Me: Welcome to chapter fourteen, everyone!

Eva: Yes. Welcome.

Me: Uh-oh, look who it is! It's Eva's turn! How you doin', girl?

Eva: ...

Me: You havin' a good day?

Eva: ...

Me: You gonna talk to me?

Eva: ...

Me: Uh...

Eva: May we begin the chapter so that I may be dismissed?

Me: Oh, fine. Don't worry, Naesala and Tormod... Eva's cold towards me too, even though I'm her creator ;_;

Eva: (indifferent) ElementalGuardianProtector owns nothing but this story and her characters.

Chapter Fourteen

"It's so peaceful here..." Tormod sighed contently as he brushed aside the curtains in order to look out the window. The sky was dark and there were few stars out. Though it was nothing special, something about Serenes made this night seem beautiful.

"Little one, shouldn't you be resting? In a matter of time, it will get late. You've had a very busy and active day today." Muarim called to Tormod from his bed. "I agree with Muarim, Tormod. A young beorc like you needs his rest so that he'll be able to keep up his energy." Vika agreed, also lying in a bed.

Muarim and Vika had been moved to the Recovery Center, where they were leisurely and comfortably resting in their designated room. Not wanting to leave their side, Tormod decided to accompany the duo.

"'Tormod'... When did you first start calling me that, I wonder, Vika? You used to always call me 'Boss'..." Tormod trailed off. "Yeah... What about it...?" Vika slowly eyed the redheaded sage. Tormod shook his head, "It's just, I'm glad you call me by name. It makes me feel like we're so much closer than before. That makes me happy."

"Then should I stop calling you 'Little one' and begin calling you by name? It is only fair... You are no longer little." Muarim sighed. "I don't mind that you do - It would be weird if you didn't, actually. You've always called me that, and I know it's because of our close relationship." Tormod responded.

"What I'm trying to get at is... I hope you guys know just how important you are to me. As long as I have the two of you, I need no other family... I love you guys so much."

"Tormod... We love you, too." Vika smiled happily at Tormod. "It looks like we really gave Tormod a scare today, Vika... He's never affectionate. I was being to think he didn't know how." Muarim chuckled to himself. "Hey! Take that back, Muarim! That's mean and untrue, and you know it!" Tormod fumed.

Before anything else could be said, the trio stopped at the sound of their door opening. Turning, they saw the healer from before. "Ah... I'm sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt you guys! I just wanted to quietly come in and check on how Muarim and Vika were doing..." Aaliyah bowed apologetically. "It's alright. Don't worry about it, really." Tormod smiled politely.

"Ah... Thank you." Aaliyah smiled back, coming in and closing the door behind her. "This won't take very long, so I'll be out the way before you know it." "Judging from their wounds earlier, how long do you think it will take for Muarim and Vika to recover?" Tormod inquired as Aaliyah began inspecting the two laguz. "Well... I think it should only take a day or two for their wounds and broken bones to heal, given they are laguz and have a much higher stamina than beorc. However, I recommend them staying for about a week so that they will be fully rested and recovered. A little break to make sure they don't strain themselves wouldn't hurt." Aaliyah answered.

"A week? There's no way we could impose on King Lorazieh's kindness for that long!" Vika gasped. "He won't have it any other way, I can almost guarantee you. Even if it means locking you up in the palace, you're getting hospitality until the healers and I decide you're well enough to take leave. Think of it as taking a vacation." Aaliyah smiled again. "But you're forgetting the key word - Forced... We're being forced..." Tormod muttered, twitching slightly.

"Well, I'm finished here. Please make sure they get plenty of rest, okay? Bye!" Aaliyah waved as she turned and walked towards the door. "Wait!" Vika called out after her. "...Yes?" Aaliyah stopped, waiting to hear whatever Vika had to say.

"...By any chance... Would your name happen to be... Aaliyah? It is... Isn't it?"

"...Yes, it is. But... Uh... Um... P-Please excuse me."

Without another word, Aaliyah quickly left the room. "...What was that all about?" Tormod looked at Vika. "If anything, the poor girl looked like she was retreating..." "..." Vika said nothing, her eyes closed. "...Do you know her or something, Vika?" The arch sage cocked his head to the side. "Tormod... I'm feeling really parched, and I feel like I'm on fire. Could you please go find me a glass of cold water and a cold rag? And maybe find one of the healers and ask them for some more bandages?"

"Alright, will do! I'll be back in a jiffy, don't worry! Just leave it to me!" Tormod grinned before taking off, beginning to hunt for the things Vika had requested. "Oh, don't mind me... Take your time... Really..." Vika trailed off. "...You seem to not wish to tell the little one what your relationship with that woman is. Why is that?" Muarim inquired. "Because... This is something I simply can't tell Tormod. I... I'm too ashamed." Vika lowered her eyes.

