The day was bright and lovely in the Zexen Forest, though it was rather difficult to tell, being as there were all those stupid trees blocking out the sunlight. Damn arboreal bastards.

But as the quantity and/or quality of the light is unimportant to our moving and good-touching little ditty, we shall move on. For there were two delightful and rather nubile lust-objects mounted upon horses, enjoying, or not, as the case may be, the sunlight. And wine. More the latter than the former, really, as sunshine may be fun time, but damn, man, booze is fan-bloody-tastic!

"Nice day, isn't it?" asked Percival mildly, then took a long pull from the flask in his hand.

"Hmm?" Borus grunted absently. "Oh. Yes. I suppose so..."

"You sound as though you have something on the mind."

"I guess I do," he admitted a bit reluctantly. "I...oh, this is...difficult to admit."

"Oh? Romantic troubles?" Percival said with a careless grin of quasi-anticipation. "Tell Percival alllll about it, Borie Bear."

The swordsman's brown eyes flicked up to rest almost hesitantly upon Percival's devilishly well-sculptured face. "I...I'm afraid I've fallen in love with..."

"Yes?" Percival prompted in a manly voice, taking a manly swig and sitting up with manly good posture.

"Chris."

Percival choked, then sprayed his mouthful of booze all over a nearby holly bush. Borus, loath to let anything flammable go to waste, pulled out a box of matches and lit the alcohol on fire, watching avidly as it shrieked and writhed in conflagrated agony.

"REDRUUUMM!" it screeched.

"What?" asked Borus.

"Uh - well, okay," Percival muttered, wiping booze from his mouth with the back of his hand and wishing that he could blink the tears, roused by Borus' betrayal, from his eyes. Oh, wait, no, that was just because he'd gotten vodka up his nose. Heh.

"I shouldn't have told you that," Borus moaned, now that the fire had burned itself out back into full love-stricken angst mode. "I shouldn't have! I don't know how to, you know..."

"Induce her into having sex with you? Hmm. That is quite a conundrum," Percival said slowly and maliciously. Dammit, if he couldn't have a fangirl squeal-inducing slash relationship with Borus which would make him the most popular character in the game, then neither could anyone else, regardless of their gender! "Well. As you know, I'm quite experienced with women, so here's what you have to do. First, send her flowers."

Borus nodded intently. "I've heard that one before."

"See, but everyone else has gotten it wrong. You need to send her dead flowers."

"Really?"

"Yeah. With a card attached with a little frowny face drawn on it."

"Oh, good! What else? I've heard things about chocolates..."

"No, no no no no. Not chocolates. Make it...a head of lettuce. Send it along with a note that refers to Chris as 'Fatty Fatty Fat Fat.'"

Even the remarkable credulous simplicity of Borus couldn't keep him entirely in the dark. "Are you sure? That sounds a bit..."

"No, no no. Come on! This isn't, like, obese. This is a different type of fat."

"Ahhh, I see," Borus said, nodding and jotting down notes. "Okay. Excellent. What else?"

Ahh, this was working out beautifully. His best friend's budding relationship would be sabotaged before it even began to bud. No, wait. Crap. Oh, whatever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"4,217 bottles of sweet, refreshing soda on the wall...4,217 bottles of sweet, refreshing soda...Take one down, drink the contents then smash the bottle against the table to obtain a raiser edge that you can use to horribly and permanently maim stander-bys and spill lovely, thick, rich, fragrant blood...4,216 bottles of sweet, refreshing soda on the wall!"

"It's standers-by, not stander-bys," Albert corrected archly for the 5,783rd time, striking a pose that positively screamed "I'm sexy and you're an idiot."

"Ohhh, and what would you know, Mr. I'm-only-24-and-mortal-to-boot?" demanded Yuber irritably.

"Clearly, far more than you," Albert said, smug that he had gotten a rise out of the demon and completely ignoring the fact that he had failed in that very task the first 5,782 times. In celebration, he struck his "I'm far cleverer than you AND dead sexy" pose.

