Author's Note: Well, after an unintended hiatus, the story is back. I'm going to try to get at least another couple of parts out this month, because after that, the story is going on hold again for the entire month of November while I give some much needed attention to my original work by participating in National Novel Writing Month (

Much as I enjoy it, I do not want to be writing fan fiction forever, and eventually I do want to walk through a bookstore and see my name on the shelves. _An Ignominious End_ is now 162 pages typed, so I know that I do have the energy and the drive to create my own novel, I just need to force myself to get one started.

I encourage all of you writers on to look at your word counts and know that you could do the same, and think long and hard about what's keeping you from publishing and acclaim. Writing fan fiction can be very fulfilling, I know, but deep down, don't you all yearn for something more?

This story will be back in December when I will let what I have written for NaNoWrimo rest before commencing revisions and/or finishing up the novel since 50,000 words, the amount required to win, probably won't be enough to finish the tale I am envisioning. I don't intend to leave you all hanging after all, I still need something to keep the mind sharp and I want to show you guys the end I have envisioned because I still think it's going to be a hell of a ride!

Thanks again for all your comments and support - it's what keeps me going.


They made Lina leave her weapons outside the cell, but it was all the same to her. Physical weapons could be taken and used against her, but her most powerful arsenal came from inside, and no one could use it but her. She cast one last glance at Gourry as the cell door was shut, locking her in with the unconscious bandit.

He lay face down on a cot, his hands and feet chained together, albeit loosely - enough so that he could independently manage his own needs such as feeding himself and using the bucket in the corner which had been provided for calls of nature. There was a bracket to permit chaining him to the wall too, but it hadn't been used.

/I guess they thought with him out like that he wasn't going to go anywhere./

But now Lina would be faced with a more mobile enemy when he finally came to. If he was loose enough to eat and go to the bathroom, he might be loose enough to fight back. She'd have to watch that - the chains holding him could be a weapon that *he* could use if he was smart. She picked up a loose stone and lobbed it at him, hard, to make sure he was really out of it, and not just faking, waiting for someone to get close. He didn't make a sound.

"Oh, no, you're not going to get away that easily," Lina muttered. "You're not dead, you can't be dead, you don't deserve to die that painlessly." Reaching out, she began to cast Recovery. She wouldn't give him much healing, just enough to bring him around. Just enough for him to be able to endure what she planned to do to him.

All was quiet. She could hear his shallow breathing, and even that of the guards who watched, ready to let her out if things went wrong. Gourry was there too. He had wanted to be on the inside, with her, but that would have changed the dynamics of the situation completely, and she had finally convinced him after another bitter argument. She knew he would want to exercise his 'duties' as her protector, but she needed to do this alone. Facing the bandit with Gourry at her side, two against one, would just show she didn't feel she was strong enough to handle this situation herself. But Gourry was there, just on the other side of the bars, and the glimpse of bright gold she could see out of the corner of her eye comforted her more than she wanted to admit.

Finally the bandit began to twitch, and then he stirred, muttering nonsensical things and twisting on the cot. Lina drew back slowly, without making any sudden movements, and waited for him to come around.

"...damned sorceress witch..." The sound was muffled as the man tried to get up. "What the - ?" He must have realized he was chained. "...hell?" His chains clattered metallically as he finally succeeded in rolling over into a sitting position, staring at her with dark, lizard-eyes that reminded her all together too much of his brother. "*You*," a slight, flicker passed over his face before Lina could identify it - she suspected it was fear, but couldn't be sure. "It *was* you."

"Yup." Lina leaned back against the bars insolently, but inside she was shaking. Even prepared for the resemblance as she was now, it still staggered her. Behind her eyes she could still see *his* face, and smell his fetid breath as he leaned close. She fought not to let it show, and twisted the shape of her fears into barbs that she hoped would find and goad the weakness of her adversary. He was the one at her mercy now, the thought was like a mantra echoing in her head, thudding in her chest to the erratic rhythm of her heart. "Are you sorry you didn't bring more goons with you? You may be twice my size, but you never could beat me in a fair fight."

"Who cares if the fight's fair? I just play to win."