Careful not to apply any pressure to his broken ankle, Muarim limped over to Vika and sat down beside of her. "If you wish not to tell the little one... Then will you tell me? I am a very good listener. I will neither judge you nor repeat anything that you tell me." "...Aaliyah was once a laguz slave, just like us." Vika told Muarim. "Is that so? Well, why is that something you are ashamed of telling the little one?" Muarim asked.

"It's because... The one who sold her off to those terrible beorc and made her a true slave... Was me. I was young and foolish... In those days, before I joined you and Tormod to help fight for the rights of laguz... I was held in a different part of Begnion, in a laguz concentration camp. Back then, because life was so hard and the conditions were so terrible, it was every laguz for himself... At the cost of condemning her fate, my own fate was spared." Vika explained.

"In those days... I was very rough and arrogant. I cared only about myself... Because no one cared about me. I was born a laguz slave. I had no family, no friends... I had absolutely nothing. And yet, I still struggled to survive. The only things that kept me going were my pain, my hatred, and my anger. The beorc were very cruel to us... All of us, except for her. From the time of her arrival on, Aaliyah had always been treated gently by the beorc, as if she were better than the rest of us... It made me sick. When I first laid eyes on her, I envied her... And at that moment, I decided that I hated her for not having to suffer the way the rest of us had to.

"Many of the slave laguz admired Aaliyah, because she was so gorgeous and not even the beorc treated her ill. Many thought of her scornfully, because she never so much as associated with us and had a high and mighty aura that surrounded her. She was such a beautiful laguz, many laguz collectors would have killed to have her... Because I was such a hateful person who only cared about myself before I met you and Tormod, I used that to my advantage.

"I secretly met with beorc who were willing to come to the camp in order to do business with me. Once I found someone who was willing to buy my freedom, I sold Aaliyah to them, as if she were no better than a piece of merchandise. I didn't care what happened to her or how the beorc would treat her... All that I cared about was the fact that I was finally a free laguz, after spending so long as a slave.

"That is the kind of person I was before I changed... It didn't matter to me what happened to anyone else... So long as I survived, so long as I made it out. During my time as a slave, I used many people... But what I did to Aaliyah... That's got to be the worst thing I've ever done...! N-now I w-wish I'd n-never done that to h-h-er-er... H-how could I h-have done something s-s-so-so terri-bl-ble? I... I...!"

Vika couldn't continue; her sobs were beginning to choke her. "Vika..." Muarim whispered softly. "What you did to Aaliyah was, indeed, very despicable. It was terrible... But that was the old Vika, the one from back then. You have changed now... You are different. You understand that what you did was wrong, and you truly regret it. Aaliyah seems to be okay now, as well - One way or another, she has been spared the life of a slave." Muarim rubbed Vika's back comfortingly.

"I am not saying that what you did can be rectified... And I do not know if it can ever be forgiven... But as the new Vika, the one who would never sell another laguz out for her own benefit, I think you can at least try to earn Aaliyah's forgiveness. Confronting her about what happened is better than letting things carry on forever."

"Muarim... But... Why? I've done something that is labeled most despicable in the eyes of freedom fighters like you, Tormod, and even myself... I sold out my own kind for my own selfish reasons! How... How could you forgive me so easily?" Vika asked with tears in her eyes. Muarim gently wiped her tears away, "It is not my place to judge or to forgive you for what you did. It has nothing to do with me. Besides... That was not the Vika we know and love. I know that that is something that our Vika would never do. I think the little one would agree with me on this, as well. We could never hate our Vika."

"Muarim..." The tears began to swell up in Vika's eyes again. Without another word, she threw herself into Muarim's arms and began to cry. Getting over his momentary surprise, Muarim slowly wrapped his arms around Vika, comforting his companion with a warm embrace.

Muarim... Because of you and Tormod, I was able to change. Because of the two of you, I was finally able to find what I had always been looking for: Friends... Family... Love... Compassion... Somewhere I belonged. I couldn't be happier... I couldn't ask for more. If I had never met you guys, what would have become of that rough delinquent I once was, I wonder? Oh... Thank you both so much.

"Well, well. Look what we've got here. Seems like you two love birds have made this your nest. So this is why you wanted me to leave the room, huh? I hope I'm not interrupting anything, heh heh..."

Startled, both Vika and Muarim turned around leaning against the door, grinning widely, with a cup of water in one hand and bandages and a cold rag in the other.

"W-what are you talking about, Tormod? You've got the wrong idea... Nothing is going on between Muarim and I!" Vika insisted, jerking away from Muarim quickly. "You say that as though the very thought itself is embarrassing..." Muarim muttered, too bullheaded to admit that his pride has been a little hurt. True, nothing was going on, but she didn't have to deny it like that!

"Uh-huh, well for someone who claims to be innocent, you blushin' awfully hard. This cold rag and cup of water won't be enough to put out the fire in those cheeks." Tormod smirked, handing Vika the water and rag as he walked up to her. The arch sage then tossed the bandages at Muarim with a wink, "I'd offer to help you with your bandages, but I think Muarim has that covered, hehe..."

