Two months have passed since Wufei attacked the Lake Victoria base.
Even the lodging house of the trainees, which was totally eradicated by the explosion, has been re-built and the base finally regains slowly its original form. New trainees have also entered and mobile suits have been supplied again.
At the south side of the base, there are the few buildings of the mobile suit factory.
Noin is in one of the buildings in the middle. It's the factory where Tallgeese, which Zechs had brought in here before, was completed. Only here the doors can be closed completely and the interior made invisible from the outside.
Noin looks up from the floor of the factory.
The frame of a mobile suit, looking like a specimen of the frame of a very huge human being, has been bared and hung from the ceiling in the hangar. It seems to be a mobile suit in the middle of production.
But it's not a Taurus, nor a Leo or Aries. One will probably understand that it's not a mobile suit from OZ production when looking at the head. Despite being only half-finished, the yellow multi-use antennas serving as head decoration are too characteristic.
It's Gundam 01 - Heero's Wing - which self-destructed in the West Siberia plains.
Zechs and Noin had assembled only their own subordinates and advanced the repairs with the technology gained during the repairs of Tallgeese and with a few spare parts left. Because the basic design is the same as for Tallgeese and the material properties are Gundanium alloy as well, it should be possible.
But since the important cockpit was completely destroyed, they advance with more difficulties than expected. Presently, the cockpit is being constructed separately in the factory, based on the plans of Tallgeese.
"You will repair it?"
At the beginning, on the actual spot where the destroyed Gundam 01 was recovered, Noin has asked this as if it were strange. Without taking his eyes off the wreckage, Zechs nodded.
"Why is that?"
"Maybe I am concerned about this pilot."
"The Gundam pilot must surely be dead?"
"I feel he is still alive. Certainly there is no reason why he should have survived this explosion, but I think I wish him to be alive. As a mobile suit pilot, he's an enemy with whom I have to settle things."
The sorrow that, even while he felt himself that he was not entirely rational, he could not deny the feelings coming up from inside him....
That's the feeling Noin had upon hearing Zechs' monologue-like words.
This is what Noin murmurs now as she is looking at Gundam 01. Wishing to fight with an enemy under conditions of equality are feelings somebody has because of his existence as a warrior. It seems that the problem is not winning, but how to win. Winning by minimizing the damage. That's Noin's way of fighting. That somebody wishes for himself a one-to-one fight is a mentality that Noin has a hard time understanding.
Looking now once again at Gundam 01, Noin suddenly thinks.
Around the time this will be completed, I will probably not be here.
There's a reason why such a thought has crossed her mind.
"Noin, I have a favour to ask of you."
It's has been one week before when Zechs has come to address her in a serious voice in her private room at the base. Obstructed by the mask, she couldn't see his expression, but from the voice she has judged it to be probably as serious as the voice.
Having finished changing into rough civilian clothes, Noin had turned around to Zechs with a weak smile curving her mouth. When Zechs has come to ask her for a favour, she has accepted each time while smiling. However, this time, not even Noin could completely hide her surprise.
"Could you leave OZ without asking any questions?"
That's what Zechs had said.
Putting on a grim expression, Noin had stared at Zechs as if wanting to look through his mask.
"What is this about?"
"Could you become the escort of a certain someone?"
With that vague way of speaking, Noin can imagine who this person in question is. Relena Peacecraft.... Zechs' younger sister. Noins stops pursuing this any further and answers.
"Understood. But it may be better to officially leave OZ a bit later."
"And when would that be?"
"Wouldn't it be better after leading that person to a safe place?"
These are words of somebody who thought that using the rank of an OZ lieutenant could make things easier. Does Zechs think so too? After considering this a bit, he nods.
"Yes, indeed. I'll leave it to you. Noin, can you do this for me?"
"Has it ever happened that I declined your wish?"
"Thank you, Noin."
Then she asks, as if sounding out on Zechs "What shall I tell that person about you?"
"It would be best not to say anything. You might explain that you are originally from Sanc Kingdom."
"But I am born in South Europe, Zechs. I don't look like somebody from the North of Europe."
Smiling slightly, Noin adds "Is it really okay if I don't tell anything?"
"I don't mind."
This being said, Noin withdraws reluctantly.
Noin understands that Zechs, by hiding his social status, no, by hiding even the fact that he's not dead to his sister, has decided to leave the ideology of the royal family Peacecraft to said sister. The Peacecraft's ideology of total pacifism does not suit him. That's what he probably thinks.
Just then, an electronical 'peep' chimes from Noin's hip.
Waking up from her thoughts, Noin picks up a small communication device.
A man's voice is heard on the other end of the communicator. It's the man she made survey Relena.
"The target has moved. It has boarded a shuttle bound for Moscow."
"Alone? I see. Understood."
When the communication is finished, Noin's face becomes serious.
An unpleasant premonition crosses Noin's mind. Certainly Lady Une, having received order from his Excellency Treize, has not gone to Moscow.