"Well, this time you lost, bub." Her heart pounded faster and mockery shuddered from the darkest places inside of her. Wasn't this what she had always wanted, to look danger in the face and laugh? Yes, maybe... yes, but... But it was different than she had dreamed before she left home. She had faced danger many times since then, faced her own death, but she'd never before been confronted with anything other than death in the heat of battle, a noble death, or at least a death on her own terms. What had waited for her in the bandit camp was none of those things, it had been a pathetic, worthless end, to be used and then disposed of like trash, to be slaughtered like an animal with no hope of defending herself. Yes, but that hadn't happened. /I'm the one with the power now,/ she reminded herself. /He's the one who's going to die like a dog tomorrow./

Lina smiled thinly, wondering if he would cry, or beg, or plead. She remembered the sight of the noose swinging in the evening breeze. He had been unconscious when they brought him in - she wondered if he even knew that tomorrow he would die. "Whatcha gonna do about it?" She snickered at the double meaning, wanted to tell him just how certainly his raping and murdering days were over. But not yet. That would just make him lethargic, and she wanted him defiant. Defiance was something you could beat out of a person, or so Luna had always said... "C'mon, I'm just a little girl, all alone in this big cell with you, aren't you gonna try something?"

The man sat there, staring at her levelly - his gaze reminded her of a wolf's, ready to attack the moment she looked away.

"You'll never guess what I heard. My pals over there," she indicated the guards, "told me this wasn't the first time you've gone and kidnapped someone for your sick little fun..." She clicked her tongue. "Can't even pay someone for it with a face like yours, huh?"

"Nyah nyah, you are just a little girl," the bandit slumped back on the cot in disinterested contempt, "sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. What do you want? I need to get some beauty sleep."

"What I want is to know where the camp is."

"No dice."

"Sticks and stones, huh?" Lina smiled slowly as a ball of energy formed in her hand. She released it casually, letting it topple from her hand and into the ground. "Boo briemer," she whispered.

With a sickening crack, the wooden cot beneath the bandit underwent a drastic mutation. Bucking like an enraged stallion it tossed its occupant hard into the wall and sprouted the head and sharp horns of a bull.

Chuckling to herself, Lina levitated to a safe distance and watched the fun.

Rubbing his head, the bandit opened his eyes, only to see the murderous red glare of the bull golem as it launched itself towards him, sharp wooden horns levelled to impale and kill.

Despite the weight of the chains, the bandit was still fast. He leapt clear of the sharp horns, and sprang from the corner to the cell bars, his chains clattering, metal against metal, an angry jangle of iron. He took up the slack of the chain, wrapping it around one wrist enough that it wouldn't dangle or catch, and then made a flying leap, catching Lina's ankles.

His agility surprised Lina, and she violently kicked her legs, trying to shake him off as the golem galloped mindlessly around the cell, ready to make another pass.

"Lina!" Gourry shouted, grabbing at the bars as if he would tear them from the hinges to get to her. The guards pulled him back just as the golem launched itself, and gleaming wooden horns appeared where his chest had been a second before.

"I'm okay!" The shout turned to a squeak as she felt something grab her leg much higher. She looked down at the bandit who smiled up at her wickedly and gave her calf an insinuating squeeze. Those hands touching her... Those eyes... She released the spell instinctively, not caring what happened next, only knowing that she had to get rid of him RIGHT NOW. Gravity did the rest, dropping the bandit to his feet. Of course it also dropped Lina. For a split instant they were a tableau, the small, flame-haired sorceress held aloft in a parody of triumph, arms spread wide for balance, legs imprisoned in the bandit's vicelike grip; then the man went down hard under the stress of supporting her teenaged weight in a way his arms were not meant to.

She was okay, except... she had lost track of the bull golem. Her field of vision narrowed into stark points of fear as she saw the magical construct ricochet off the stone wall with a powerful clatter of wooden hooves and a sawdust snort, springing towards them... only to explode in a thousand splintered shards as the spell gave out. Lina shrieked and shielded her eyes, feeling small, razor-sharp pieces of wood embed themselves in her arm.

The sorceress gritted her teeth against the insidious pain of the wooden shrapnel and fought to force it down. /Use the pain,/ the voice in her mind was Luna's, a memory of long ago, something else she had forced down, forced herself to endure because her pride would allow nothing else. Pride? Was that all this was? But there was no time to think of that, she was in the middle of a battle, there was no time for pain. Of any kind. Still, the memory, and the voice persisted for a second longer. /Pain can bring focus./

Focus. There was no time to nurse her wounds. There was still the bandit. Nimbly she skipped away from him before he could grab her again. A bitter smile twisted her lips as she watched him get unsteadily to his feet. Never taking her gaze from him, she tugged one of the larger splinters from her arm, hissing at the pain, and dropped the bloodstained fragment heedlessly to the ground as her enemy regarded her sullenly.