"Little one, there is nothing going on between Vika and I. You are having a terrible misunderstanding." Muarim argued as he caught the bandages. "Mmmhmmm, whatever you guys say. I believe you." Tormod rocked back and forth with a twinkle in his eye before he casually skipped out, innocently whistling a tune to himself as he left the room. Vika and Muarim exchanged glances.




"He's definitely up to something."

"Of course. We both know the little one too well to think otherwise, and I believe he also knows that to be true."

"Man, am I getting one of those 'Tormod's-gonna-do-something-that's-gonna-result-in-me-tearing-his-hide-end-up' feelings..."

"As well am I... As well am I."

"Even so... You've just gotta love that kid." Vika sighed with a small smile, receiving a nod of agreement from the tiger laguz.


"Hmm... So that's why you've been so strict and serious about intruders nowadays..."

Eva nodded, "Yes. Already, so many herons have fallen victims to those poacher groups... Usually, it would be safe to assume that they would be targeting the Royal Herons, for they are the only ones with pure white wings. However, no one has even attempted to attack Lord Lorazieh... Only the black-winged herons have been targeted."

"Hm... Well, that certainly is strange. But then again, a heron - whether it is black or white - is most beautiful, in general. Black wings are a sign of bad omen... So to the collectors who the poachers must be hunting the herons for, I suppose black herons must symbolize both beauty and disaster. Or it may simply be because there are too few white herons left, and it would be far too difficult and risky to go after the Four Royals themselves." Naesala replied.

Naesala, Eva, and Lorazieh were all in the King's Chambers, discussing the matter of the recent poacher groups.

"Do you know if the herons are being killed or taken alive?" Naesala inquired. "We have no idea. All we know is, beorc are intruding the Serenes Forest with the intentions to capture or harm the local herons... And that's unacceptable." Eva answered. "Absolutely. We must do everything in our power to protect our people and prevent them from falling victim to these poachers." Lorazieh agreed.

"'Beorc'? Since when did you start using that word? Either way... Are you sure they are beorc? Have you seen them up close with your own eyes? Have you put their abilities to the test first handedly?" Naesala asked. "No. However, in all the reports, the heron locals have described them as beorc. They are beorc. I am certain of it." Eva responded, sounding absolutely sure of herself.

"How can you be so sure of that? You cannot tell the difference between a beorc and a branded, and a neither can a lot of laguz. For all you know, they could be branded, or they could be laguz who have bore a child with a beorc. Who's to say they're all beorc - If any of them even are?" Naesala crossed his arms. "Because... This is something that only those filthy beorc would do... Those disgusting humans." Eva suppressed a low growl in her throat, balling her fists.

"'Filthy'? 'Disgusting'? Is that truly what you think of all beorc, even now, after all this time?" The Black King raised an eyebrow. "Of course it is. That's what I'll always think of beorc. They're terrible creatures who have no right to even exist." The blue-eyed guardian said coldly.

"'Terrible creatures who have no right to even exist'... Hm. Isn't that a little hypocritical of you... Provided that you're really no different than they are?" The Kilvan Ruler pointed out icily. "Are you comparing me to those lowdown scum?" The Guardian of the Forest narrowed her eyes. "'Lowdown scum'... Heh. You've got to be the biggest hypocrite of them all." Naesala chuckled to himself.

"Hating beorc for what they are when you - "

Before the raven could utter another syllable, he felt a sharp blade be pressed up against his throat. "Do not compare me to those cretins. I am nothing like them." Eva hissed. Anger was swelling deep within her. "Who are you trying to convince, Eva? Me... Or yourself?" Naesala questioned, his eyes cold and hard.

"..." Eva lowered her sais. Gripping them so tightly in her hands that they were shaking, she roughly pushed past Naesala, left the the room, and slammed the door behind her. Wincing at the loud sound, Lorazieh sighed, "Naesala... Why do you always go out of your way to say such things to her when you know perfectly well that they anger her?"

"A better question is, why don't you say those same things to her? I understand that you don't want to hurt her, but what good is letting her do that to herself? Yes... Beorc ruined her life. Beorc murdered her parents. Beorc massacred the herons. Beorc persecuted laguz. But that doesn't mean all beorc are bad. One's race has nothing to do with whether they are good or bad. Letting her cling to that old hatred is simply no good." Naesala began.

"Eva has closed herself in and chosen to live as though she does not feel so that the beorc will be unable to hurt her again, and because they were also hurt by the beorc, she has decided to protect the herons as well. But she'll never progress or move on if she continues to refuse to give beorc a chance or see the good in them. Ignorance truly is bliss... But she can't choose to stay ignorant forever.