"Yuber!" barked Sarah. "Stop being stupid. And Albert...stop...posing."

"He started it," both chorused simultaneously.

"Well, I don't care who started it, I care about what you're doing - I swear to our lord Hikusaak, I will turn this teleport around!" Then she winced, knowing what was going to come next.

"Saaaaaraaaaaah," Yuber puled, "don't you think I'm old enough to teleport myself? I'm 1,294 now. That's, like, eight thousand dog years."

"9058," Albert corrected instantaneously. Yuber glared. Albert shrugged. "What? I'm helping your case now."

"No, you're trying to show off."

"I'm afraid that you're wrong, my dear...whatever you are."

"No, I'm not. All that matters to you is showing off."

"More things than that matter to me."

"No they don't."

"Yes they do."

"Nope."

"Yes."

"No!"

"Stop it!" Sarah screeched.

"Stop it!" Yuber mimicked.

"I mean it!"

"I mean it!"

"You're so juvenile!"

"You're so juvenile!"

A sly look came into Sarah's eye. "I'm in love with Leo and Jefferson!"

"Luc's in love with Leo and Jefferson!"

Sarah flushed, then snatched up her staff and used it to cave Yuber's skull in. "How dare you insult Master Luc?!" Then she looked down at her extremely dead handiwork. "Perhaps that was not the best course of action."

"Oh, no need to worry," Albert said casually. "He's a recurring RPG villain. He can't die in a sequence that isn't even on-screen."

"Oh," Sarah said, wondering what the hell he was talking about. Still, he seemed to have some sort of basis for his theory, as Yuber was standing up.

"Hoo. That sure was a close one. Good thing I was wearing a helmet, thanks to the Plot Device - Contrivance Edition! Endorsed by such celebrities as Flik, Viktor, Nanami, Jowy, and pretty much anyone who's ever wanted a happy ending, ever!" He turned to the camera with a grin that would have been charming, had his teeth not been stained scarlet from the blood of someone forgotten. "Remember, kids! Wear a helmet, don't do drugs, and promote your genocide from large-scale to mass, because it takes a lot of blood to fill up an entire swimming pool!"

A suit stuffed a wad of cash into Yuber's hand. "I'm just going to ignore that last one, 'kay?" the suit said, patting Man in Hat on the back chummily. Then, just for fun, Yuber killed him and ate his heart, and the world was a better place.

Sarah scurried over to Luc, who stood languidly off to the side. "Master Luc! Did you see how I defended your honor?"

Luc nodded slowly and thoughtfully, then announced with greatest gravity, "I'd like a soda."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mmm. Soda."

"Why is it that you never shut up about your goddamn sodas?" bawled Ace. "Sodas are for sissies! Everybody knows that real men drink milk!" He grinned in that way of his that would send small children fleeing for their mothers. "Remember, kids! Drink your milk and use only Cashmere Escort Service!"

A suit strolled up, followed closely by a brothel madam.

"I'm a bit uneasy about you promoting both products in the same breath," the madam sighed, nevertheless handing over a wad of cash.

"Mmm," concurred the suit. "Some of her customers are allergic to milk." He started to walk away when Ace pulled out his sai and stabbed him in the back.

Queen winced. "Feeling irritable today, Ace?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because sai are bludgeoning weapons."

Joker cackled. "Ouchu!"

"You're an idiot," Ace muttered.

"Your mom's an idiot!" the older man retorted.

"Yeah, well, you're old!"

"Your mom's old!"

"Don't talk about my mother!"

"Ouchu!" He cackled again.

"..." commented Jacques quite distinctly.

"Those boys make me need a drink," sighed Queen.

"Me, too," Geddoe agreed.

Queen snorted. "You can't hold your liquor worth a damn."

"Yes I can."

"I'll bet you can't."

"I'll bet I can."

"Well, all right, then. Let's have a little...competition."

"Sounds good. I win, I get a date."

"If I outdrink you, I get to dress you up however I want."

"Okay," he said, standing up to get a bottle of gin. "Drink."

