Disclaimers:  I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.

Notes:  Meiran looks out across her lands and ponders the secrets she’s been keeping from her two lovers.  Wufei and Treize,
worried about Meiran’s health, have a talk with her.  Noin makes a startling discovery that leaves her both elated and

Servitude, Retribution, and Enchantment

Part Thirty-Eight

Meiran stared out across the landscape, her one hand idly stroking Nataku’s head.  She often stood here on her balcony when
she wished to think, when she had need to collect her mind.  Today was one of those days.  She sighed, fearing that Wufei and
Treize would discover the truth . . . the secret she kept from the both of them.  But she knew that she could not tell them.  No,
they would only worry for her, fear for her safety.

“Still . . . I do not think I can keep this from them forever, my friend.”  She said to Nataku, petting her companion.  “They will
find out eventually, and they will probably both be hurt should I hide the truth, and they are obviously worried now.”  She sighed
and looked into the distance.  “It is a puzzle.”

She heard the door open behind her, but did not turn to look and see who had entered.  She knew that there was no danger since
Nataku didn’t react other than to glance at the door and give a sniff.

“Meiran . . . Treize and I have something we wish to discuss with you.”

So . . . it was Wufei who was to start this discussion.  A pleasant surprise.  Meiran turned and smiled at her two lovers.  Wufei,
though still not a dominant participant in their bedroom activities, was starting to regain some of his old confidence.

“Oh?  Should we all sit?”  Meiran asked.  “I can call for tea.”

Treize allowed Wufei and Meiran to sit first before taking a seat himself.  “Tea will not be necessary, love.  Meiran . . .”  He and
Wufei shared a glance and Wufei took up the topic again, something which pleased Meiran to no end.

“Meiran . . . Treize and I are concerned for your health.  You say that your repeated illness is due to all the excitement of your
friend and honored brother arriving soon, so I will not say that your anticipation is not part of the problem.  However . . . I can’t
help but wonder if there is something wrong.  You have been . . . worried and pensive.”  Wufei stood up and walked over to her
before kneeling on the floor in front of her seat.

Meiran was about to object to Wufei’s move, when he took both of her hands into his and looked up at her in a pleading
manner.  It pained her to see the worry in his dark eyes.

“Please . . . tell us what is wrong, and if there is anything we can do to help.  We cannot stand to see you suffer.”

Meiran was so tempted to just blurt out the truth, but she decided to wait.  Now was not the time to bring such dire news.  It
could wait until after Quatre’s visit.  “I will admit that my joy at Quatre’s arrival is only a factor . . . but as to the rest, I cannot
say just yet.  I have some things to check before I am certain.”  She stood and held a hand out for Treize to take, while Wufei
rose to his feet.  “I do promise you that I will tell you when I feel I can . . . and that I will let the two of you do as you wish to

Treize didn’t look happy, but he nodded.  “Very well . . . but will you at least take it easy?”

Wufei nodded in agreement.  “Please . . . you have many capable servants to do the work, and all the essentials have already
been taken care of.  There is no reason for you to push yourself as you have been.”

Meiran couldn’t help but smile at them.  She loved them both so very much, and it pleased her to see them united in the cause of
looking after her well-being.  “Agreed.  I promise to take it easier.”

“Good.”  Wufei smiled.  “Now, what say we take a walk?  I seem to recall you used to love walking through the snow drifts
back home.”

“A short walk in the fresh air could do you good.”  Treize added.

“Yes, I believe a walk would be lovely.”  She answered, stepping between her two lovers and taking either of their arms in hers.  
Nataku trailed along behind her . . . offering silent comfort, for only the tigress knew what ailed the Sorceress Queen.


Noin sat back with a sad sigh as she read the most recent letter from her father.  As if she needed reminding that her birthday
was fast approaching.  ‘It’s so near now.’  She thought sadly.  ‘Still . . . I HAVE to find Milliardo.  I owe it to him.’

She was beginning to lose hope.  All of her searching had been in vain.  It almost broke her heart to think that she had to wed
another man, but she knew that she had a duty to her family and her kingdom to carry on . . . to marry a man and bring strength
to the country with a marriage union . . . with the start of a new family.

“Milady?  Is something wrong?”

Noin looked up as a young woman entered the chamber.  Catherine had left to join Quatre and Trowa well over a week ago, but
she had recommended this young woman as an assistant.  Her name was Sylvia Noventa . . . and according to what Catherine
had told Noin, the young woman was a descendant of the man who had been king before Dekim’s rule.  She was a kind girl
with a good heart . . . and she was an exquisite worker.

