Uploaded on: August 10th, 2012 – Here's to hoping for another manga update, and one that shows Lavi for once

Of Swords, Spells, and Karma

Chapter Nine: In Town

Fou looked taken aback by Lala's words. "What do you mean?"

"Well, earlier, I saw you look sad or worried when Tim mentioned Lavi. Why is that?"

Fou sighed and bent down so she was level with the kid. "Lala, I'm just worried about Bookman because I talked to him a little while ago, and he seemed worried about Lavi. It's like how your dad is sad and misses you after you've been gone for a long time."

"Really?" Lala blinked her brown eyes. "I didn't know that."

"Well, everyone's sad when they miss someone. It's normal, Lala."

~x.x.x.x.x~

"I know papa is sad sometimes when he's thinking about mom," Lala admitted. "I see it when he doesn't think I'm looking. But why would he miss me? I'm not going anywhere."

Fou ruffled Lala's adorable head. "Parents naturally miss their children. I think that Lavi should get a note back to Bookman to let him know that he's okay, don't you agree?"

Lala nodded. "Yeah, he should. I'm going to pick some peaches for dad on the way back."

"Atta girl." Fou straightened up. "I'll help you since you can't reach the tall branches." Lala pouted at that and Fou took her hand. "Come on you."

The two walked hand in hand back to their town, picking peaches on their way, and chatting of simple pleasures that brought smiles to both their faces. Soon they arrived at their destination. They separated at the front of Lala's house, and Fou returned Lala's basket, tucking the picked flowers into the front of her shirt pocket. Before she left, Lala gave Fou one last hug and then proceeded to scamper home into the waiting arms of her father.

"Thanks for the flowers," Fou called after her and continued the trek to her bookstore.

Entering, she instantly sensed something was wrong, and her eyes swept around, alert and tense. Nothing seemed out of place, but checking her magical security, she confirmed that someone had entered while the shop was closed. Fou frowned; the signature wasn't of anyone she knew and from the looks of it, the intruder wasn't gone, either.

Cautiously, she edged forward, and halted in her tracks.

~x.x.x.x.x~

"Papa, I'm home!" Lala surged over to where her father sat at his table whittling away at a block of wood, depositing her basket by the door.

"Lala!" The weathered man put down his carving knife and enveloped his daughter into a hug. "My little songbird, there you are. Where did you go today?"

"I went out for a walk and picked a couple flowers for Fou, Papa." Lala told him, sitting on his lap. "I also talked to Timothy today."

"The young prince?" Guzol looked at his daughter curiously. "What did you two talk about?"

"Well, don't tell anyone, but Prince Kanda's gone." Lala told him in a conspiratorial whisper. "And Timothy's sad because he misses him."

"Prince Kanda's gone? How terrible. What happened?" Lala's father asked, genuinely concerned.

Lala could only shrug helplessly. "I don't know. All I know is that he's gone."

"That's very unfortunate." Guzol glanced at his pile of carved wood. It was unfinished, but beginning to take shape. Not liking the thought of his daughter sad, he said, "Why don't I make something for the young lad?"

Lala looked up at him with wide eyes. "You would do that, Papa?" He nodded at her and she beamed at him. "Oh! I forgot." Lala reached into the front pocket of her dress and took out four peaches and put it onto the table. "Fou helped me pick some on the way home."

"Did she now? That's very thoughtful of her." Guzol said, taking a bite out of the peach. "Remind me to thank her when we see her next time."

"I will!"

"Darling, would you like to go buy us some bread from the bakery?"

"Ok!" Guzol handed Lala some coins. Taking it, she hopped off his lap and skipped out the door, grabbing the basket on her way out.

~x.x.x.x.x~

Tyki was rummaging amongst some volumes of text when he heard the bell on the front door sound. He froze and his senses immediately went high on alert. The signature of the person was similar to the magic hidden in the shop. He knew then that it was the owner, and only a matter of time before he was discovered. Well, only if he let it happen. He strode out of the room boldly, and upon exit snapped his fingers.

