Dias, bathed and attired in fresh clothes, was standing by one of the bay windows of Fort Lyvalle's breakfast room, reflecting on the events of the past and its consequences for the future. The Ragu family farm once stood on Lyvalle land; he had been Shavra's liegeman since his days of sevalle training at the Fort. The Lady Kyra had taken him under her wing as a squire, teaching him the ways of Kuruda's Court before he even crossed into the city.

"Because some day, Dias," Lady Kyra had told him, "When you are a sevalle, you will be required to attend the Four Devas ceremony in Juliannes. It will be to your great advantage if you can carry yourself as the young man of good breeding that you are, rather than a rough and ready fighter."

So Dias submitted to Lady Kyra's instructions with good grace, for she was a gentle teacher. Shavra was his special charge, much like his baby sister, and having her as his special charge whenever he reported to Lady Kyra was second nature to him.

Then came the awful day when his parents started to sicken from a mysterious disease, with the sevalle tournament so very close, and Dias as ready as ever he would be to capture the title. By the time his parents succumbed, the tournament had come and gone – and then hardly had they been buried when Elle herself began to sicken.

There was no question of continuing to train for the next sevalle tournament after it became known how much it would cost to heal her. Dias' original plan, to ask the Lady Kyra to foster Elle, was now totally out of the question, for he dare not risk bringing contagion into the Fort. Lord Avedon offered to help with the costs, out of appreciation for Dias' skills and his own affection for the lad – but Dias insisted to being enrolled as a valle, on the regular payroll, and would accept no other arrangement.

On occasion, Lord Avedon would lend Dias' skills as a weapons-maker to the Kuruda Army, where the young valle also promptly distinguished himself as a fighter who knew his business. It was there that Dias would meet Scarface, Crimson and Kain – the four of them forming a quartet to strike mortal fear into the heart of the enemy.

It was in the field that Crimson laid claim to him, in a relationship that endured through the rough and tumble of war and the season of uneasy peace that followed. Once, Crimson accompanied Dias back to Fort Lyvalle, the latter having broken his arm in battle and ordered by the doctor to take some time off from nearly a year of near-constant fighting. Lord Avedon had taken one look at the pair as they entered the Fort's great hall, and grinned broadly as Shavra launched herself bodily at Dias first, then, with slightly more decorum, greeted Crimson.

"Well, Kai," chuckled Lord Avedon at his best friend, "I see you've met our Shavra's liegeman. One of the best valles we have, and a good one to have at your back."

"Indeed he is," agreed Crimson, scooping Shavra up in his arms. "He goes on missions not even a sevalle would touch, and comes out with hardly a scratch. Definitely a credit to Lyvalle Hold."

"I'm glad you're friends," piped Shavra, surveying Dias with happy eyes from her new vantage point. "My two favorite people in all the world, after Mama and Papa. Will you stay long with us, Kai-sama?"

"Not this time, poppet – the King has need of me in Kuruda tomorrow. But I'll be back as soon as I can."

Dias sighed, remembering how his broken arm had kept him at the Fort with Lady Kyra, the day Avedon's brother Sethor murdered him in a mountain ambush. One soldier managed to escape with the news, and it had fallen to Lady Kyra to bundle up Shavra and order Dias to flee with her to Kuruda City, there to become the King's ward. Dias had left with a heavy heart, knowing the odds against Lady Kyra holding out against Sethor were very slim – but Shavra's life, as true heir of Fort Lyvalle, had to be preserved at all costs.

He had done his duty well, arriving with Shavra at the palace royal almost a week after Sethor seized Fort Lyvalle, killing the Lady Kyra to make his conquest complete. After securing the Lady Holder's welfare, he was off as a valle in the Kuruda army, continuing to earn more money for Elle's medical expenses. From a distance, he learned of Shavra's progress as the King's ward. After his retirement to Blorathan, Crimson approached him on Shavra's sixteenth birthday to ask for a sword worthy of her formal investiture as Lady Holder and Lioness of Kuruda. Dias responded by producing Lyorax – the Lion's Wing – a blade so in tune with its mistress that people swore it was enchanted.

It was with Lyorax that Shavra defeated her uncle Sethor in open combat, showing herself worthy of the training that Crimson had given her, transforming into the swordmistress Lyonlight as she dealt the death blow. Crimson had relayed the tale with pride, and something else in his voice that planted a hope in Dias' head.

Knowing there was little time left for him, he had wondered how to secure the futures of those he loved best. For Elle, his sister, there was Gau, whom he had asked to be her protector against the temptation of the dark. For Shavra, there would hopefully be Crimson. Dias chuckled to himself, thinking he had never thought to live to be a matchmaker for two people who obviously loved each other but were too conscious of duty to let their heart's desire have a say in their decisions.

When Shavra entered on Crimson's arm, one glance told him all he needed to know, and taking a goblet of wine from the table, he lifted it up in salute to them both. Crimson bowed solemnly, but Shavra's arms soon slipped around the Black Wing in a fierce hug.

Over her silvery head, Dias's emerald eyes met Crimson's sapphire ones. At what he saw there, his arms tightened protectively about Shavra, making her look upwards from his face to Crimson's and back again.

"Thank you, Dias-sama," she said, her amethyst eyes shining with unlooked-for happiness. Dias smiled tenderly down at his former charge, and tapped the tip of her nose lightly.

"Love is the only coin by which a love such as yours can truly be repaid, poppet," said the Black Wing gently, the old endearment learned from the Lady Kyra slipping easily from his lips. "Now, then, no tears, Sha-chan!"

"You must excuse me, my dearest Black Wing," smiled Shavra through the sudden moisture in her eyes. "It would seem that being so loved turns one into a watering pot."

"Take care of him for me, Sha-chan," Dias murmured into the silver-gilt hair, as she clung to him in gratitude for the gift of love he had given her. "When the time comes, dearest Lady Holder, keep our Kai close to your heart and love him till the grief of parting eases and he can smile at life again. Will you do this for me?"

"I promise, Dias-sama," came the solemn reply, and with another nod, Dias looked over at Crimson, emerald eyes glowing greenly.

"As for you, legendary womanizer of Kuruda," he drawled, in an imitation of Scarface that had them both bursting into laughter, so excellently was it done, "I need not repeat my words of this afternoon a second time."

"No. There will be no need of repetition, Dias. I have looked well to myself, and found my heart's delight," came the quiet, chuckling answer, and Shavra nodded her agreement, gesturing for them to take their places at the table.

Little did they know how close tragedy hovered about them, or how soon the Lady Holder would be called upon to fulfill her promise to the Black Wing.

//owari//

Author's Note: The canon continuation of this story can be found in Episodes 21 and 22 of the Shadow Skill TV anime series.