"Is that the best you can do, Little Girl?" the bandit sneered, licking his lips. "That was fun... Tanaka said you liked to play."

Lina took a deep breath, which was a mistake, as suddenly all the smells of the place, assaulted her at once. Mouldy straw, damp stone, and half a dozen different body odours and fetid stenches filled her nose, the tang of stale urine bringing her to a place she never wanted to be again.

"You don't want to know the best I can do." Lina warned, feeling a hardness creep into her eyes. That face... She shook her head, trying to clear it as the man before her again took on the face of his brother and her hands became claws at her sides. Behind her eyes she saw herself reaching out with those clawed hands, to rip his skin, and any superficial resemblance away, to take some of the power he must know he wielded just by looking like *him*. "Trust me on that. Just tell me what I need to know and this doesn't have to get any worse."

"Hey, why do I have to do all the putting out?" The man licked his lips suggestively. "Why don't you give me a little something and then we'll talk."

Lina grinned with deceptive innocence. "I was hoping you'd say that... Flare Bit!"

The bandit only had a moment to duck, but he was too slow. He screamed in pain as a half dozen of the tiny, searing hot spheres connected with his skin. Not as powerful as Flare Arrow, but the little balls of flame that darted from Lina's hand burned just as hot and bright, and left circular, blackened crimson marks like the touch of red hot iron.

"Flare Bit! Flare Bit!" Casually Lina cast a few more rounds, and savoured the pain-filled rage of the man's screams. She'd been on the wrong end of this spell once or twice and she'd never forget the feeling as the tiny slivers of brilliant heat connected again and again. The damage wasn't crippling by any means, but each hit had seemed to call up all the anger and hatred that had ever existed inside her. Now she was the one casting the spell, and still it was her anger and hatred that grew with each of the man's screams. The more she burned him, the more he screamed, the more she realized that it was a never-ending cycle; the more he hurt, the more she hated, and the more she hated, the more she wanted to hurt him. But he deserved it, he deserved it, why should she be afraid of giving a bandit what he deserved when he and his clan had been ready to do so much more to her...

She braced herself for another round, her whole body thrumming with anger like a plucked harp string, muscles and tendons pulling against her bones with tension, tight enough to snap at the slightest pressure. Her fingers cracked as they wove the air and the red hot spheres of pain took shape again...

"Stop it, bitch!" growled the bandit. He launched himself towards Lina, fists flying, but with a whispered chaos word, she levitated away, arrow swift in her rage.

"Ah ah ah," Lina's lip curled into a sneer, "look but don't touch, and just for that... Dis Fang!" She had to drop the levitation to cast the other spell, but she landed neatly on her feet, watching as dark energy wrapped itself around her assailant, leaving him writhing on the ground in pain. She tilted her head consideringly and fired off another spell, "Blast Ash!" She saw still more darkness engulf her assailant. It was as if she was casting the darkness and pain inside her onto him, watching him collapse under the burden. Dirt, filth, rot, she would not rest until he, and all his kind were dead...

They'd tried to do their worst to her and failed. Now she would do her worst to them.

Darkness. They had put this darkness inside her.

She would give them darkness.

A strange calm settled over her as she floated back towards the ground, and called on the magic within her as she formed the words of the chant that would set her free. "Darkness beyond twilight..." A hot, dry wind began inside the building, which by rights should have been impervious to weather.

"Lina?" a voice echoed dimly as she went on.

"...crimson beyond blood that flows..." The wind picked up, lifting little bits of straw and sending them swirling, catching in her hair as it whipped wildly about her face.

"Lina!" Gourry's voice came to her from a great distance. "Lina, you're in the middle of a town, locked in a cell! What are you doing?!"

"...buried in the flow of..." Power flowed singing through her veins, blotting out thought, feeling, reason, pain, pleasure, it was all gone, and magic was all that remained, beginning to gather between her hands.

"LINAAAAAAAAA!" She heard a thump and a clatter, saw a flash of blue and gold in her periphery as Gourry reached through the bars towards her.