“I’ve just received word from my father.  He says that he’s found a suitable match for me.”  She took a deep breath and fought
the tears that were welling up within her.  Casting her eyes to the window beside her, she looked at the sky.  ‘Oh, Milliardo . . .
I’m so very sorry.’

Sylvia smiled in understanding.  “I am terribly sorry for you, milady.”  She paused, then held up a parchment.  “I’ve gotten
word from a messenger.  Quinze is under arrest, as per your orders, and your soldiers wonder if you would like to question the
man and see his estate.  He has been rumored to overtax his tenants . . . as well as force them into servitude.”

Noin nodded and folded the parchment she had been holding.  She would respond to her father when she returned.  “Yes, I
would like to see his property and try to undo the damage he has caused.”  She answered, rising to her feet.

The man known as Quinze had been a loyal follower of Dekim Barton.  He was a wealthy landowner, a man who had amassed a
good amount of power.  However, all of that had changed when Dekim Barton had been killed.  And to save himself and his
wealth, Quinze had been plotting the fall of the new royalty.

Luckily, the man had not been too intelligent in his plans, and the guards had discovered his attempts of finding assassins to do
his work before he had actually hired any of these men.  For his treasonous actions, Quinze would be sent to Taura and put on
trial.  If found guilty . . . and Noin was pretty certain that he would be . . . he would either be banished from the lands, or
executed for his crimes.  From the rumors circulating the castle of the man’s cruelty, Noin wasn’t sure if banishment was a
severe enough punishment for the man.


Noin dismounted her steed, glad that Quinze’s manor house was only a mere hour’s ride away from the palace.  Although . . . it
was the only thing that she was grateful for.  Quinze’s manor was a dark and foreboding place that practically oozed the feeling
of oppression.  Of course . . . Noin might actually still be feeling the depression from her father’s letter.

“There is much to be done here.”  She said quietly, handing her reigns to Sylvia.  Then she entered the oppressive house, feeling
certain that her assistant would see to it that the horses were properly tended to.

As she entered the manor, slaves and servants that were poorly dressed and somewhat bruised, all scattered to bow before her.  
Noin smiled kindly at them.  It was quite obvious that none of them truly wanted to be here.  She would see to it that they all
remained employed under better people.

“Please . . . my quarrel is not with any of you, but with the former Master of this house.  He will no longer be able to harm
anyone here.  Be at ease.  I will see to it that you all have work.”  At the relief that entered many of the faces before her, Noin
allowed her own sorrow to soften.  “I’m sure there is much to be done.  Are all of the servants present here?”

A young woman, barely more than a girl, nervously stepped forward.  “No, ma’am.  There is one other that is not here.  His
lordship . . . he kept a slave in his bedchamber.”  The girl bowed her head sadly, her tone portraying concern.  “Last I saw of
him, the poor wretch was still alive.  I daresay that might no longer be true.  His Lordship was never kind to him.”

Noin nodded as Sylvia moved to stand beside her, the horses apparently tended to.  “Will you take me to the slave?  I only wish
to help.”  Noin said.

“Yes, Ma’am.”  The servant bobbed in a quickly made curtsey and headed toward the stairs.

Noin and Sylvia followed.  As they walked, Noin made a mental note of all the repairs that the manor was in need of.  The place
was barely livable and incredibly drafty.  However, with work, perhaps it could make a decent orphanage.  Sadly, the village was
lacking a home for abandoned or orphaned children . . . the local church had been burned to the ground several years ago.  Noin
felt this house would go a long way to repairing the damage caused by Dekim’s rule.  And with the rumors of the wealth that
Quinze had hoarded away, Noin doubted that there would be much trouble paying for the restoration of the grand house.

“Here we are, Ma’am.”  The maid said, interrupting Noin’s thoughts.  She knocked and opened the door that they had stopped in
front of, always moving slowly.  After a moment, the girl let out a long breath, a faint smile curling her lips as she turned to
regard Noin.  “He’s still alive.”  She cast saddened eyes into the room again.  “Zechs . . . your new mistress is here.”  She said.

Noin could only hear the brief sound of movement from within the room.  Whoever was inside made no verbal reply.  The
sound of chains being shifted caught her ear, and she frowned at the mere idea of the slave inside being chained to the bed as if
he were some sort of animal.