Thinking this, she nevertheless has to take steps.
I'll be going....
Noin immediately gets up and rushes out of the room.
Maybe the time to leave OZ is approaching, after all.
In the lobby of the Moscow airport, monitors are standing one beside the other, showing programs of every country in the world. Of course, among them are also variety programs and OZ publicity.
In some news programs, a scene with an OZ officer wearing a deep red uniform surrounded by reporters is displayed.
"There is information that the colonies have sent mobile suits to Earth?"
"Certainly a few mobile suits have been sent to Earth and they have executed a number of destructive maneuvers. However, for the peace on Earth, OZ is already engaged in uncovering the elements of this rebellion. It's likely to be only a question of time until also this confusion is sorted out."
On the monitor, Lady Une answers the reporters' questions. It's probably her imagination that her voice is milder than usual. But it's not only the voice which is different than usual. Her chest is adorned with a rose.
"The rose doesn't suit you in the least."
It's Relena who is murmuring this.
As if she were looking at something dirty, Relena presses the switch of the monitor and makes the image disappear. Then, with just one trunk case as baggage, she leaves the airport all alone.
Three hours later, in a limousine called by the hotel where she is staying, Relena arrives at a city hall in the European style of the early 20th century. She gently smoothes her skirt and gracefully alights from the car. It's as if the snow-white dress shines brightly even in the dark of the night.
Smiling at the middle-aged doorman who has opened the door for her, Relena turns towards the escalator. Because it's a party place for elderly aristocrats, the escalator is probably for their benefit.
It's this place that the person will come to....
After looking at the huge hall visible beyond the escalator with determined eyes, Relena checks on the weight of the gun which is hidden in the decorative ribbon on her back.
It has been an entire month.
That's the time which has elapsed since Heero has changed schools and disappeared. After she has found out that Lady Une would come here, she has prepared things until now and then has come here.
Having gone up the escalators, Relena is asked by an elderly receptionist with good manners, "Excuse me, do you have an invitation card?"
Relena shakes her head.
"But today's party is only for special guests. Would you know somebody?"
As the receptionist is asking this, an old man comes up the escalator. He is probably in his early seventies. Even if his head is becoming bald from the forehead, his walking with a straight back not only makes him appear vigorous, but gives off a feeling of elegance.
When the old man sees Relena standing before him, he murmurs with his surprise plainly showing, "Katherina...."
This figure resembles too much a friend who has died thirteen years ago.
So, this must be her daughter.
Nodding to himself, the old man approaches Relena and holds out his arm.
"Relena, you have already arrived!"
"Ah, Marquis Weridge, I'm sorry. I didn't know she was with you."
The old man called Marquis Weridge waves his hand to say 'I don't mind' at the receptionist who is bowing his head.
"Don't worry about it. So, let's go, Relena. The party has just started."
Even if Relena is astonished in her heart at this unexpected development, she puts her hand on the Marquis's arm as if she had indeed been waiting for him. Then they step towards the hall.
Standing before the entrance, Relena addresses the unknown Marquis with an embarassed voice. As she wants to ask 'why do you know my name?', the Marquis starts talking first.
"Don't worry about it. There are only old people here, people as young as you are rare."
Smiling, the marquis invites Relena into the building.
After the door has opened, a slow waltz comes flowing towards them. In the center of the hall, a few couples are dancing. A few tens of people are around and, true to the Marquis's words, one could say they are not so young anymore.
"Oh, Mr. Weridge, what a sweet companion you have."
As an elegant elderly lady is approaching the Marquis and Relena, there is immediately a small crowd around the two.
"My name is Relena."
"May I ask you for a dance?"
A noble who is quite a lot younger than the Marquis politely greets Relena. Laughing, Weridge fends him off.
"No, no, I can't allow it. Because I'm first. If it's no trouble for you, would you dance with me?"
"It's no trouble at all. I'd be delighted."
Lifting the seam of her dress, Relena curtseys. Then she takes the Marquis's hand and steps into the centre of the hall.
The music changes and intones a beautiful waltz which was composed in the 19th century and flows like a river. Relena matches the Marquis's steps perfectly and starts dancing like a wind crossing the surface of a river.
The Marquis studies Relena's face meanwhile and then murmurs "It's a Peacecraft face after all."
Astonished, Relena looks up to the Marquis's face.
"You know the Peacecrafts?"
"I do know them indeed!"
Indicating that he wants to take this somewhere else, the Marquis stops dancing and approaches a table in the corner. Relena arrives before him and pulls out a chair, letting the Marquis sit down.
Thanking her, the Marquis starts speaking.
"I was close to the royal Peacecraft family of Sanc Kingdom. That was until thirteen years ago, when the royal family perished."
"Why did the Peacecraft family perish?" asks Relena. She has already heard it roughly from her mother.... from Mrs. Darlian. But Relena wants to hear the story also from another person.
The Marquis sighs heavily, then he looks up to the sky as if recalling the past.