"...huh?" Suddenly the power slipped free, and the wind died down around them.

"Lina...!" the swordsman panted, "are you still okay with this?"

"I'm alright, Gourry," Lina reassured the swordsman, though inside she was shaken. Fireballs indoors were bad enough, but the Dragon Slave... when she was locked in a cell? /I need to finish this./

The bandit was staring at her, unmoving, as if, perhaps for the first time, he had some notion of just what kind of power he was really dealing with. The thought was a surge of destructive glee reawakened inside of her. Respect. Power and pain were the only things that gained you any respect from a bandit.

"Talk," Lina instructed the man in a cold voice, feeling a sudden weariness creep into her bones, the thwarted energies summoned by the Dragon Slave leeching her strength. /What was I doing there?/ The question rang in her head and there was no really good answer except that she had lost her focus, acted on instinct alone. "You don't know how close I just came to wiping you from the face of the earth."

"Not close enough."

Oh, he just had to push it, didn't he? Or maybe he knew that deep down, where it really counted, he was the one pushing her. "Dark Mist..." the spell fell from Lina's lips softly, a whispered pledge of enduring defiance. Its effect was immediate as the whole room filed with darkness, blotting out the light from the windows.

"Lina?" Gourry called in the darkness, "what are you doing now?"

In the dark, Lina didn't dare answer, as it was, she did have to speak and reveal herself at least once more. "Balus Rod!" Now that she was armed, she slashed through the darkness of the cell, this way and that, even the light from the whip-like rod she now held did not pierce the gloom.

She could hear the breathing of her enemy - it had become harsh, shuddering with pain. It was almost too easy to lash him, again and again, hearing his screams, until she realized that he had been luring her closer. Suddenly she felt his weight connect, knocking her to the floor, and the spell-rod in her hands vanished as he struggled to press his chains against her throat, choking off her breath.

But she had just enough for two words. "Digger... volt!" The powerful electricity shot from her hands, and sent her assailant flying from her to crash against the wall.

"Uhhhh, how's the interrogation coming?" she heard the nervous voice of the guard leader ask. "I have to have a hanging tomorrow, so I hope you haven't killed him."

"Lighting!" Lina called the spell that would dissipate the dark. As her vision cleared, she saw the blackened bandit sprawled on the floor, looking even worse than he had earlier today when she had fought him. With some relief she saw he was still breathing and his eyes were open.

She walked towards him. "How'd you like that spell? Hurts doesn't it? You're lucky it didn't kill you, but I wasn't touching anything vital."

The man slowly sat up, and she could see one arm hung uselessly at his side - it must have taken the brunt of the electricity from the spell. She tried not to choke on the sickly sweet smell of burned flesh. It smelled like her mother's roast pork...

She began to gather up her energies as she advanced, tension still coiling a threat in her limbs but he looked so awful that deep down she knew there couldn't possibly be any more fight left in him.. "You have lots of non vital spots, you know... Your other arm, your legs... or... I wonder what it would feel like coursing through your 'male pride', huh? I could do that for you, if you like... I want you to feel really... special."

He'd endured a lot, even come close to being Dragon Slaved, but for the first time, Lina saw real fear in his eyes. She savoured it.

The bandit swallowed dryly, and wiped at his ear, which was trickling a small stream of blood. His face was black with soot, making the whites of his eyes stand out, rolling in a way that reminded Lina of a spooked horse. "Okay... okay... what do you want to know?"

She sat there, holding the spell, a menacing glimmer in her hands, as the rest of the guards plied their questions, camp location, bandit numbers, strength, supplies. She waited patiently until they were done, and then asked the one question that was most important to her.

"Why were you after me?"

"I don't know..." The man admitted. "My brother, he's always been a little secretive, we got to keep you for a while, but then we had to hand you over, alive... it's not what we usually do, wagging tongues and all, I guess he made a deal with someone... but he wouldn't talk about it."

"Well, unlike some people, I don't make deals with bandits." Lina lifted her hand, still containing the dreaded energy, and saw the realization and sheer terror pass over the face of Tanaka's brother. Before the resemblance had haunted her, but now it gave her a bitter satisfaction as she imagined doing the same to the man she truly hated and wanted to destroy. The strong smell of urine filled the air, fear causing the bandit to lose control of his bodily functions, as she released the spell...

...and the light in her hand faded away, leaving the bandit's family jewels, if not his dignity, intact.

