you need to go to the blacksmith in the town across the river and he will give you a new toy to play with. He's an old friend of mine, so try and show him some respect." G watched, as Duo's eyes grew large at the word 'new toy', knowing fully that Duo heard nothing of what he said. "Just be sure not to come back here once you get it. I don't want all my chickens being killed again!"

"Whaahh? You got me a weapon?" Duo exclaimed, wrapping his arms around the older man, giving him a huge hug that nearly lifted him off the ground. "You're so cool G-G!!" Releasing the older Mage, Duo turned on his heels and headed off toward town.

"Duo! One last thing, make sure you button up your shirt before you go into town! It's for your own good!!" G shouted after the boy. Whether Duo heard him or not, G didn't know. He watched as the younger man disappeared from view. Once sure that he was gone, G jumped into the air clicking his heels.

He was finally free of Duo.

* * *

Duo ran off grinning ear to ear. His had buttoned his shirt and was wearing the necklace beneath it.

As Duo walked along the road, the girl field workers stopped to look at the strange young man. As he passed them, he could feel their eyes follow him until he passed from view.

So, those must be girls! They do certainly look different, but it's a nice different too. He thought as he sauntered past them. I can't imagine wearing all that clothing though, especially in this heat. Duo began to unbutton his shirt. That's better! I don't care about looking proper. He laughed to himself. I'll just get my toy and go.

Duo wandered into town and decided to stop by the local inn to get something to drink, since he was hot and very tired. There were a few people on the streets but not many since it was an exceptionally hot day.

Walking past a storefront, he noticed the young lady behind the counter was staring at him with a glazed look in her eyes.

Slightly disturbed, Duo quickly moved past. Reaching the Inn, he stepped into to the cool dark of its interior and breathed a sigh of relief. Each woman that had he had passed on his way to the Inn seemed to have followed his every movement from the moment they laid eyes on him, until he was out of their sight.

Moving up to the bar, Duo asked the bartender to get him a pint of the house ale. As he settled down to his drink, he asked the bartender about the town and its inhabitants. Having learned the whereabouts of the Blacksmith and an inexpensive place to spend the night if need be, Duo decided it was time for him to get moving again. As he started to get up from his seat, he noticed the bartender's expression and turned to look behind him. Standing just inside the swinging front doors, and spilling out into the street outside was a large group of women, at the forefront of which, stood the girl from the first store Duo had passed.

What's with all the staring? Duo thought as he got up to leave and realized all eyes were on him.

It was at that point that the bartender leaned over to him and whispered that he had a back door that Duo could use if he would like.

Duo took off running like a scared rabbit with a pack of wolves on its tail. At least half a dozen or more women of varying ages and attractiveness took up the chase. Dodging and darting through back alleys and side streets, Duo very quickly became lost. After about a half-hour of intense running Duo finally left the last girl breathless and tearful in a dead end somewhere deep in the heart of the town. Chuckling to himself as he jogged around the corner, and out of her life, he came upon a road lined with houses and stores that he did not recognize. He stopped short in horror as he realized that he had absolutely no idea where he was, and he couldn't even begin to remember how he had gotten there.

Duo asked around the town and was pointed back toward the blacksmith. As Duo approached the blacksmith's shop, he heard… singing, coming from somewhere within the depths of the small building.

"Hello!" Duo called into the shop as he entered. "I'm looking for the blacksmith!" The singing continued. The young Mage sighed and looked about the front room. The walls were adorned with various metal works from farming equipment to weapons. Each one unique in its own right. There was a lull in the singing and Duo called out again. "Hello! Customer here!"

An older man stumbled out of a back room humming as he did. The first thing Duo noticed was that the man had little hair and what he did have looked like it had never seen a brush.

"Oh, hello there." He smiled, pushing up a pair of dark glasses on his nose. "Sorry to keep you waiting. How can I help you?"

Duo bowed slightly to the older man, "I was sent to you by my teacher."

