Streets, Deling City - 11:00

A crater marked where hours ago Kitaras Nicholai had slammed at top speed into the ground. However, the only thing that remained on the spider-webbed asphalt was a fair-sized stain of dried blood. Her body was nowhere to be found.

"Was she alive?" the Senior asked as they stood next to the place of impact. Albel shrugged, folding his arms.

"Jarok's message said he wasn't sure. She wasn't there when he arrived at the scene."

Albel knelt down, examining the crater more closely before looking back up at the Senior.

"Even if she did manage to survive, I doubt she'd have the guts to show herself to us again."

The Senior shook his head, and quietly chuckled.

"Never underestimate a woman scorned, Albel. It is bad business sense, and generally unsafe." He paused, then added something, almost as an afterthought. "Just ask Katal."

Even Albel had to smirk at that. Katal Corelia-DeValle was not necessarily known for anger, but she did have a temper that was easily sparked. One could only pity the unfortunate victims of her rage once unleashed, if there was enough left of them to do even that. Dismissing the thought, he looked over at the Senior, moving back to the subject at hand.

"How should I handle things here?"

The DeValle family head considered the area around him, where only a short time before Jarok had walked, preparing for the assassinations of the Deling family members.

"It's already handled. My son is handling things with the Galbadian Commerce Chamber. A few loose Gil should easily solidify our new properties in the DeValle name."

Albel nodded, finding his eyes drifting back to the spot of Kitaras Nicholai's assumed demise. The Senior cleared his throat, then moved closer to also examine the area for himself.

"Jarok's payment has already been delivered to the accounts he has set up for us." He sighed, the sound coming out as a sigh of regret. "I only wish he'd been here for me to personally acknowledge his service."

Albel grunted quietly, his only response to the Senior's statement. With no more than a last glance at the dried blood on the asphalt, the pair quickly began to head towards a parked car on the side of the road. Business had finally been taken care of.

The absent man in question was actually in Timber, a glass filled to the brim with the best on tap at the Aurora Pub. Despite appearances, however, his drink was but the first, and he hadn't touched it in the hour he'd been sitting in the bar. Finally, however, he raised it up, a silent salute, still staring almost aimlessly at the table in front of him.

"I'm sorry things turned out the way they had to."

Lifting his head, he took a gulp of the liquor from the class in his hand, then set it back down on the table as his head fell again.


The voice from behind him, hauntingly familiar, caused his head to rise once more towards the source – at which he promptly did a double-take. For the barest instant, he wondered if the alcohol at the Aurora Pub was known for making people see ghosts, or if it was his own guilty conscience playing tricks on him.

"Don't be so surprised, Jarok."

Kitaras Nicholai was peering at him through sunglasses – silver, he noted, fittingly enough – with something akin to a smirk on her face. Dimly, he realized that not only was he staring at the figure he'd thought dead, but that his mouth was agape. Trying to fight back the surprise and reestablish a sense of calm, he worked his jaw momentarily before finding the composure to speak again.

"How are you here?"

Kitaras merely shook her head in response, the smirk remaining.

"Let's say that I received a better offer."

He blinked, confused at her words.

"A better offer? A better offer than what?"

She leaned in, almost taunting Jarok with her mere presence.

"Than death, of course."

He closed his eyes, thoroughly expecting that when he opened them, he'd see a confused bartender or another patron thinking he was quite insane. But, when he opened them, she was still sitting there, still with the same strange smile on her face.

"I'm joining up with Balamb Garden. Who knows, maybe someday we'll wind up working together."

Coyly, she picked up his drink, took a long sip, then sat it back in front of him and began to walk away. He grabbed her sleeve as she stood, guiding her back to the chair.

"You don't think I'm going to let you just walk away like that, do you? I saw you fall to your death, and you're sitting in front of me now. How?!" He demanded.

Her smirk turned demure.

"I had good junctions."

He laughed in response, a surprisingly harsh sound to his ears.

"You never had even heard of a Guardian Force until I told you I kept one on hand. You're lying!"

Kitaras merely grinned, eyes dancing beneath her silver sunglasses, and stood from the table again

"Prove it."

Then she was gone, leaving Jarok momentarily at a loss for what to do.

Regaining his senses, he stood up, quickly throwing Gil on the counter for the mostly untouched drink before following Kitaras out of the pub. She was already halfway up the stairs outside when he got to her, but he quickly caught up.

"Are you still upset?"

She stiffened, straightening and stopping at the same time.

"No," she replied, pausing for a moment. From the tone of her voice, he realized that she wasn't finished with the statement. "But, don't bring it up again. At least, not any time soon."

She began to climb the stairs again, and this time he kept pace with her easily. Looking beside her, she frowned, the look on her face becoming one of annoyance.

"So, are you planning on following me all the way to Balamb?"

He smiled, still keeping pace with her. The grin on his face only widened as he reached around, putting an arm around her shoulders before she could shirk away.

"Oh, I just wouldn't dream of it."

And then, Family Rites came to a close. I'm thanking Ben for his hard work on editing the previous chapter, Darius for some stuff on the Senior, and anyone who read.

Another project done, back to Runic Legacy!