"You," Sirene looked up, startled, from tracing the beautiful weapon. A boy with brown hair and silver eyes was watching her. "No, don't go." He called as she spun to take flight, unfurling her black wings. "You're with the other one, right? The one my sister likes." He elaborated at her puzzled glance.

"You know?" The Shadow Angel girl asked, tense.

"Of course I know." He said, letting out a small chuckle. "Seliene and I are twins. I'm Stellos." He extended a hand, which she after a moment's hesitation shook. "Younger than the famous woman warrior by half a minute, and she never lets me forget it." It was Sirene's turn to laugh. This wingless one amused her.

"I'm Sirene, younger sister of the great Apollonius by about half a century." Stellos laughed disbelievingly, thinking she was exaggerating, then looked at her weirdly. "Seriously? I had no idea Shadow Angels lived that long."

"We are immortal." She said simply. "Unless we choose to die, we shall live until the Tree of Life itself, which binds this world together, withers away."

"Wow." He said. "Awfully long time." They sat there, in companionable silence. "Y'know, something I've always wondered about…" the boy began. "Why exactly does your brother wear a skirt?" she blinked at him, and for half a second, there was silence.

Their raucous laughter shook the forest gently.

"A skirt…" Sirene couldn't help herself, gasping and clutching her sides. "Priceless…just priceless…" their laughter petered out gradually, and they sighed, the occasional giggle escaping. "Neh, technically, the 'skirt' is kindasorta supposed to show what a good warrior he is. He's so skilled that he doesn't need armor, or indeed cloth, to stop the weapon of an enemy. Weird, I know."

"So, I noticed you were admiring my Artemis earlier."

"Your who?" she asked him, confused.

"My Artemis." He walked over to the glass case and pulled out the beautiful bladed staff. "My sister should have inherited her, but she is more at ease with a conventional short sword, and either way Artemis has always been handed down to the firstborn son. Y'see, my family, my father in particular, has a theory that I was too lazy to leave the womb and be born first, and that laziness has carried over into my life and how I live it. It's true, though, I seem to be a lot more laid-back than anybody in my family. I just don't get why everyone is in such a hurry."

He balanced the bladed staff-Artemis-expertly on one finger before flipping and whipping it around in an intricate sequence. Sirene found herself spellbound by the motion, slowly gaining speed and complication, the young man dancing with the deadly weapon before finishing in a stamp and bringing the staff to rest at his side.

"One of the few things I've ever been truly committed to doing is mastering Artemis. In a way, though, since she almost has a soul of her own, no one can ever truly master her. I saw my father, her former master, dance with her once while I was spying on the practice courts with my sister. Seli was watching the swordsmen, and I let my attention wander, and I just found myself caught up in the motions.

"I made myself a crude practice staff in the woods and practiced every day, gaining the feel of the rod in my hands and building up calluses in all the right spots on them, until one day an armsman on patrol saw me working and brought it to my father's attention. I'm the first ever first born male of my family to not be the firstborn, y'know? I'm the first boy, but I'm not the first child. My father had every intention of taking Artemis with him into the grave, finally breaking with tradition, but when the armsman told him of my dedication, he decided to let me learn. And learn I did."

"We have a similar weapon. Not exactly the same, but close. My brother, much like your sister, favored swordsmanship, and while I learned it too, I in addition learned to wield the nagamaki, and in particular my mother's family's nagamaki, Inritus. It is really very much like your Artemis, but the blade is the same length as the shaft, and it is wielded in a slightly different fashion." She paused, before almost shyly continuing. "Perhaps I shall bring it along next time and we can compare."

"There's going to be a next time?" he asked, honestly taken aback.

"Perhaps." Sirene equivocated, cursing herself for the slipup. In the silence that followed, she cocked an ear, and her silver eyes flashed black for an instant as she used her Shadow Angel powers, and she said. "My brother has finished talking to your sister. Soon, he will come looking for me. You should probably go now." At his look, she elaborated. "Although I do not overly mind my brother's courtship of your sister, he does not have the same tolerant attitude towards those he sees as my possible suitors. You would not want to get on my brother's bad side." He nodded, replacing Artemis in her glass display case before entering the house, just as Apollonius walked into the courtyard.

"Sister." He acknowledged her, in the Shadow Angel's language.

"Brother." Her tone was even, nowhere close to betraying her emotions. She'd just had civil discourse with a wingless one! She should be outraged! Disgusted!

As the two of them took flight, he spreading those classic feathery wings, and she whipping out her four pairs of midnight-black wings, a tiny voice in the back of her head traitorously whispered. He didn't seem that bad…