Tyki walked around the orange-haired woman. She was frozen in place, eyes unmoving, not registering his presence around her, for he had frozen the time around the bookstore. So this was the owner of the store. Not what he had expected, considering her youthful appearance, but also nothing to be too worried about. From what he could tell of the store, she was mediocre in magic. That, or she was extremely skilled at hiding her prowess, but he doubted it.

Pressing his index finger to her forehead he was able to access her most recent memories. Bored from the day's events he saw, he flipped through the days quickly, scanning to find the information he thought she had. 'Ah ha.' Tyki finally found what he wanted. This woman, Fou, had seen and met with Prince Kanda and that redheaded servant from the castle. 'Curious,' he thought, and instantly wanted to delve deeper into her mind to discover more information. Unfortunately his skills didn't extend that far and he didn't have the time for it either. The most he could do was read two weeks of memories and feelings associated with certain people. If he wanted to go further he would need the help of a specialist. Or, he could do something entirely different.

He withdrew his index finger and let out a low whistle. There, from the point of his finger emerged a purple and black butterfly. It fluttered in the air before landing on the tip of his outstretched finger, wings a-twitch.

"My delightful Teez," he crooned at the creature, preening its wings gently. "I've got a task for you, darling." He brought it in front of Fou's face. "This woman. I want to you spy on her for me, dearest. It is of the utmost importance. But do be careful. I would so hate it if you were caught." He tickled the creature's small chin. "Do we have an understanding?" The small insect gave what seemed like a nod and a small smile grew across his face. Tyki tossed it in the air, finger pointing at the clock on the wall above the desk placed in the shop. The butterfly fluttered through the air up high to the clock. Upon reaching its destination, the butterfly melted into the wall, the majority of its body hidden by the clock, and only a purple wing could be seen. It was now effectively part of the environment.

Satisfied, Tyki turned his attention back to the owner of the shop. "Let's see where you lead us next, shall we?"

Finished with his business, Tyki exited the shop, snapping his fingers as he went, thereby relinquishing back time to the bookstore. From inside, Fou blinked, feeling somewhat dizzy. Tyki walked down the road, passing by a little blonde girl as he went.

~x.x.x.x.x~

Lala exited her house, her basket swinging on her arm as she skipped towards the bakery. Nearing Fou's bookstore, Lala paused for a moment, surprised to see a tall man with her friend through the window. He wasn't any one of the townspeople, that was for sure. However, seeing his posture made her think him a customer. Since Fou handled books of all varieties, she often got the strangest customers coming to visit. Lala began walking and ended up passing him by as he exited the shop. While she walked past she couldn't help but notice his distinctive features, handsome and well refined.

~x.x.x.x.x~

Fou blinked, suddenly feeling dizzy as if she was disoriented. Holding herself still, she counted up to five seconds, steadying herself. 'That was certainly strange,' she thought to herself, and continued to edge forward, going through all the rooms in her investigation. 'Huh. That's strange. I should have found something by now,' Fou thought, a frown creasing her forehead. She tapped into her magical surveillance only to discover that the presence of the intruder was gone. Well, not completely, for there was a faint sense of something lingering in the air. Yet, spinning around, she couldn't notice anything amiss in her store.

Determined not to be caught unawares for a possible second encounter, Fou renewed her surveillance around the entire building. Passing by some shelves, she looked up and saw the image of purple butterfly wing by her clock. 'Did I have a butterfly on my wallpaper before?' she wondered for a second, but finding nothing else unusual, she dismissed the minor detail, continuing onto the next room.

Finished, she nodded in satisfaction, pleased with herself. 'I can get Bookman to look over it the next time he comes over.' Fou glanced out her window. The sky was soon turning dark. It wouldn't be long before her guests returned, of that she had no doubt.

~x.x.x.x.x~

Bookman and Tsukikami returned to the town when night fell, but they did not enter Fou's shop. Instead, they walked past it and found her waiting for them by the edge of town with a small lantern lit.

"Bookman, Moon Hands, there you are." Fou straightened up. "I was wondering what took you so long."

"Castle business of course," Tsukikami told her.

The three of them abruptly stopped, Fou and Tsukikami had to adjust themselves so they would not bump into him.

"What is it?" Fou whispered.

"Have you found something?" Tsukikami asked, a hint of excitement in his voice.

