Wow, I guess it's been a while since I updated this. Sorry about that. I almost think more people reviewed when I stopped updating but that's what encouraged me to start again. Since I could send them a message I would like to thank ^_^ here and also I would like to thank Totalitarian again for his review… that much praise really meant a lot.

"Heya, Leonardo?" Are you positive this is the way we're suppose to go?"

I nodded though I was beginning to doubt it myself. We had been walking for almost three days and none of the terrain was level. But I suppose that is why it was called "the hills." "Yes. He said right over the hills."

"Dang! Did he say how many hills? We're gonna be clear across Daein before long!"

"Yes…I know." It was tiring but we had to do it. The hill we climbed was nothing compared to that of the one the littlest one would have to when she fully realized what had happened. We paid a small price for our failure. She would have to pay the rest.

"I can't wait to see Auntie Eleanor again! It's been so long!" Sarah bounced excitedly on Edward's shoulders. His nose wrinkled a bit but he kept silent.

"By any chance, do you know where in the village she lives?" That was all we knew; where the village but nothing more. When we got there it would still be a hunt.

"Nu-uh. I never got to see her home. She just came to visit us."

"I nodded. "All right then. We'll still find her."

"That's good cause she's always so much fun to be with! She makes really good stew." She settled down again, Edward looking less pained.

"Man, that sounds pretty good right about now. So speaking of which, it's about time for a lunch break, don'tcha think Leonardo?"

He wasn't going to be pleased. "No, we can't. Not until we get over the hills."

"What? Aw, come on!" He stomped his foot and grew louder when I just kept walking. "Don't be like Nolan with all that discipline stuff!"

"No, we really can't." I lifted up the bottom of my sack, holding it up so that the hole was visible to him. It was right in the compartment where we kept the food….and it was torn by teeth.

"Leonardo! You lost our food?" He attempted to sound angry but the glint in his eyes showed guilt. He already knew what happened.

I grinned slightly. I felt a little smug doing so. "I noticed it after I got back from gathering firewood last night. The marks look like it was bitten through by a fox." I looked back at him. "While you were watching my sack."

"Oh, um…heh, well,…we have gold. We can always just wait until we get to town to buy more."

I shook my head and laughed. "Not that we have much of a choice."

"Are we gonna starve?" Sarah's eyes grew. Edward and I's rant must've frightened her. She had such a perplexed look her face, as if she really couldn't tell if it was a joke or if she was suppose to be scared. She stared at us with such deep, confused horror that it made me chuckle a bit while I talked.

"No. It's nothing to worry about. I'll catch us something to eat if we need to. We just lost our immediate rations. And we'll be getting to town soon so it won't matter."

"Oh, ok. I like to eat so dying from no food doesn't sound fun."

"Hnn….tell me about it." Edwards stomach growled. He was like a bottomless pit. We had what little food we had left for breakfast so it amazed me he was that hungry already.

I told them that the village was close. But what I knew was certainly different. Looking out I could see a vast expanse of many more hills. Were the village to be nestled somewhere within them would be great luck but I'd learned well that luck wasn't a factor to be relied upon. Further more I saw a large amount of smoke raising into the sky. I hoped it wasn't where we were heading to. But I knew hope wasn't anymore reliable than luck.

"Why is the sky so dark over there?" Sarah pointed into the horizon. She noticed the smoke that clouded the sky just as well as I had. Her comment made Edward look up for the first time. His face contorted into an expression I had seen him make many times before; mostly when food was scarce and he knew he'd have to go without for a while. He turned to me, his eyes pleading with me, silently asking me to tell him that wasn't our destination. All I could do is shrug. "I don't know."

We kept walking. Subconsciously our new target became the location of the smoke. Then again, we didn't know anything but a relative area anyway. And I had a bad gut feeling.

Could Begnion have really moved over the hills so quickly? We had just chased them out of the last village… but with pegasi it wouldn't be difficult for them. What could they really be gaining from all of it? Did they find some type of sadistic joy in crushing an already defeated nation? Or were they trying to make us repent for past sin by taking on sin of their own? Our sin was met by their sin, and our sin furthered in response. That was something that was never left for repose. Sin.

What did any of it really matter, the concept of nations? We weren't all that different. We accepted a different title in regards of where we were from, shared different wealth, different allegiances…but wouldn't all that disappear if borders ceased to be? If we all united under a common humanity, would it all have to continue? But the more I thought about it, I understood people's common humanity was the cause. Humanity meant to be human. To be human meant to always try to become greater than, to conquer, to attempt to sate the unending bloodlust. Borders were just a simple excuse to make it so.

I played with the thoughts in my head longer than I care to admit. Human….what did it really mean to be human? People couldn't be all dread and hatred. If that were so…I wouldn't have those thoughts. I would be condemned to an emotionless, primitive existence. And just about everyone had someone they cared for. That meant they could love. So why were they so willing to take another's life without thought. Edward was a good example in my mind. He wouldn't hesitate to put his life on the line to save someone he cared about, or a complete stranger for that matter. How was it so easy for him to kill? I almost asked him once, but I decided against it while in the presence of a child.

The best conclusion I could come to was maybe it wasn't all people. That soldier's family I met…he fought for them. Perhaps for some it was a forced lifestyle. Maybe it wasn't all nature….but power. Yes, that was a leading factor. Power. Those with power commanded people to do such things. And people, responding to their most primitive instinct just to survive and their most civilized instinct, love, listened. Not to just support themselves, but those whom they loved. It was those with power that manipulated those factors that people can't control. What did they gain from ruining other's beings?

I could wonder a lifetime and still never understand.

I didn't want to fully understand.

Then I'd have to be like them and that would be a fate worse than death.

"Hey…uh….Leonardo?" Edward grabbed my shoulder. "Stop walking for a second, will ya?" I shook my head, awakening from another one of my frequent trances. I had thought that long…we were in front of a village's gate. And horror struck all our faces.

The smoke had been coming from our destination, at least as far as we knew. The fire itself still raged in small spurts but the village itself ceased to be. Was Begnion really…capable of doing that? Was the supposed holy empire really capable of such spite…

"Edward, stay here with her." I dropped my bag to the ground.

"Where are you going?" His voice was more stern than I had ever heard him speak. The sight took even him by surprise.

I looked into the conflagration myself. I didn't know where I was going. Into it…to do something…hopefully something… My looking back at him was enough. He set Sarah down, ready to follow.

"Stay with here." I repeated.

"Ya can't just go walking into a fire!" His arms flailed as he spoke.

"There might be something left I can do…maybe someone still needs to get out…"

"Leonardo…you still can't run into a fire by yourself!"

The tension and the sight got to her. Sarah broke into tears. The poor child. If it was the right area….her aunt…

"If this was done by Begnion, soldiers could still be in the area. She needs someone to protect her."

"You can't save everyone…."

I ran ahead. No, I couldn't save everyone. The past couple of weeks had proven that better than anything ever could. But I had to try.

I had to try…

Misery…it was drawn to me like apparitions were the night. Light became a silhouette ever since…him. What an agonizing irony. His promises and insecurities….his fears he bestowed upon me because of his deep feeling…his experience. He breathed life into them and left me with truth, awakened my mind from the slumber that shrouded my mind in a naivety never again to be retrieved. He made me understand…then left me to feel first hand. Curse his soul! He promised he would never leave me. And he didn't…not even…he didn't even leave me with a review….

Wow. That's a sad story. Maybe you could make it better by reviewing instead. ^_^