“Please forgive him, Mistress.”  The maid said, her eyes cast down.  “He has been poorly treated . . . Quinze never allowed any
of us to aid him.”

“No harm will ever come to him again.”  Noin promised.

Taking a breath, Noin stepped past the maid and into the room.  She nodded back at Sylvia, watching as the young woman
closed the door behind her.  Noin felt it would be best if she handled this herself . . . no doubt the slave was already frightened,
so there was no need to make things worse by crowding him.

The room was dark and had a musty smell to it, as if it hadn’t been properly cleaned in ages.  Noin ran her fingers along a
tabletop as she walked further in, grimacing in distaste at the layer of dust that now covered her fingertips.

The clattering of chains caught her attention and she looked up, only seeing a hint of movement at the other end of the room.  
Noin moved closer, trying not to move too quickly . . . she did not want to frighten the slave.  The slave was cowering already,
hiding himself on the other side of the bed.

“Let’s get some light in here, shall we?”  Noin said, stepping over to the curtains that lined one wall and pulling them open, just
enough to flood the room with sunlight.  Now that she could see, she returned her attention to the slave, only to bite back a gasp
at the sight that lay before her.

The slave was completely without garments, his long legs drawn close to his much too thin body.  A metal collar circled his
neck . . . a length of chain attaching it to the bedframe, similar bindings were also around his wrists and ankles.  A net of greasy
knotted hair fell against a broad back, long bangs covering his eyes.  His body was riddled with bruises, his knuckles raw and
bleeding, as if something hard had struck them repeatedly.  He shivered there, half-curled on the floor, his arms tightly wound
around his knees.  If not for the chains binding him, he probably would have fled.

Noin smiled at the slave in what she hoped was a soothing manner.  “Sshh . . . I won’t harm you, I promise.  Now . . . wouldn’
t you like to get clean?  Hm?”  She knelt down not too far from the slave, watching as he calmed a little.  “A nice bath . . . a
warm meal . . . and you can rest in a clean and soft bed.”

She gently reached out and brushed the slave’s hair away from his face, pleased that he was a little calmer, albeit still tense.  She
found herself quickly mesmerized by the piercing blue of the slave’s eyes, lost in the deep sea of his gaze, even though he never
looked directly at her.  There was something . . . something familiar within those shimmering depths.  Noin shook her head,
clearing away those strange thoughts.  How could she know this youth?  He was a slave, and she didn’t happen to associate
with slaves all that much in her spare time, although a good number of them were interesting conversation.

“I’m going to unlock your chains now . . . and then I’ll take you to bathe.  Won’t that be nice?”  She kept her voice soft and her
tone soothing as if she were speaking to a frightened child.

“Y-Yes . . . Mistress.  It . . . it would be nice.  Th-thank you.”

Noin smiled warmly.  “You don’t have to be afraid . . . I’ll make sure no harm comes to you from now on . . .”  She turned at a
soft sound and smiled at Sylvia, glad that the young woman was staying a few steps back.  “You have the key?”

Sylvia nodded.  “Do you want me to leave it here, or should I bring it over?”

“You can bring it.  I’ll need your help bathing this poor fellow.”  She turned to Zechs, a warm smile on her face.  “Do you
mind?  The sooner we get done, the sooner you can rest.”

Zechs swallowed.  “It is not my place, Mistress, to tell you what you should or should not do with me.  I am only a slave.”

Noin shrugged.  “Maybe so, but you deserve to have some say in how you are treated now.  You’ve earned that much, at
least.”  She didn’t know why, but she liked this slave.  He was submissive, but there was still a spark of something in him . . .
maybe he hadn’t been broken completely.

Zechs was silent for a moment.  “A bath would be nice, Mistress.  It matters not who bathes me, I have not cared about such
trivial things in such a long time.”  Then he glanced around quickly and shuddered almost violently.  “I do not have to sleep in
here, do I?”

Noin almost hugged the poor slave, but felt it not wise to do so.  He was already nervous enough as it was.  “No . . . of course
you don’t.  I wouldn’t force anyone to sleep in this foul place.”  She motioned to Sylvia, who approached slowly so as not to
startle Zechs.  When she was close enough, Noin took the key from her and unlocked the chains that bound Zechs.  She winced
at the sores on his wrists and ankles, the marks around his neck.  “Sylvia . . . please be sure the hallway from here to the bath is
clear of people.  I don’t think Zechs would appreciate a lot of servants gawking at him.”

Sylvia nodded.  “Of course . . . I’ll also make sure there are some salves for those sores.”  She said, then turned to leave.