She left her victim curled into a catatonic ball, whimpering, but very much alive.

Her male audience was pale and shaken by the tension of the last few moments, and the implied threat to another's manhood, however deserved. She hadn't been using her full powers, but it was obvious the men had never had the opportunity to witness sorcery first hand. The guardsman who let her out of the cell was trembling, and gave her a great deal of room.

She smirked to herself as she saw a few making superstitious signs against the evil eye and witchcraft. Such precautions were useless against her, but it was a standing joke among the sorcery guilds to allow the magically ignorant some illusion of comfort.

"Uhhh... thank you..." the guard captain began hesitantly. He too was pale, and all signs of his drunkenness had mysteriously vanished - excitement and fear was a good way of producing sobriety. "That was... effective, yes... but it's late, so we should probably get some sleep, what with the big day tomorrow and all..." Lina grabbed her cloak and the rest of her things, sensing his unease as he began to shepherd them towards the door. He had been affable before, but after seeing a display of her power, and her anger, at close range, the guard captain was now more than a little uncomfortable.

Plastering a smile onto her face to hide her weariness, she answered the captain. "Yes... tomorrow."

"Are you, ummm, going to witness the execution?" the captain asked.

"It's my right as one of the injured parties."

"Of course, of course!" The captain agreed hastily. "But I'm sure you'll want to move on afterwards, a sorceress as important as yourself, so many people to see..." The flattery, and the transparent attempt at appeasement, did not disguise the subtle, fearful probing of her intentions to be sure she wasn't going to linger.

/I guess it's lucky I don't want to settle down anywhere,/ Lina thought as she stepped out into the night, Gourry following behind. Idly she wondered if anyone *would* take her now. The captain had just proved that while some people were willing to overlook her reputation, they weren't quite as willing after witnessing her methods firsthand. Well, there was always Seyruun - Amelia and Prince Phil were the exception - she may have destroyed part of the holy city, but in doing so she had saved the rest of it from being destroyed as well.

The only other place Lina could think of, apart from settling into a cottage in the middle of nowhere, was her hometown in Zephilia. They would take her back instantly, albeit for certain grudgingly, for the sake of their beloved resident Knight of Ceiphied. Why, she could be back stomping grapes with the other virgins any time she - err, well, maybe not that part. And Luna would know instantly, Lina knew she would, and would probably demand to know why she wasn't married - her 'Big Sis' was worse than Mom, sometimes.

/Like I would ever go back there./ No, she'd be perfectly happy if she never saw Luna again. Of course her parents were there too, but they knew how she felt about them. Didn't they?

"Lina, you're shivering," Gourry's voice interrupted her morose thoughts.

"I am?" She shook her head, startled out of her introspection, and reached up, rubbing the back of your neck.

"And your arm is bleeding!" Gourry grabbed the wounded appendage and surveyed the damage. "What were you thinking in there anyway?"

"It's just a few splinters," she countered defensively. "I'll pull them out when we get back to the inn." A cool night breeze swept over them and she shivered again.

"Lina..." the swordsman began chidingly, then bit his lip as she shot him a glare. "Here, let me take that stuff so you can put your cloak back on."

"I hate that cloak," she said of the plain, dark grey serge she had chosen at the tailors to wear until a new sorceress-style cloak (currently drying back at the inn) could be made. "It looks so ordinary. It was probably made for some peasant's wife."

"It brings out your hair - now put it on," he instructed in a tone that would brook no argument, while at the same time making a clever appeal to her vanity.

Lina did as Gourry asked, but not without a grumble under her breath.

"Now let's go back to the inn."

A movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention and she held up a hand in warning. "Shhh, wait..."

She saw Gourry's gaze shift slightly, even though he didn't move. "Across the square, by the stocks," he breathed, barely above a whisper, "I see it too..."

"Do they see us?"

"Not yet..."

"This way..." Lina ducked low and broke into a run, coming to rest in the deeper shadows cast by the scaffold. Gourry joined her a moment later and Lina tugged her hood over her head to hide her bright hair before rising just enough to peer over the gallows platform and see what was going on beyond.

The shadowy figures surrounded Kenji, drawing closer, and it looked very bad for the young bandit. Harassment from crowds was part of the punishment of being in the stocks, and it was common for offenders to be pelted with rotten vegetables or worse, but that sort of behaviour was usually limited to daylight hours when passers by would take a break from their worries to torment someone helpless.