Bookman bent down and touched the ground with his finger, testing. "A magical presence has been here. Foreign, but dark. A little bit sweet. And whimsical." He added after a moment. Fou and Tsukikami exchanged a confused glance at each other while Bookman started to scoop up some dirt into a bag.

"So where are the kids?" Tsukikami wondered aloud.

"My assumption is that they were taken by someone else, because all trace of them is gone from here."

Fou gasped. "So they were kidnapped?"

Bookman shrugged. "Probably. However, knowing the two of them, they may have escaped. There is no way to tell for certain unless we see it for ourselves or find them so they can retell their story."

"What do we do now?" Tsukikami asked.

"What can we do?" Bookman retorted. "I shall test theses in my lab. Maybe that Komui will be good for something this time as well."

Heading back into town, Fou told them of what she encountered earlier that day in the shop. Concerned, the two agreed to check her defense. However, they were unable to find anything unusual.

"If you think anything is wrong at all, contact us." Bookman told her sternly. "I'm afraid we may be dealing with some secret force, but it may be too soon to tell. Remember, no detail is too small to overlook."

"Yes, Bookman."

They left her then, hurriedly returning to the castle, eager to examine their findings.

~x.x.x.x.x~

"Take this to Komui," Bookman said, handing a bag of dirt to Tsukikami. "And see what you can do with this one yourself." He put another bag into Tsukikami's hand and walked down the corridor to his workshop.

Tsukikami had little trouble finding Komui, and once he explained the situation to the older man, Komui eagerly agreed to find out what he could. After that, Tsukikami went to his office and tried to figure out how to see the past.

In Bookman's workshop, Bookman carefully extracted the magical residue left over in the dirt. It was a difficult task, because he noticed that the original was stale and fading. A stronger, recent presence had also come flittering about.

'So I was right,' Bookman mused. 'There is a stronger opponent in play here. But who could it be? The Earl?' Having finished extracting the magic, he put them into separate vials. 'There is no sign of the Earl's presence... but if I'm right, it could just as well easily be a disciple... What of the island princess's advisor? I'll have to gather information, but if I'm right this castle will need all the defense it can get.' He studied them, taking note of the thin black tendrils mixed into the other colors, one of pink and the other of teal. 'Darkness, as I expected.' He glanced at the other vial he had set aside. Within that one was the pure red-orange-green of his apprentice's magic. A very faint, small dose, but one he had discovered amongst the other. With that, he could very easily locate the boy, provided he used magic. If not, it would still be helpful in faintly tracking the boy's location, since his magic was his essence. He had a map he used for these occasions, and the darkness in the other vials would be no problem since they were mere residues of harmless spells.

~x.x.x.x.x~

Lala returned from the bakery with two delicious loaves of sweetbread wrapped up in her basket.

"Papa I'm home!" Lala called as she did every time she returned to her house.

Guzol was where she had left him, at the family table, still whittling away at his block of wood. "What did you buy for us today?" he asked, setting down his knife and block.

"Sweetbread today, papa. It was on sale so it cost less than usual."

"Good girl. Let's set the table for dinner now."

While Guzol swept away all traces of his work, setting aside his tools on a nearby shelf, Lala got their dinner ready. Alongside the sweetbread she poured cups of milk and set down a peach on the side. The tasty fruit would be their dessert.

When they finished their meal and cleared the table, Guzol resumed his whittling and Lala, sitting across from him, folded her arms on the table and rested her head on them, watching her father work.

~X.x.X.x.X~

Guzol was a simple wood carver who lived a fairly simple and honest life. He had been married to his wife for twenty long years until a sickness took her away. But that was not before she gave him a beautiful daughter. He loved his daughter and did his best to raise her by himself with some help from his neighbors. It was a hard life, but one he wouldn't trade for another. While he experienced sorrow from the loss of his wife, their precious daughter brought the light back into his eyes, giving his life meaning.