She raised an elegant eyebrow and downed the whole thing in three gulps.

"And an impressive showing from Queen!" Ace crowed. "Can Geddoe keep up? And Queen seems to be selecting a drink, and it's...beer! That's right, normal beer! And she's pouring it into - can you believe this? She's pouring it into a shotglass! Could she be trying to lose?"

Geddoe accepted the miniscule glass, sniffed it hesitantly, took a sip, said "Crap," and passed out drunk.

"Sure do like those sodas," Aila commented.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It started off innocently enough, considering.

"I can't believe I'm being sent to fetch a soda," Albert grumbled. "I'm a Silverberg, not an errand boy!"

"Yeah, well, I'm in the same boat as you, and I'm potentially key to many of the mysteries within this world, yet you don't hear me whining, do you?"

"Yes. Incessantly. As recently as three minutes ago."

"Oh, yeah," Yuber chortled merrily. "That was cool. I should do that again."

"Oh, no. You will not be doing that again," Sarah snapped. "And you will be stopping, Albert."

"You can't tell me what to do. I'm a Silverberg, not some child."

"Being a Silverberg doesn't mean you're great, you know," Yuber commented.

Albert started to swell, pale, and turn to yell at him, all simultaneously, when Sarah, trying to salvage the situation a bit, desperately pointed out, "Like your little brother!"

"How right you are!" Albert said, beaming smugly. There were only three times at which he was not contrary: when someone was insulting Caesar, when someone was complimenting his military skill, and when he was playing miniature golf. Damn, he loved mini-golf.

"Master Luc is working terribly hard, you know," Sarah pointed out, hoping Albert would be a bit more pliable. "I mean, is it so much to get him a drink of soda now and then?"

"He could send someone else," Albert replied, dashing Sarah's hopes. "After all, I'm a - "

"We've heard," Yuber muttered. Albert glared, and Yuber tried and failed to blink innocently.

Once he had gathered his considerable dignity about him once again, Albert said, "Couldn't he simply send one of his monster friends to do it? They're certainly not otherwise occupied."

"Ohh, yeah! That would go well. 'Hello, barkeep. Do you have soda?' 'Oh my God! A monster! It's going to eat my brains!'"

"Better than what it's going to be. 'Oh my God! It's Yuber! He ate my brains!'"

"Mmm. Brains."

"Besides, Master Luc isn't limited to monsters. One time, he summoned me a pony! That was cool! But then Yuber ate it."

"Mmm. Pony brains."

"Well, then, why doesn't Master Luc send a pony on these errands, then, hm? Better than sending me. I'm - "

"We know." All of this was making Yuber irritable. When he was irritated, he got hungry. And those executives didn't hold you, really. Too much fiber.

"Besides," Sarah pointed out, "ponies can't talk."

"Neither can monsters."

"Some of them can."

Albert, annoyed at being contradicted, decided to hit where it would hurt. "Luc is really kind of feeble, isn't he?" he asked nastily. "He can't do anything on his own. Every single decision is made for him, by you or by me."

"Or me!"

"No, Yuber. You forgot that we don't let you make the decisions any more. Not since the last time." Albert sighed and shook his head. "Poor Fluffles. May you rest in peace."

He was snapped out of his reverie, however, when Sarah clapped her hands together in vindictive false joy. "Hey everybody! I have a story!"

Yuber giggled in delight. He loved story time, almost as much as he loved drowning kittens.

"Once upon a time, there was a strategist."

"You...wouldn't...dare," Albert breathed, striking a pose that was, at once, menacing and sexy.

Sarah smiled grimly. "He had a brilliant plan to help a bishop of Harmonia."

"I'm a Silverberg, not a punching bag!"

"I ate a punching bag once."

"Why did he come up with this plan?" Sarah went heedlessly on. "So that afterwards, he'd be secured a cushy position in Harmonia. What he didn't realize was that if his plan was carried out, Harmonia would be destroyed! Ha, ha, ha! Looks like he wasn't so good at strategy after all!"