"Yeah, yeah... I know what you're gonna say. You probably think I should wait for Eva to come out of her shell and open her eyes on her own... But thirty years have already passed, and I'm tired of watching that child waste her life away like that. Granted... She's better than before. At least now she give the herons some leeway. But there's more to life than just protecting this forest... Choosing to live alone and dedicating her existence solely to protecting the herons... There's no way she's truly happy living that way."

"But that's where you're wrong, Naesala... Eva has met people who have finally been able to reach out to her: One of our very own healers, and a wolf from Hatari. Slowly but surely, they are thawing out and melting her icy exterior. Through them, she is beginning to regain her humanity that she had sealed away. Through them... She is beginning to trust and open her eyes." The White King informed his fellow brethren.

"Her icy exterior is all she has to protect herself. Eva does not possess coping skills and she doesn't know how to handle even normal situations. Once the barrier around her that makes her untouchable is broken and she's left vulnerable... Then what? What will she do? She won't know what to do, and so, she'll try to make a new shell and hide in it. Running away and hiding solves nothing... That's something I've learned the hard way."

Having nothing else to say, Naesala also left the room, closing the door behind him. Lorazieh sighed, rubbing his temples. Finding that he was worn out, Lorazieh decided to retreat to the comfort of his bed.

"...But you must understand, Naesala... A diamond does not become a diamond over night... And the most precious of diamonds take the longest to form. Before a diamond becomes a true diamond, it is only a jagged rock. It is very hard and very rough around the edges. But if you take the time to handle it with care, clean it, work on it, and polish it... Then it will become a smooth gem, and you will finally be able to see its true beauty. I believe that Evelyn is much like a diamond.

"Right now, Evelyn is only a jagged rock. Like rock, she is very rough on the surface... But inside, like a diamond, she is very gorgeous. If someone can manage to break through to her, work with her, and help her become everything she was meant to be... If someone is willing to fix her up, the way you would fix up a jagged rock... Then surely, Evelyn will shine just like a genuine diamond.

"Her true beauty and value are sleeping, dormant inside of her... Waiting for someone to break through her surface and bring it to light."


"You've been acting so cold towards me lately, Reyson. So cold, you even refuse to listen to a thing I say. Could it be because... You now know that I'm romantically involved with Leanne?" Naesala folded his arms, watching the White Prince carefully.

"You're choosing to hate me because I'm taking your little sister from you... Right?"

Almost as though he had been slapped in the face, Reyson's head jerk up. "...What did you just say?" He growled at Naesala. The Black King captured the White Prince's gaze with one of his own for a moment, as though searching the depths of his soul to confirm something. The intensity of Naesala's gaze took Reyson aback. He felt his anger, no match for the piercing gaze of the Royal Raven, dissipate.

"...Either way, I don't care. I know I still have yet to completely earn your trust back after what has happened... But I love Leanne, and that's that. And if you really love Mihara... You would let go of your feelings towards the Feline-Avian War. If you and Ranulf were to follow in the footsteps of your fathers... Mihara might end up facing the same fate as Vivian did. Maybe that's why... Ranulf chooses not to stand in your way." Naesala began to turn and walk away from Reyson.

"Are you insinuating that I would put Mihara's life in danger over something so trivial?" Reyson narrowed his eyes. Surprisingly, he didn't feel anger for such an accusation – He felt disbelief. How could Naesala think something like that? Did he really have no faith in him at all?

Naesala stopped, responding to the Royal Heron without turning to look back at him. "...That's a good question. Would you?"

That same scene kept playing in Reyson's head.


And again...

And again...

And again.

He clutched his fist, feeling his mouth tighten into a firm line.

With a deep sigh, the White Prince sat up with a sigh before running a hand through his long blonde hair. He was in his royal chambers, lying on his king-sized bed. Even though he was now back in Serenes, Reyson couldn't help but to feel a little homesick. He loved his country with all his heart and aspired to some day become the next king, and to be as great a ruler as his father and Tibarn combined. Even so... Serenes itself was more a sanctuary than a home to him.

He loved the Country of the Hawks just as equally... An equal portion of his heart belong to Phoenicis

Phoenicis is where he spent so much of his time and rebuilt his life after the Serenes Massacre... Where he created so many memories and learned modern tongue... Where he met the ones most important to him and gained so much experience and knowledge about the world as a whole...

And where he fell in love.

Hearing the sound of someone shift around, Reyson turned to see Leanne sitting across the room. He had been so absorbed in his own thoughts, he'd forgotten his sister's company. "...You know, you don't have to stay here and keep me company, Leanne." Reyson finally said to the White Princess. "I know... But I want to." Leanne replied. "Hmph... I thought since you like Naesala so much, you'd rather be with him." Reyson sneered. Internally, Reyson twitched. He sounded like a jealous little brat.

"...Brother, I have been watching you this whole time, and you've looked so... Irritated. And earlier when we traveling, you suddenly got so mad at Naesala... What is wrong?" Leanne asked, walking towards her sibling and sitting beside of him. She was hoping the two of them would be able to talk and work out whatever was upsetting her dear brother.

