This story takes place after episode 8 (or episode 4, same difference), but not before episode 9. AU, is what I am saying. I don't read the manga, and the series is only up to episode 14, so if based on the manga someone or something is OOC…just keep it to yourself, okay? Don't spoil the series for the rest of us. Besides anime and manga counterparts sometimes differ (see as evidence Full Metal Alchemist), so you never know.

Sword Practice

S-Michael

Clare watched Raki as he tried to use the sword he was given. She ate a few bites of the food he had cooked. Since meeting up with him, she had been eating more. Or rather, more often, to be more precise. The amount of food she ate at a time hadn't gone up, but now she was eating every day. After she had almost awakened, though, she was sometimes up to twice a day…now was not the time to think about that, though.

"Raki, I would like to ask you a question," Clare announced.

Raki paused in his practice. "Yeah? What?"

"Why do you do that? Do you want to, or do you feel that it is required of you?"

"Well, I want to protect you, Clare—"

Clare stood, and drew her weapon. "Then we shall practice. Don't worry, I will go easy on you."

Raki tried to fight her, but he lost his sword. He tried again, but try as he might, he kept on losing. Left, right, thrust, parry, lose; right, left, parry, thrust, lose. After a few rounds, he collapsed to his knees, exhausted. "Perhaps you could go a bit easier?"

"I was at the level of a human master swordsman," Clare said, squatting so that she could be on his level.

"You call that easy?"

"By the standards of my kind," Clare said simply. "A human trying to protect one of us is, as a concept, absurd."

"Was that what this was about? Teaching me my place?" Raki wasn't angry when he said this.

"Yes, and no. You actually have some natural talent, and that helps, but only so much; what you need is heart, and your heart does not lie in swordsmanship," Clare said. "You're a smart boy, but slow to learn the moves of the sword. This is because, deep down inside, you do not want to learn it. You find it to be a terrible drudgery, in your heart of hearts."

"I…I just want to be useful," Raki said, lowering his face.

Clare lifted it, so that he was looking her in the eye. They were only a couple of inches away from each other, so close that they were breathing the same air. Not quite close enough to kiss. "You are useful, Raki."

"As your cook? Hardly; I've seen how little you eat," Raki said. "I slow you down, I'm constantly having to sleep, or eat, or go to the bathroom, I—"

"You are useful, Raki," Clare repeated. She laced her fingers behind his neck. "I said I don't need protection, and that is true, with regard to yoma or humans, but the truth is, there is something I must guard against, and there you can help me."

"What is it?"

"I can't allow myself to turn into a yoma."

Raki's eyes widened, "Clare, I can't kill you!"

"I'm not asking you to. I'm asking that you help me guard against the beast by giving me a reason to live," other than revenge. "I was able to come back last time, because of you. Protect me from myself by making me want to live, to really want to live, not just to survive."

"How do I do that?" Raki asked.

"Like this," Clare said, and she kissed him.