Noin smiled in appreciation and turned her attention to Zechs.  “Can you walk?”  She glanced about for something to cover
Zechs with, but there was nothing clean.  There was a soft knock on the door that caused Zechs to press himself back against
the wall.  “Sshh . . . it’s all right.”  Noin hushed, trying to calm the poor young man.  She stood and walked to the door and
opened it, frowning at the girl who stood before her.  “Can I help you?”

The girl bowed.  “Forgive me, Majesty . . . the other Lady stated you wanted the halls clear so that you may bring Zechs to
bathe.  We . . . the other house slaves and I . . . have nothing much to offer, but here is a loincloth and veil for him so that he
may be covered on his way to the bathing chamber.  There are a few sets of clothes and veils waiting in the bathing chamber
itself, as well as a plate of bread and fruit.  The cook is preparing a broth for him to eat and one of the vacant rooms is being
cleaned and made ready.”  She timidly held the two pieces of cloth up to Noin, her eyes full of gratitude as she gazed up at the
taller woman.  “Thank you so much for coming, Mistress.  We have wanted to help for so long, but we are merely slaves and
are more powerless than the servants to do anything.”

Noin took the clothes with a smile, nodding her head in appreciation.  “Thank you.  I do not blame anyone here, besides your
former master, for Zechs’s current condition.  I will see to it personally that he is well-treated from now on.”  And she meant it,
too.  She didn’t know why, but she felt very protective and possessive of Zechs.  “As to the room . . . I’ll be bringing Zechs to
the palace once he has bathed.  I doubt he’d get much rest anywhere in this place.”

The slave girl smiled and curtsied again.  “Then I will have a wagon be made ready to carry Zechs . . . I fear he will not be able
to ride a horse in his condition.”  With that, she turned and scurried down the hallway.

Noin smiled, watching the young girl go for a moment before she moved back into the bedchamber, closing the door behind
herself.  She returned to Zechs’s side, carrying the clothes in her arms.  She smiled as she handed the loincloth over to Zechs
and waited until he had it on before she also handed him the veil.

Sylvia entered as Zechs was adjusting the flimsy cloth over his face.

“Did you find the bathing chamber?”  Noin asked.

Sylvia nodded.  “Yes.  Everything is ready.”  Her smile turned rueful.  “More ready than I had planned actually.  I asked the
servant as he was leaving, and he stated that the whole household had wanted to help Zechs since he was brought here five
years ago.  But that they had no power to do so before today.”

Noin froze as a stab of pain lanced through her heart.  “Five years?”  She whispered, shocked.  Five years . . . a long time to be
a slave to such a bastard.  It also went to show just how strong Zechs was . . . a weaker man’s mind would have crumbled long
before now.  “And you lived through it.  Such strength is admirable.”

Zechs glanced at Noin quickly and shrugged.  “A stronger man . . .”

Noin interrupted.  “ . . . would have escaped?”  At Zechs’s nod, she shook her head.  “Chained as you were?  Starved, beaten,
and mistreated?  No . . . even if you had gotten free of this room, you would have been caught again.”  She smiled and
wondered why it was so important to her to restore Zechs’s self-esteem.  She nodded as he seemed to relax a little.  “Come, let
us get you cleaned.”  Noin said, motioning with her hand for Zechs to walk beside her as Sylvia left the room.

“Forgive me, Mistress, it is not my place to walk so close.”  He said, his head bowed.

“Nonsense.”  Noin stated.  “I wish only to be sure you don’t fall over on our walk.”

Zechs said nothing in reply.  However, he did move closer, allowing Noin to hook an arm around his body as they walked along
the chill hallways.

Once in the bathing chamber, Noin allowed Sylvia to tend to the poor young man.  While Zechs was being fed and washed, she
left the room and made sure the horses were ready for departure.  A small wagon had been hitched to Sylvia’s horse . . . Noin
had to smile as she found it had been lined with furs and blankets, a number of pillows to make what looked to be a comfortable
surface for Zechs to rest on during their journey to the palace.  Noin would make sure these slaves were given to good owners .
. . perhaps a few of them could be put to work in the palace.

Satisfied that everything was in order, Noin made her way back to the baths.  She wondered what Zechs would look like when
he was clean.