"Nothing is wrong with me." Reyson muttered. "Yes, there is. I can see it - As clear as day. Please talk to and confide in me." Leanne pleaded. "There is nothing to talk to or confide in you about." Reyson insisted. "Then why have you been treating Naesala the way you have? Why have you been so angry lately?" Leanne demanded. "Whatever is wrong, surely it can be resolved if we all sit down and talk about it. I think it's a bit unfair to Naesala that you've been - "

"Of course you're sticking up for him. Of course he's the innocent on here." Reyson jerked away, standing up. "I didn't have a problem until you kept pestering me! I was just fine before you kept trying to pry! Now, I'm really mad! Since you seem to care so much, do you still wish to know what's been bothering me? Do you, Leanne?"

After a few moments of Leanne remaining silent, Reyson continued. "My problem is Naesala - And everything about him! We keep trusting him, and trusting him, and trusting him, yet all he does is take advantage of our trust and hurt us even more... Every single time! I had it with him after the massacre in Phoenicis! He betrayed us, and even more, he betrayed Tibarn... Because of him, so many lives were lost!

"I don't want to forgive him a single more time for the things he's done... He's utterly despicable! And yet... And yet, you seem to trust him with your entire heart, Leanne! You seem to love him! And even worse... That traitor thinks he has the right to love you... To take you away from me!" Reyson shouted at Leanne, shocking her. Realizing that he had been getting to emotional, Reyson immediately calmed himself and dropped his arms. He lowered his eyes, his long blonde bangs hiding them as he began to talk in a softer tone.

"I'm sorry for yelling at you, Leanne... It's just... How can I ever trust Naesala again, after such a low blow? I keep finding the strength to forgive and try to have faith in him... And every time - every single time - he smashes it. How can I be sure he won't do the same to you... How can I be sure he won't hurt my precious little sister? I care about you so much, Leanne...! If Naesala were to ever hurt you... If he were to ever take you away from me... I would never be able to forgive or trust him. Never, ever again."

"Reyson..." Leanne whispered. Before the White Prince could respond, his younger sibling threw herself into his arms and embraced him in a tight hug, surprising him. "Somehow... It makes me so happy... And so relieved... To know that this is why you're so upset. I was so scared that you disapproved so much of my relationship with Naesala that you hated us now... But really, it's only because you care that much! You don't want me to get hurt... And you don't want to forgive Naesala again only to end up hurt by him once again." Leanne felt tears of relief come to her eyes.

"You still care about Naesala... You still look up to him. He's still just like a big brother to you, isn't he? That's why it devastates you so badly when Naesala does things that makes him seem like a bad person, right? But, Reyson... Empress Sanaki told me the truth about Naesala and the massacre in Phoenicis. He didn't mean for it to happen... He didn't even want to let it occur! But he just had to. Back during the Continental War, that no good Senator Lekain forced Naesala into the Blood Contract, just like the one he forced Prince Pelleas into.

"Naesala had no choice but to listen to Senator Lekain... It was for the sake of Kilvas. He didn't want to betray anyone's trust, but he just had to... His duty as King requires him to act in the best interest of his people - not himself - at all times. Naesala was only doing what any true and benevolent king would for his people."

"...Is that what he told you? How do you know he wasn't lying or just making up an excuse for his actions?"

"Because he wasn't the one who told me. Empress Sanaki did."

"Sanaki... As if I can even trust her to be a worthy source of information. I still haven't forgiven her, either."

"Brother, please... Don't hold a grudge against Naesala or Empress Sanaki. What I speak is the truth."

"How can I believe that? How can I simply take your word for granted, when not even you can guarantee what you've been told is the truth?"

"You're right... I can't guarantee that Empress Sanaki didn't lie to for my own sake, or for Naesala's. But I believe it to be the truth, because she is a very trustworthy person. I believe them both, because they have both proved themselves to be worthy of my trust."

"...Phoenicis is even more of a home to me than Serenes is, Leanne. For the second time in my life, my home was nearly destroyed... That's why it isn't easy to just accept what you're saying. The only way I'll believe it... Is if I go to Naesala and ask him myself."

Much to his sister's dismay, Reyson pulled away and turned his back, leaving the room. Once he reached the door, he stopped. "...I honestly want to believe that what Sanaki told you to be the truth, Leanne. I want to find a way to be able to forgive Naesala and work towards trusting him again. I don't know whether it's because I've been hurt by him one too many times... Or if I'm just not good enough at heart to smile and forget. Either way... I can't forgive Naesala and move forward yet. Not without this last bit of closure."

With that, the White Prince left the room.


She never bothered to use these things. Her appearance never mattered to her - So long as she was properly clothed, she didn't care what she wore. She couldn't care less what anyone else thought of her.