"At that time, the military power of the 'United Earth Sphere Alliance' was expanding and they repressed countries and regions which had the intention to resist. Our countries in Europe were siding with the total pacifism slowly spreading in Northern Europe. It's something stupid, but when men wish for peace, there are also people who gain from dispute. The former were the Peacecraft family, the latter the 'United Earth Sphere Alliance'."
"You're saying that, by advocating peace, they were treated as someone who is a nuisance."
Consenting to Relena's words, the Marquis spits out "Even the Romefeller foundation, which opposed the Alliance, started to brandish military power. What's OZ after all!"
"Even though I summoned Treize here with the intention to question him about what he was thinking, he has sent some representative. As a person dealing with the foundation, even I am entitled to this!"
As the Marquis is saying this without hiding his anger, new guests appear in the entrance of the hall.
Relena's eyes, which are looking in that direction, become sharp.
It's Lady Une and two OZ officers.
The sounds from the hall die out. The tones of the orchestra as well as the sounds of people vanish, suppressed by the military uniforms.
"What's the matter? I'm a guest too."
At Lady Une's words, the orchestra resumes its performance stiffly.
"Roses do not suit military uniforms. The rose is a flower which suits such a nice person like Relena."
Looking at the chest of the approaching Lady Une, the Marquis's face turns bitter.
After coming straight before the table, Lady Une bows a bit. In her posture the thought is showing that she bows to nobody except Treize, even if it's a noble.
"Marquis Weridge, I am here representing Treize Khushrenada. My name is Lady Une. I would like to talk to you about two or three matters."
"Before this, may I have your rose? I'd like to give it to my granddaughter."
At the Marquis's words, Lady Une looks for the first time in Relena's direction.
"Relena Darlian! Why are you here?!"
"Grandfather, the rose doesn't suit a woman like me either. What suits me are OZ's dirty spurts of blood!"
As soon as she has spit this out, Relena tears out the pistol hidden in the ribbon on her back and aims it at Lady Une's forehead.
"Murderer of my father!"
Without hesitation she pulls the trigger.
Instead of the waltz, a gunshot reverberates in the hall. However, because of Lady Une's quick reaction, the bullet does not hit.
Relena's reaction is just as quick. As soon as she understands that her first shot has missed, she escapes without a second shot and without looking back.
Responding to Lady Une's order, the officers start running. Before the door leading to the back entrance, the Marquis blocks their way.
"I can only stand here in your way. I cannot compare to that girl's courage."
Responding to the Marquis's voice, the nobles present in the place are gathering together as if to block the exit.
"We all are fans of this child!"
Turning his stern face into a friendly one, the marquis looks around his friends around him.
"We'll go from the front door!"
Shouting this seemingly annoyed, Lady Une runs towards the entrance through which she came in.
"The era from now on needs the courage this girl has shown."
The Marquis murmurs this while praying for Relena's safety.
Elsewhere, Relena runs through the nighttime city in her white dress.
She is irritated by the thought that she has failed. She increasingly regrets that she didn't exercise more with the pistole for something like this.
She will have to look for another opportunity.
But now is not the place for this.
She runs with the help of the weak outside light. Hiding in the darkness of the street corner, she scouts the situation. The soldier's shouts are getting closer.
Where would it be okay to go?
Relena is in Moscow for the first time. With fleeing in an unfamiliar city and relying on a weak sense of direction, she immediately reaches her limits. In just a few minutes the way to the left and right is blocked by soldiers and mobile suits and she is cornered.
"Don't struggle, girl!"
The OZ officers seize Relena's arms, twisting them upwards, and pull out a communicator.
In that moment, the sound of an engine comes closer. One sidecar comes towards them.
"Who is it!?"
After the OZ officers, illuminated by the headlights, question this, the person mounted on the sidecar nimbly dismounts and approaches the officers.
It's Lieutenant Lucrezia Noin.
"I'll take care of her from here."
"It's an order from Major Lady Une. I won't accept any orders from a lieutenant!"
"If you wish that much for an authority, I have received permission from His Excellency, Treize. Would that be acceptable?!"
The officers stand at attention towards Noin who is snapping at them sharply. The cap of one of them falls to the ground as he moves too quickly.
When the figures of the officers, which are quickly running away, are no longer visible, Noin turns towards Relena.
"You acted reckless. I wonder whose temper is showing here."
Noin murmurs this as she recognizes Zechs's face in Relena's features.
Relena faces Noin and quickly points the gun at her.
"You're OZ too, aren't you!?"
However, after Noin has silently unsheathed her pistol from the holster at her hip, she aims at the cap left behind by the soldiers. Without hesitation she pulls the trigger.
The gunshot resounds through the nighttime city. The OZ mark is beautifully shot through and falls onto the street.
Relena raises an astonished voice.
"I have come to pick you up, Miss Relena Peacecraft."
Noin bows deeply towards Relena, whose facial expression is full of distrust.