This is weird. I know. And hardly anyone's reading it. Or reading and reviewing, at least. Oh well.

Some people have asked me why Rei is so wimpy. I don't actually know. I usually write OOC, so just stick it down as that. Or, you could say that as he is in a foreign country, he is a bit wary, and the beatings are making it worse. I think the first explanation was better. Or, just deal with it.

Disclaimer and warning as before.

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-------------About half an hour after the end of the last chapter-----------

Rei swung the small leather bag onto his back, wincing as it just barely missed the whip marks. He had managed to keep that bag with him throughout all that had happened. It contained his pencils for drawing, some paper, and three pictures.

One was of his only relation, a far-distant cousin, Mariah. One was of his friends, when they were only about nine years old. That particular picture had been done instead of his chore for the afternoon, and had been well worth the trouble he got into later.

The third picture… the third picture was of him, his mother, and his father. That had been the hardest picture he had ever drawn – he had to sit in front of a mirrored rock, drawing himself between his parents. It had taken him weeks to finish it. Four weeks after it was finished, his parents died from the dread disease that had swept through the village. It was the only image he had of them – other than those in his memories.

A quiet knock on the gate – a man opened it and pushed Rei through. A young maid smiled at him, then led the way to a house a few doors away.

Rei followed her through to the back of the house, where horses hooves could be heard thudding on soft sand.

With a small smile, she whispered in Rei's ear, "Kneel by the gate until he addresses you. Don't talk unless he tells you to. Keep your eyes on the floor. And for heavens sake don't look directly in his eyes or touch his horse!" She left, giving Rei a gentle push towards the arena.

Rei did as he was told, kneeling in the dirt by the gate until the horse trotted over, a boy dismounted and a command came. "Hello, Rei. Those can't be your own clothes. What do you have in that bag? Show me."

"Yes master. These are not my own clothes. My own clothes are in this bag. Also in there are my drawing pencils, paper and pictures."

"I said, show me!" The voice was even sterner than before. Rei hurried to obey, dropping the clothes over his shoulder and placing the pencils on the floor, then holding the pictures up for Kai to see.

"They are very good." Kai nodded approvingly. Even though the boy was a servant, he still deserved praise for good work. "I have seen nothing as talented as this for a while. However, I wish to see if they are truly your own pictures. Look at me."

Rei raised his eyes to Kai's chest. "Master, I…I cannot. I have been told that you will beat me if I look at your eyes. I do not wish to be beaten, however much I wish to draw."

"Smart. Very smart. However, I give you my express permission to look me in the eyes. You have been told not to look in my eyes. My orders override any advice you may have been given. Look. Now."

Rei raised his eyes to see the other boys'. Kai was glaring at him with fiery crimson eyes, which softened slightly as Rei glared back. "Good. Now, draw me. And the horse."

Slowly, Rei slipped to the floor and stuck the end of the pencil in his mouth. His eyes closed as he began to think.

Kai raised his eyebrows as Rei sat there in silence for a minute or so, then shrugged and re-mounted his horse.

After almost ten minutes of thinking, Rei opened his eyes again. He had his ideas, and knew where to start. Picking up his pencil, he began to draw.

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Half an hour later-

Rei lifted his head and called out, "It's finished. Do… do you want to see it?"

Kai pulled his horse to a halt and slid gracefully off. Gently taking the picture from Rei's outstretched hand, he stared at it. It was a beautiful, black and white picture of his horse jumping over a high fence. He raised his eyebrows, and nodded appreciatively. "Very good. Hold Summer while I put this inside."

He handed the Reins to Rei, who stared up at him then smiled slightly. "Of course, master."

When Kai had gone, Rei stared up at the horse and gently rubbed its neck. "You're a real beautiful horse, Summer." He stretched up to reach the horse's ears and fussed them gently.

Unnoticed, Kai was standing by the fence, watching. "You know how to ride?"

Rei yelped, and leapt away from the horse. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I forgot, Master, I'm sorry –"

"Stop that." Kai gently interrupted Rei, and took Summer's reins back. "I don't mind. The maids only like to keep outsiders on their toes, thinking I'm a monster, because my Grandfather has been known to send in spies to check I'm treating them as he believes servants should be treated. I won't whip you, or beat you, or make you clean the house. You seem like you'd prefer it outside, and I need a stable boy. Stable boys need to be able to ride. Can you ride?"

"Oh… n-no, I can't," Rei stuttered, bewildered at Kai's words.

"Right. Stand up straight." Rei did so, and Kai sized him up through half closed eyelids. "You're too small to ride Summer with a saddle… hang on." He undid a strap on the saddle and pulled it off Summer's back, then dumped it on the fence.

"On three, I'll lift you onto Summer's back. Just grab her mane." Rei nodded, and Kai hooked his hands under Rei's left leg. "One, two, three!"

He pushed Rei upwards, and almost shoved the younger boy off the other side, not realising how light the boy actually was.

With a yelp, Rei grabbed the horse's mane and held on tightly. Kai raised his eyebrows. "Well done. Now, you need to nudge her sides gently, and she'll move forwards. If you feel like you're wobbling, grab her mane. Otherwise only hold the reins."

Rei nodded, and picked up the two leather straps. He squeezed his heels gently and Summer moved forwards. He winced, and shut his eyes.

The older boy's voice calmly reassured him. "Don't worry. You won't fall off. Just keep your hands on her reins. Open your eyes, and pull gently on the reins to steer. You're doing fine."

One of the young maids, looking on from the house windows, smiled. It was nice for the young master to have a friend his age, even if he was a servant.

Maybe this would finally help him recover from his harsh upbringing at the hands of his Grandfather.

After all, it wasn't just servants that Voltaire personally whipped.

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Comments and criticism etc are greatly appreciated.