Wolves didn't need to car, she had always told her herself. A wolf's prey wouldn't care what the wolf looked like as it was being made the wolf's next meal. A wolf wouldn't care what another wolf looked like as they went out on a run with their pack.

She never bothered with such trivial things...

So why had seeing the large piece of glass suddenly compelled her to look at her reflection?

Eva was currently in one of the royal chambers. She had originally only came into the room in order to be alone and cool off from her conflict with Naesala, and now that she was all calm, the guardian had planned to leave and go see if the Heron King required her assistance.

But then, she saw the mirror.

Slowly, Eva approached the rolleable full body mirror that was centered in the middle of the room against the wall. It hadn't been so long that she wouldn't recognize herself, but this would definitely be the first time she would really look at herself. Stopping before the mirror, Eva examined the image that she saw reflected.

Short green hair...

Crystal blue eyes...

Creamy white skin...

A lean, feminine frame...

Slowly, Eva gently touched her reflection, running her fingers down the length of the glass.

"Do not compare me to those cretins. I am nothing like them."

"Who are you trying to convince, Eva? Me... Or yourself?"

Anger and resentment began to build inside of her again. "I look just like them... I look just like one of those damned humans..." Eva whispered, balling her fist. Everywhere she looked, there was the resemblance of a beorc within her own reflection as she continued to stare into the mirror.

"Hating beorc for what they are when you - "

Suddenly, the blue-eyed woman slammed her fist into the glass and shattered the mirror, sending large shards flying everywhere. Immediately regretting her outburst, Eva clutched her right arm as her own blood began to ooze down her arm. Not caring about the dangerous mess she had just made or the fact that she was quickly losing a decent amount, Eva slowly slid to her knees and let the blood run, ignoring the pain.

There could be no greater pain than what she experienced only moments ago, when she was forced to accept the truth in the Black King's words.

"Why did you just do that?"

Cursing silently for letting herself be caught off guard, Eva jerked her body towards the door and began to growl deeply in her throat. She sounded like an angry, feral animal - And that was exactly what she was. However, the one that she saw at the door happened to be one of the Heron Royals, who raised his hands in defense. Deciding there was no threat, Eva backed down and turned away.

Reyson didn't even know what he was doing. He had been looking for Naesala and happened to be a few rooms downs when he had heard something break... That's why he had come to check it out. But now that knew, what was keeping him? He didn't even know this woman. What she did was her own business. And yet... Something inside him stirred. He couldn't leave her like that... He just couldn't.

Without bothering to explain himself, Reyson walked up to Eva and began to pick up the glass. "...I can clean this up." Eva insisted. She began to pick up shards of glass, but Reyson blocked her hands, "Stop. You'll make the bleeding worse." He was referring to her badly cut right hand. "...You wish for me to stop it because you're sensitive to the smell." Eva said bluntly, as though she were reminding herself.

Reyson shook his head as he continued to carefully pick up the glass, "Normal herons can't stand the smell and sight of blood and violence, but Leanne and I are used to it. We aren't fond of it, but that's something you have to get used to when you choose to engage in battle. I want you to stop it because there's no point in further hurting yourself or continuing to let it run."

After cleaning up the guardian's mess, the White Prince pulled out a small roll of white bandages, a tiny glass bottle of medicinal herbs, and a white cloth from his pocket. "If your cuts start hurting, you should put this on them. They'll help with the pain and prevent infection." Reyson informed as he dropped it in her left hand. "Let me see your right hand. I'll take care of wrapping it for you." He held out his hand to Eva. He had no idea why... But he just really wanted to help this girl. Yes, her appearance was a very strong and rough one... But somehow, to him, it her seem that much more fragile.

Eva looked at Reyson suspiciously, not afraid to show how much she didn't trust him. He could only laugh. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to make it better. I promise. You can trust me." The Heron Prince tried to convince her. Still seeming to be unsure, Eva slowly held her hand out to Reyson. "You're probably wondering why I carry this around... Well, seeing as I'm a heron and not as fortunate as my father was, I'm unable to fight. All I can do when I enter a battle is sing galdrar and try not to get in the way. But I wanted to be more useful, so I learned how to wrap wounds." Reyson explained as he began to work on Eva's hand.

"My father, King Lorazieh... He was very lucky. Probably the only heron ever who's been able to step outside of the lines of his nature. I imagine he must have went through so many agonizing ordeals in order to learn how to use force and fight, none the less become such a skilled swordsman... I could never do that. I remember once, when I was being held hostage before the Mad King's War, I punched this horrible man named Oliver... And cracked three bones in my hand. Still, I assure you, it felt good to hit that monster.

"My father was so amazing in his prime... I'm actually very envious. He was everything I aspire to be and more... Serenes deserves a king like him. Sometimes, I feel as though I'll never be a fitting king for this nation, because his shoes are far too large for me to be able to fill. Still... If I get the throne instead of my older brother, I'll do the best job I possibly can."