"You must be Duo." The blacksmith laughed. "Fi- G told me you'd be visiting anytime now." Duo looked at him curiously. "Come on back. I think you'll really appreciate this beauty."

As Duo followed the other man, he heard the man start humming again. "You sing a lot, don't you?"

"Helps make the day go by faster, Son."

"So… how long have you known G-G?" Duo asked, as the pair walked past an open workshop. There lay all the tools needing for smith-ing. A forge burned brightly in the center of the room spreading its heat outward. Duo resisted the urge to bask in the fiery glow and wrap its strength around him-self. Instead he followed after the musically inclined man. The corridor suddenly hooked right and headed below ground.

"G?" He chuckled, "I've known G a very long time." He said, not giving the young man an exact number of years. "Here we go." The balding man pulled a set of keys from within his brightly off-colored tunic and unlocked the steel door before them. Pushing the large door inward, Duo found another forge burning hot. A hole in the ceiling allowed the black smoke to escape from its fiery beginnings. "After you…" He invited.

"Whoa…" Was all Duo could say. All four walls were covered with exquisite weaponry. Duo's violet eyes grew wide as he took in everything. "Which one is mine?" He said as he eyed a particularly ornate sword.

"This one," Duo turned to find the blacksmith pointing into the raging forge. Smiling, Duo walked to the forge and saw a metal shaft lying within the hot coals. "All you have to do is reach in, take it and it's yours."

Duo cocked his head to one side and looked presumptuously at the older man. Smirking, the younger man reached into the roaring fire. Duo's eyes darkened as he concentrated, and his hand slid through the white hot flames that danced wildly around the metal rod as if they were as cool and calm as a pool of water on a windless day. His fingers found the pole resting amidst the embers of the forge, its surface smooth under their touch. Grasping the rod firmly, Duo pulled the shaft through the fire, discovering it to be longer than it really was. As the other end of the pole was pulled from the fire, Duo noticed it curved outward into the shape of a scythe. He looked at it with wonder shining in his rich purple eyes and smiled.

"HA!" The Fire Mage shouted, holding the weapon out in front of him, pushing it toward the other man. The craftsmanship was magnificent! At the joint where shaft and blade met were embedded three blood red jewels that glowed with an eerie light similar to that which the jewel in Duo's new necklace was emitting.

"Just had to be sure, Duo," laughed the man. "G just wanted to make sure you were worthy of it."

"And why wouldn't I be?" He said, looking closely at the scythe, taking in its beauty.

"But that little story doesn't explain why your clothes are so… tattered." Quatre interrupted Duo's tale.

"Oh yeah right, my clothes." Duo smiled with an impish grin. "I was walking past the local bordello later that evening when I was spotted by several of the young ladies working there. They called me over, dragged me in and well… You know how it goes."

Quatre looked blankly at Duo and only shook his head. The Empress was in for quite a surprise when she finally met Duo.

* * *

By the time the Mages returned to the Palace, it was quite late and yet the castle was still full of life.

"We have brought you the Fire Mage, Empress." Quatre announced as the four Mages entered the Throne Room. "It took some time, but we found him. In fact, we found him here within the Sanq Kingdom."

Behind Quatre followed Trowa and Wufei and even further back was a young man with long chestnut hair tied back in a braid that ended in a flaming tip. His dark colored tunic was torn and hung loosely off his shoulders. But it could not hide the striking gold cross which gleamed red from the fiery gem embedded in its center. The cross itself hung off the middle ring of a connected set of three rings. In his right hand he held a scythe wrapped with shreds of deep red cloth, using it as a walking stick The Fire Mage's violet colored eyes glanced casually around the Throne Room taking in everything he saw.

"Empress Relena, may I present Duo Maxwell."

Hearing his name Duo pulled his attention back toward the three Mages who had brought him to the Palace of Sanq. They stood before a young woman, who was dressed elegantly, sitting on an elaborate throne. Duo strolled up to the others and bowed before the Empress. Before she could welcome him, Duo piped up.