These people had gone out of their way to come after dark - it wasn't too hard to guess what they had in mind.

"All it takes is a little blood, and then the sharks start circling," Lina muttered.

"What is it, Lina?"

"It looks like those guys over there plan to take the term 'jailbait' to a whole new level."


"Just look, you'll figure it out."

Gourry peeked up over the rim of the scaffold and Lina felt him tense up, ready for battle. She felt a hint of exhilaration as she saw the serious frown that etched his brow in profile - this was one situation where the swordsman's mind was as keen as his blade. "What are we going to do?"

It was a good question, and one they didn't have long to answer, judging by the soft, insidious laughter and the suggestive ways the shadowed men were already touching the helpless adolescent.

"We could take them," she whispered. That wasn't a problem, but this was more than looking the other way, this was taking action against townspeople who, to her knowledge, had committed no crime, and siding with an acknowledged criminal. Perhaps, but he was also helpless, paying the price for his crimes - and as far as Lina knew, being raped by a gang of thugs was not part of the punishment laid down by the law.

"Bandits have no rights", her own words came back to haunt her. It was obviously what these people thought as well, but Lina had never taken advantage of someone who couldn't defend themselves either. Anyone she fought had usually marked her as easy pickings because of her small stature and aimed to bully her first.

Kenji had never done anything to her, she realized. He had been one of the hangers on, he had tried to posture and act the way the rest of the bandit clan would have, but he hadn't been very good at it. He had been wooden whenever he'd tried to sound macho, and the only time he'd sounded truly sincere was when he had lectured her - imagine, a bandit lecturing *her*! - about her supposed hypocrisy.

It sounded like he'd had a pretty crappy life, no one to really care about him, people only interested in what they could get from him. But what if someone did stand up for him? Maybe he could change.

"I'm going," Lina decided. "You stay here."

"But Lina..."

"I'm going to see if I can do this without frying anyone. You're my backup. I'm counting on you."

Wrapping her cloak around her, she levitated, rising up into the night sky and headed off away from the scene, making a slow circle around the square, and approaching behind the group of miscreants gathered around the helpless figure in the stocks. A side effect of the levitation spell was that the high output of magic caused a nimbus of light to form around her which was only visible after dark.

Thus it was an eerily glowing Lina who made her way onto the scene and hovered over the heads of the would-be rapists, circling them slowly, waiting for someone to notice...

They were pretty intent on their prize, however, and so she impatiently cleared her throat. "Ahem!"

One by one the thugs turned around. And froze.

"A g-g-g... Ghost!"

The collective wail of terror rose from the group, and they took off in a cloud of dust. Lina watched their progress in amusement, particularly fascinated with one fellow who was trying to run with his pants undone. He would scramble a few feet, fall on his face, yank up his pants, scramble a few more feet, and then the cycle would continue. She chased him to be sure he was gone, and then doubled back, alighting in front of Kenji, who, of course, could not go anywhere.

"!" was the young bandit's startled exclamation.

"Yes me," Lina answered cocking one hip. They stared at each other awkwardly for long seconds and she finally frowned. "Ummm, did I...? Was I in time?"

"Nothing happened."

She checked a sigh of relief and wondered just what had gotten into her.

Kenji tried to lift his head in the wooden frame that enclosed his neck. He was dirtier than when they had last met, and Lina didn't want to think about some of the stuff that smeared him. "Some types like to toy with you a bit before... Ummm, yeah, guess I was lucky that way... 'course they would have gotten around to it sooner or later. I guess I owe you one."

Lina saw Gourry come around the scaffold, heading towards her. "Forget it - I know there's no honour among thieves. I... guess I just felt sorry for you. C'mon Gourry!" she called to the swordsman, purposefully loud to mask the uneasy whispering voices which had been churned up inside her. "Let's get out of here."

"No, I mean it," the young thief replied, projecting his voice against her retreating back. "You're stubborn enough, aren't you? Listen to me, because I'm only going to say this once."

"Fine." She turned around and blew a strand of hair from her eyes, feigning indifference, but inside she was very interested in what the bandit boy would say.

"Leave," Kenji instructed her grimly. "Leave while you can. Go far away from this place because we're very, very close to you. He's still after you - and he isn't going to stop until he gets what he wants."