"That wasn't a fun story at all."

"Ahh, but see, I knew my strategy wouldn't be carried out in its entirety," Albert said, matching nasty for nasty. "Because I was counting, quite rightly, on the incompetence of your Master Luc."

"Ohh, you say that now! But I know that that thought had never crossed your mind before. Because, you know what? Master Luc is about to succeed! You say you see things in cause and effect. Maybe you should have studied your effects a little better!"

"Look, it was all a minor miscalculation, okay?" Albert gritted.

"Oh, come on! Face it, Albert. You're a crappy strategist! You disgrace the name of Silverberg!"

"I'll kill you!" Albert screamed, then realized that he was a support character. "Well, that sucks."

"You're pitiful, you know that?" Apparently, Sarah was in her more haughty personality.

"Pitiful?" he said softly, and Sarah flushed at his mere tone. "That's the old metaphor of the pot, isn't it? I'm not the one who follows - no, who is utterly devoted to a man who hardly even acknowledges my existence."

"You know what's really good?" Yuber asked. "Pot cheese. Mm."

A rune-sign flashed over Sarah's head as a mysterious and pungent wind flowed around them. No one really knew where the wind came from, though there were many hypotheses. One of the more popular ones was that the rune was made of spirits whose powers resided in their lower intestines. Really, it was probably so popular 'cause it made people giggle.

"You take that back," Sarah hissed, a remarkable feat as there were no sibilants in that sentence.

Albert smirked. "You threaten me for speaking the truth? And now you want me to beg for my life? Silverbergs don't beg. We don't need to. Begging is for when the truth is but marginal, but we see truth in its entirety. And the truth I see shows to me that your Master Luc is really, very much - "

"How dare you?" Sarah shrieked. Despite never having heard her voice, we can only imagine how shrill and irritating that might be. As if this wasn't punishment enough, she let loose the spell. A raging, whirling windstorm separated itself from her with an incredibly foul smell, and swirled over to engulf Albert. There was a bright flash, and his silhouette, arm over eyes, could be seen for a fraction of a second. Then the storm disappeared, and Albert was gone with it. A thick silence hung over the space until Yuber let out an impressed whistle.

"Oh my God," Sarah breathed. "I just...just..."

"Vaporized," Yuber supplied helpfully. "Thank you. Vaporized Master Luc's strategist!"

"Hm. Yeah, you sure did. That might not have been the best idea."

"The guilt!" she cried. "It hangs heavy upon me! Oh! I hear it! The telltale heartbeat!"

"Quiet, you," Yuber said, thumping his stomach. It beat a few more times, then fell silent. "It said sorry in Morse code," he translated.

"Oh. Oh, good. Oh, God. Master Luc isn't going to be happy."

"I could imagine that he would be."

"I have a plan!"

"Goody."

"Albert was always talking about his little brother, right? Caesar? Well. All we need to do is to kidnap Caesar, dress him in a white trenchcoat, make him pose a lot and say arrogant things!"

"And then we will gather up all the puppies in the land and use them to lure children to us. Then we shall set up a laser field about them and tell them that they just have to escape to get their freedom, and when they do try, most will get cut to shreds, and those who emerge unscathed we will eat."

"It's foolproof!" cried Sarah, who hadn't listened to a word Yuber was saying.

"It's fun!" Yuber alliterated with a dark grin.

"It's fantastic!" they shouted in unison and leaped up to give each other a biiiig hug. Then they stared at each other, horror-stricken.

"Did I..."

"Did you..."

"Did we..."

"We did."

"Ah."

"Yeah."

"But I hate your breathing guts."

"And I yours."

"Then let us never speak of this again."

"Agreed."

"It pisses me off, though," Sarah burst out. "I mean, he's an evil bishounen! Evil bishounen aren't supposed to die."

"Oh, they die all the time in Suikoden. Zaj, for example."

"Mm. He was hot."

"I'll say." Then he froze.

"Do you want me to ignore that?"

"Oh. Yes. Please."