One way or another, Reyson found talking to the guardian to be... Comforting. She didn't respond or say anything, but the look in her eyes... He could tell she was really listening and taking in everything he was saying. "Heh, look at me rambling on like this... Forgive my rudeness - I haven't even properly introduced myself yet. My name's Reyson. By now, you've probably figured out that I am the second prince of Serenes. Your name is Eva, right?"

Once Reyson realized he wasn't going to get a response, he reluctantly continued. "...Father told me a little bit about you earlier. You're something similar to his secretary. He told me that you've been working for him in the palace since the Serenes Massacre. I suppose the reason we haven't met until now is because you seem to keep to yourself."

Still, Eva refused to talk. The Heron Prince sighed. What the hell was he trying to accomplish, sitting her talking to this girl and bandaging her arm? She was just wasting his time. "Why won't you talk to me?" He finally demanded. "...Because I did not feel obligated to respond. There was no need. I have nothing to say to you. I don't even understand why you're bothering to help me. It isn't necessary." Eva replied coldly.

"Yeah? Well, that makes the two of us. Something about you is just so... I don't know how to explain it... Ah, forget it. Never mind. Since you refuse to tell me anything about yourself... Will you at least explain why you broke the mirror?" The green-eyed heron asked. "...It was because I hated what I saw reflected." The blue-eyed wolf muttered, realizing how childish her answer sounded. If that was her only reason, she could have easily turned away instead of breaking it, causing such a mess, and hurting herself.

"Really? That's why?" She heard Reyson say, prepared to be reprimanded. But instead of the stern scolding she expected, Reyson gently held Eva's chin and forced her to look at him, "You shouldn't feel that way... Because all I see when I look at you is a beautiful young lady. There's nothing there for you to hate. I don't hate what I see."

"Do you think I'm pretty?"

"Hm? What's driven you to ask a question like that?"

"Do you. Think. I am. Pretty?"

"Heh. No, Eva. I don't think you're pretty."

"I see..."

"Don't walk away from me, Eva."

"...! Let me go! I don't want to sit in your lap!"

"Why not? You never protest any other time."

"You don't think I'm pretty, so that must mean I'm ugly. I'd hate to keep my hideous face in your sight."

"You're right - I don't think you're pretty. To me, Evelyn, you are beautiful... To me, you are the most precious girl in the world."

"...I don't need your help. I can bandage my arm myself." Eva jerked away from Reyson, confusing him. She looked upset... Had she taken his compliment the wrong way? It wasn't as if he meant anything by it... "I was almost finished... What's wrong? Did I say something to upset you?" The green-eyed prince asked. "...You said something someone who used be very important to would have said... A long time ago." Eva whispered.

"I wouldn't say anything I would later come to regret if I were you, dear Evelyn. You know what they say... Let sleeping dogs lie."

At the door stood the Black King himself.

"Naesala... Why do you keep running into me today?" Eva gave him a cold glare. "Hm, I don't know... Maybe it's destiny? What a blessing, I know." Naesala crossed his arms with a smirk. "If I am destined to be stuck with you, then surely it is a curse, and not a blessing." Eva retorted sharply. "Ooh, someone's still mad. You'll forgive me sooner or later... You always do." Naesala responded in a matter-of-factly tone. "'I'll forgive you sooner or later'? You sound so sure of yourself." Eva scoffed.

"I am sure of myself. You care and could never hate me... And you know it."

"If that's what you want to believe... Ignorance is bliss, I suppose."

"Heh... You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?"

"Why do you always try to get on my nerves... The moment you see a line, you try to cross it; you are a habitual line crosser, Naesala."

"I know I am. I already knew that piece of information... It's nothing new."

"Just for once, Naesala... It would not kill you to not be so cruel. There is a such thing as shutting your mouth - You should try it some time."

Eva stood up and shoved past him, purposely hitting his arm with her shoulder as she blew him off and left the room. "Be kinder to you... But Eva, why would I do that... When you've chosen to make things this way? You know what you have to do... To make things go back to the way they once were." Naesala murmured. "...I really don't understand the relationship between the two of you." Reyson sighed. "Heh... I wouldn't expect you to. It's something that only we can understand... Only that girl and I." Naesala smiled bitter sweetly.

"Anyway... Leanne told me that you were looking for me, so I thought I'd try to make myself more... Find-able. What did you need?"

"I wanted to ask you something." Reyson stood up. "Is that so? Well, shoot away." Naesala gave the young prince his attention. "...It's about the Phoenicis Massacre that occurred two years ago." Reyson said, making Naesala's expression become grim and solemn. "I see... I knew you'd ask one of these days. What about it?" The raven sighed.

"Leanne told me that... That the real reason you betrayed Tibarn and the rest of us and caused the massacre in Phoenicis is because you were in a Blood Contract with Lekain. Is that the truth, Naesala? Don't you dare lie to me."

"...Who told her?"

"Why does it matter..."

