The End is Here! Thank you all for your reviews! I hope that those of you who have stuck with the story find the ending satisfying. I am not, at this time, looking into writing a sequel, but I do intend to continue writing in this fandom. Thanks again, and enjoy!
1) I would like to mention that, around Chapter III, you can assume that Carrot and Marron are about 14 and 13 years of age, respectively. Thank you, Kagero, for pointing out that I had not made it obvious!
2) I am having some formatting problems during the translation from Document Manager and editing, to what actually shows up. In a number of inquisitive exclaimations, usually denoted by ? and ! used in conjuction with each other, only the ! is showing up. So if you think it's supposed to have a ? well, you're probably right.
"Come on, brother, get your head out of that book!" Carrot stuck his nose up over the edge of the bookbinding and crossed his eyes at his younger brother. "All work and no play makes Marron even duller than he usually is!"
Marron sighed and snapped his book shut, narrowly missing Carrot's nose. "Alright, brother. If you want me to. What are we doing, anyway?"
"Uhm..." Carrot sat back tailor-style and chewed his lip thoughtfully. Then he grinned. "I dunno! But anything's better than sitting inside reading books all day. Come on. We finished our required reading hours ago! Let's go find Gateau and the girls and go camping or something. Maybe we can-"
"We can't do that!" Marron cut in, standing swiftly. He gently placed his book on a shelf. "Mother wants us to do our studies, brother. And she'd be very worried about us if we disappeared camping or running off on adventures like you and Gateau like to do."
"Awww..." Carrot looked up at his younger brother with large eyes. "Pleeeease? Come on, come on! We'll have fun, and..." he eyed the bookshelf, "...You could even bring a couple books. Please? Our next lesson's not for three days–"
"–And you would not have even finished this lesson by now if the girls hadn't locked us in here two days ago," Marron pointed out, brushing dust from his robes. "You just want me to tell you where they hid the key."
"Hmph." Carrot snorted and stood, his total height of four-foot-ten towering over his younger brother. "You sure are boring for a nine-year-old, you know that?" When Marron only sighed, Carrot grinned and winked at him. "But that's ok, because you're my brother and you're always going to be a boring stick-in-the-mud, right? I've got enough adventure in me for both of us, so why don't you pack up some books and grab that key, and let's go throw a can of harvest beetles through Tira's window?"
Marron smiled slightly. "Alright, brother. If you want me to."
"Momma's not gonna be happy with us," Tira protested, shivering and scooting closer to her sister. "She's gonna be plenty mad."
"Ah, she'll be fine," Carrot assured her. He poked at their tiny campfire with a stick, stirring the embers. "We can't be that far off the road–I'm sure we'll find it in the morning!"
"Huh." Gateau dropped an armload of dry branches and twigs next to Carrot, sending a puff of dust and dry bark to cover the Glaice brothers and making Marron cough. "Er, sorry," the young blond apologized when Marron stood to shake out his robes. "You know, those really aren't practical to go camping in."
Marron settled himself back down next to Tira. "I guess I just wasn't expecting to fall off a cliffside." He winced and held his hands up to defend his face from a barrage of ashes and cinders as Carrot dumped fresh twigs on the fire and enthusiastically blew on the fire to make it grow. Tira and Chocolate squealed and ducked their faces in their cloaks. Growling, Gateau thwapped Carrot to make him stop, sending him face-first into the tiny fire.
"Au-waaaugh..." Carrot tried to push himself up, and yelped as his hands ground into the fresh embers. "Waaauu!" he howled. "Auh! You jerk!" he yelled at Gateau. "What'd you do that for? Oh my god Gateau, what–"
"You were trying to set your brother and the girls on fire, you idiot," Gateau informed the soot-streaked boy. He pointed to where Marron, Tira, and Chocolate were trying to smother a few embers that had lit on their clothes, and thwapped Carrot again.
"Oh." Carrot rubbed his hand through his hair sheepishly. "Well... sorry, I guess."
"Sorry doesn't really cover it, Carrot," Chocolate sighed. "You got us lost after dragging us out when we should be home trying to get ahead in our assignments. Then you were fooling around and sent your own brother–"
"–Who you're supposed to be looking out for, by the way," Tira cut in.
Gateau nodded as Chocolate went on. "–Flying off a cliff into a forest. And if it wasn't for Gateau, he'd still be stuck up in that tree–" Gateau held himself a bit straighter and smirked slightly as Carrot protested.
"Come on, I would've figured a way to–"
"–And" Chocolate cut in over Carrot's blathering, "Now you've put out the fire, and we're out of matches, and it's getting colder. Honestly, what are we supposed to do now?"
The group was quiet for a minute as they reflected the day's events. Marron absentmindedly rubbed his cheek where he had collided with a treebranch during his fall. Blinking thoughtfully, he stood and moved to the pile of dying embers that had been their fire. The Misu sisters watched as he carefully selected a slender but sturdy twig from the pile of wood Gateau had brought.
"Don't even think about trying that twirly-thing to get the fire started," Carrot advised. "I tried that at home, remember?"
"I remember," Marron replied. "I won't." He poked the twig into the embers, stirring them around, then kneeled down, setting the twig next to him. He started piling wood on top of the embers. "I just want to try something."
With most of the small twigs and branches covering the embers, Marron placed a larger, bark-covered chunk of wood on the very top of the pile. Picking up the twig next to him, he stood and started scraping the ash-covered end of the twig against the bark of the wood.
"Is that a fire rune?" Tira asked, pushing her glasses up on her nose and leaning forward.
"Stay back," Marron replied quickly, jumping back as he finished writing. The charcoal rune burst into flame just as he got out of the way, igniting the thin, dry branches quickly, and spreading to the larger log.
"I... did it," the younger Glaice brother mused, staring at the fire. He smiled and looked at the others. "It worked!"
His brother, Gateau, and the Misu sisters were staring at him. "Did I... uh... know you could do that?" Carrot asked.