She walked into the chamber, a smile quickly coming to her face as she found that Sylvia had finished washing the tall young
man.  He was dressed in a loincloth and a sheer tunic, gauzy leggings covering his legs.  The garments were faded and worn,
but they served their purpose.  The slave’s hair was loose . . . and still quite knotted . . . Sylvia must not have gotten to tending
to it yet.  He was sitting on a bench and Sylvia was preparing to cover his face with a veil.

“Wait.”  Noin said, stepping forward.  “I wish to see his face now that he has been cleaned.”

Sylvia nodded, taking a step back.  “As you wish, Majesty.”

Noin walked around to stand before the slave.  His head was bowed in submission . . . she realized now that she had never truly
gotten a good look at him, only seeing a glimmer of those startling eyes of his.  She wanted to see him now.

“Look up.”  Noin commanded in a gentle tone.

The slave obeyed, lifting his head.  Blonde bangs that had hidden his features fell aside, his visage bared to Noin’s eyes.  The
moment he raised his gaze, Noin felt as if the world around her had stopped.  It couldn’t be possible . . . she couldn’t be seeing
this.  She brought her hand to her mouth, falling back a step.  Before her, the slave’s bright eyes widened, recognition filling
their depths.

“Milliardo . . .”  Was all she could manage to whisper, her voice trapped in her throat.

He blinked at her, his chest rising and falling quicker . . . his breathing speeding.  He shook his head, as if denying what he was
seeing, his mouth opening and closing several times before he forced out a frail whisper of his own.  “Lucrezia?”

Noin felt her legs buckle beneath her.  No other man could ever make her feel like this.  To hear her name falling from those lips
again, it brought tears to her eyes.  The name she had always thought of as wretched had always been the single thing she had
yearned to hear every summer these many years.  Only from Milliardo had she ever blushed at the sound of her own name . . .
only his tones had left her heart aching.

Then Milliardo looked away, closing his eyes.

Noin rose to her knees, moving to kneel before him.  “Milliardo . . . please . . . look at me?  I have searched for you these past
five years . . . I never gave up hope of finding you.  Will you now deny me my heart’s desire?”

“Do not call me that . . . it is no longer my name.”  He grated out, his voice catching in his throat.  He clenched his fists at his
sides, tears slipping from beneath his eyelashes.  “Find yourself another suitor . . . one worthy of you.”

“I will not!”  Noin spat.  “There has never been any man I ever wanted to share a bed with, to share my heart with . . . no man
other than you.”  She took in a shuddered breath.  “Please, Milliardo . . .”

“Stop calling me that!”  He yelled, pushing himself up from the bench and stumbling a few steps, bracing his hands against a
wall as soon as he reached it.  “I am no longer Prince Milliardo, heir to the lands of the Peacecraft family.  I am Zechs . . . a
slave . . . nothing.”  His body shook as he spoke, his back to Noin.

“I don’t care what you call yourself!  You are still my only love!”  She shouted, rising to her feet and approaching the man she
had longed for these past five years.  “Do you not love me as I love you?  Have you forgotten what we shared?”

Zechs lowered his head, and Noin could swear that she heard a choked sob coming from his form.  “I have not forgotten.”  He
said, taking a breath.  “You . . . You are all I have thought of these past five years . . . you are the light that has kept me from
insanity.  Your sweet face was all that I saw in my dreams, the force driving me to be strong against Quinze’s tortures.  Your
voice called to me in the nights I lay bleeding, in the days I spent being used by that bastard . . . I only thought of you . . . of
one day finding you again.”

“Then why . . . why push me away now?”  Noin cried, tears flowing without care.

“Can’t you see?  I’m nothing now . . . I am a slave . . . used goods.  I can never be worthy of your love . . . I don’t deserve to
even be looked upon.”  He crumbled to the ground then, staying there against the wall of the room, his body shaking from sobs.

Noin was at his side in an instant.  She reached out, cupping his face in her hands, forcing him to meet her gaze.  “To hell with
all of that!  I don’t care what you call yourself!  I love you . . . have loved you since the day I first laid eyes on you!  I care
nothing for you being a slave.  You are, and always will be, the only man I will ever love!”  With that, she swept forward and
captured Zechs’s lips with her own, kissing him, wanting to show him how she felt in this one simple act.

When she pulled back, she found that Zechs was unconscious, tears marring his slumbering face.  No doubt, all this excitement
had been too much for him.

With a cry, Noin leaned forward, resting her head against Zechs’ body.  “Milliardo . . . please don’t forsake me, not after all we’
ve been through.”  She cried, clutching close to her love.  She could only pray that he was not lost to her.

To Be Continued . . .