"Who. Told. Her?" Naesala demanded again, his voice sharper and more stern this time. He was looking at the ground with his arms crossed now. "...She said Sanaki did. Why?" The laguz prince inquired. "I see... I should have known Sanaki would tell Leanne... Damn." Naesala sighed again. "Yes... What you say is the truth. I guess there's no point in trying to deny it now... Since you and Leanne both already know. I'm getting the suspicion that tricky empress let something slide to Tibarn, as well... She knows about the Blood Contract because of Micaiah and Sothe. They managed to take back and destroy my Blood Contract before I met the same ill fate as Pelleas... But sadly, not soon enough for the people of Phoenicis to be saved." Naesala answered.

"If you speak of the truth... Then why didn't you tell everyone this in the first place and clear his name?" It was Reyson's turn to demand answers. Naesala closed his eyes regretfully. "Because... I knew that nothing I said could justify what I'd done. No matter the reason... Because of me, lives had been lost. I'm not sure if this is an attempt to repent or not... But I've decided to take the blame and hate. I just feel... Like it's the right thing for me to do. Someone has to take responsibility, and that someone has to be me."

"I... I see..." Reyson trailed off, not sure what to say. "The bottom line is, Reyson... I've had to do a lot of things that I knew perfectly well would hurt those around me. I've had to do things to make others lose trust in faith in me. After all the things I've done... After all the hurt I've caused... It just isn't fair to except anyone to trust me ever again. I understand that... And it's completely fine by me. I don't regret anything... I did what I had to do." Naesala looked Reyson directly into his eyes.

"I already knew that this was a main reason you've been treating me the way you have. You don't have to apologize for anything... I understand."

"...You're right. You have done a lot to hurt the ones who care about you the most... You have done a lot to lose the trust of those same people. Especially me, Naesala. So much, I don't even know what to think about you anymore... I don't know what I should say. So I won't lie and tell you everything's okay... Because whether it's fair or not, it just isn't. Even though you had your reasons... Even though you had to do what you had to do... Still, a part of me will never be able to forgive you for the massacre in Phoenicis. I'm sorry... But that's just the way it is." Reyson began.

"Even so... That doesn't mean I can't forgive you... Or at least try. I'll admit... Maybe I won't be able to forgive you right off the back. But for Leanne's sake... For my own sake... I want to be able to forgive you. That's why, Naesala... You're going to have to earn my trust back - Slowly, but surely."

"Heh... Alright, kid. I can't promise that I'll never do anything to betray your trust ever again... But I can promise you that I'll do my best to regain your trust and never hurt or betray you again. You, Tibarn... And especially, Leanne." Naesala nodded. "Now... Shouldn't you be getting on to bed? Little nestlings like you should be asleep. They need their energy and strength, because they're too young to be able to stay up past their beddie-bye."

"I am not a nestling, Naesala! Don't treat me like a child!" Reyson glared. "It's okay, Reyson - Don't be ashamed. You're completely dependent on me, just like a little nestling... I know." Naesala smirked teasingly. "If you keep teasing me, I'll punch you!" The Heron Prince threatened. "Yeah, and risk breaking three bones again? Or even more? I don't think so, kiddo. Not while Tibarn will skin my hide for not taking proper care of you." Naesala snorted.

"I can take care of myself! I don't need you or Tibarn to do it for me!"

"Yeah, whatever, Reyson. You keep telling yourself that."

"Grrr...! I hate you, Naesala!"

"Love you too."

The two royal laguz continued to argue and bicker as they left the room behind... Along with their problems and differences.

Somewhere in my heart, I was so glad to hear you say those words to me, Naesala. Because truth be told... I'm ready for things to be the same between us, just like the good old days. So until then... I'll be waiting.

Me: Whoot! I'm done with this chapter! I actually wanted about 2,000 more words... But I'll take this =p

SWD: Damn straight you will!

Me: I hope that everyone had a great turkey day today! There's so much for everyone to be thankful for, besides the large amount of food... I hope everyone truly loves and appreciates everything they have! One thing I appreciate is my best friend, SylphWindDancer, who is also one of my greatest inspirations and the reason I started writing in the first place. I just want to say that I love her super much and she's the bestest best friend a girl like me could ask for and I appreciate her for everything she's done for me, which is why I'm updating today... But she best not get hifey, 'cause I don't know about updating on Christmas! We will see... We will talk. Lol!

SWD: ...Excuse me, ma'am? (wraps arms around my shoulders) Come with me... Let's... Let's take a little walk... Shall we? =) (completely innocent)

Me: ...Ohmahgah... (begins to say a prayer and hopes she isn't killed) ;_;

Tormod: Yikes! They about to pull a Miroku and Hachi (from Inuyasha)! Don't worry, dear reviewers... I'm pretty sure she'll feel very... Er... Adamant... About updating on Christmas once SWD finishes with her 0=)

Rayne: Read and review, please!