"Empress Relena." He smiled, "I hear you're in need of my services." The statement was forward and brazen, and the Mage leered quite unashamedly at the blushing girl. But the Empress wasn't the only one blushing, Quatre turned beet red himself and covered his mouth with his hand, shocked that anyone would dare to speak to the Empress in such a way. Trowa said nothing. He had an inkling that they would all have to get used to this type of behavior from Duo. The young man was brazen and insolate. Wufei, being the gentleman that he was, would not tolerate such indignities toward the Empress and addressed Duo.

"How dare you speak to her like that!" Wufei shouted, pointing a finger at Duo. "Have you no respect?"

Duo threw a sideward glance to Wufei and smiled. "Not really." Duo shifted his stance to face the angry Mage. "Care to try and teach me some?"

"Why you…" Wufei said through clenched teeth.

"Gentlemen please!" The Empress interrupted them, having composed herself. She had to stop the bickering before anything serious could happen. Relena took a deep breath before continuing. "I welcome you to the Sanq Kingdom, Fire mage."

"If I had known the invitation was from such a hottie like you, Empress, I would have been here sooner." The braided hair Mage smiled, bowing again. Empress Relena did her best to control the embarrassment she felt as the Mage addressed her.

"Duo, if you and the other Mages will follow my attendants. They will show you to your rooms and give you a chance to freshen up and rest from your journey." She then addressed all four of the young men. "But it is late, so I will address you in the morning, as to why I have called you here."

* * *

Milliardo walked quickly into the main room of Trieze’s castle. He found his Lord conversing with several other men. Treize looked up from speaking when he heard Milliardo enter the room. Dismissing the men, Treize smiled as the fair-haired Mage approached him and held out his hand for the Mage. Taking the hand in his, Milliardo bowed and laid a lingering kiss right above the knuckle of the middle finger, releasing it as he stood up.

"My Lord, you called for me?" Milliardo inquired as he owed before his master.

"Zechs, my child, where have you been all day?" Treize asked as he pulled Milliardo to his feet and placed an arm around the younger man's shoulders, leading him from the room and down a large hallway.

"I... I was in the Center Kingdom of Sanq."

Treize sighed. "You have been to the Bordellos again." Treize shook his head. "My child, why do you waste your time there when you have lovely ladies of your own here?"

"It's different, My Lord." Zechs said. "I prefer the bordello girls. They have more spirit than the girls in my harem. Besides, I have friends that I meet there."

"I understand that Zechs, I would though prefer that you frequent the Reformatory or Masque and Mirrors. They are more respectable establishments than the brothels you seem to enjoy."

"Yes Sir, I will try to keep this in mind the next time I travel." Zechs said, saying only what Treize wanted to hear. "My Lord, I have heard some news that you might find interesting."


"The Empress has called a Fire Mage to her Court."

Treize stopped and looked closely at the young man beside him. "A Fire Mage? Do you know why?"

Zechs shook his head. "No. I didn't get a chance to ask Duo why he would be called to court. He is not your typical Fire Mage." He laughed.

"You know this Mage well then?" There was a gleam in Trieze’s eye.

"I suppose. We meet up when we can at the various bordellos." He answered. "I'm to meet again with him in a day or so."

Treize put his arm around Zechs again and smiled as he led the young man into another room. "Zechs, I think you should continue to see your friend…" Treize waved his hand and the room was suddenly flooded with light. "But now, I have something for you to do." From within his cloak, Treize pulled out a white mask and handed it to Zechs. Accepting the item, Zechs placed the mask on. "It's time for you to go to work…"

Zechs nodded in agreement and smiled coldly as he looked around the huge room. The masked mage's entire persona had dropped the devoted caring side leaving only a stone cold face and shrewd calculating eyes. Standing along each side of the room were numerous Demon Dolls.

"Where am I to go tonight?"

* * *