Growing up, Lala had inherited features from her mother, including her talent of song. What she learned from her father was his habit of never taking something for granted. When she was five, Lala was playing outside of town by herself, going farther until she didn't recognize the area anymore. She kept, walking trying to find her way back, but only continued to get hopelessly loss. Before she could get panicked though, she heard a voice and followed it. There, she met another boy her age, with blue hair and brown eyes. It turned out he was lost as well and had been crying out for help because he had twisted his ankle and couldn't move around too much. That was when Timothy first met Lala.

"Hello. I'm Lala. Are you lost?"

The boy nodded, quieting his sniffles. "Uh-huh. I'm Timothy but you can call me Tim."

"I'm lost too, but Papa will find us." She smiled at him reassuringly, thinking the world of her father. "Want to play a game?"

Timothy nodded and the two forgot their immediate worries for some time.

Hours passed, but there was no sign of any other people. The sky was beginning to get dark now and the two five-year-olds started to get worried. No longer did they feel safe, jumping at the slight noises in the bushes.

"Lala, are you sure your dad's coming?" Timothy asked uncertainly.

"Yes, he will." Lala said determinedly, trying to be brave. "What about your papa?"

Timothy nodded. "He'll find us too. He's the king and he's probably got a gazillion people searching for us."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

Lala jumped at the sound of a rustling noise and pressed closer to Timothy, showing her fear. "What was that?" she whispered, nervous.

"Just the wind," Timothy told her reassuringly although he looked quite uncertain himself.

"Maybe we should call out for help some more," Lala suggested and the two started calling out, tiring themselves out.

"D-Don't cry." Timothy stammered when he saw Lala getting shaky.

"I'm cold," she whimpered.

"Me too, but we have to do something so we can be found."

"Like what?"

"I don't know." His shoulders slumped in defeat and he started quivering himself. "I don't know."

Lala was alarmed. "T-Tim, don't cry."

"But we're lost and no one will find us and then we'll get eaten!" Tim lost it and started to cry, his fear of never being found overtaking him.

Timothy hadn't helped matters by painting a gruesome picture but seeing him crying made Lala want to soothe him. "Shh. It'll be alright." Lala began to croon a tune softly. Her voice rose in the still air, higher and pure. Hearing her Timothy began to calm down and just listened to her. She continued to sing, her fears melting away as she took her mind off her fear.

"Where doth go the blind man wandering, far, far away~ Here doth comes a flash of warmth, leading, leading away~ The blind man goes, striding, striding away and comes upon a broken path~ I walk and walk, down this lonely road~ Will anyone help me find a path?"

Farther away, a man stopped moving, stark still. Then, he turned to the gathered people. "I hear her! I hear my little girl! This way!" He led them with confident strides, out of the village, singing out loudly as he did so.

"Which way doth the hunter go, trailing, trailing away~ A sign has marred the tree and tracking, tracking away~ He wanders through, always searching, searching away~ I walk and walk, down this lonely road~ Will anyone help me find a path?"

Farther away, Lala stopped her song, her ears straining out to a sound in the distance.

"What is it?" Timothy asked.

Lala turned to him with delight in her eyes. "It's Papa! I hear him!" Eagerly, she cleared her throat and began to sing the next verse of the song in a louder voice. Timothy watched her, fascinated

Together, two voices began to twine through the night:

"Where doth the blind man walking, walking far away find coming up the path~ A hunter as lonely as he is striding, striding far away until the seeing sees the blind~ And together they shout out a greeting, of hellos and safety~ Where, where doth thee go~ I go, go nowhere and everywhere~ Then would you like, to go, together with me~ The destination binds no hearts, spans no stars~ Together the blind man and the hunter searching, striding, tracking, leading, trailing, wandering~ Walk together on an adventure where time matters not~"

Just as the song ended, the adults crashed through the trees and Lala ran into the open arms of her father. "Papa!"

"Lala! Never go anywhere without first telling me, understand?" He held her close to him.

"Yes, Papa." Lala hugged him back just as fiercely.

"Timothy! There you are!" A taller blue-haired individual strode forward.

"Alma-nii-sama!" Timothy cried and hugged his brother in relief.

"You little rascal, I told you to stay with me!" Alma scolded. "We looked everywhere for you!"

Timothy looked at his feet. "Sorry, Alma."

Alma patted his back, eyes softening at the sight of his brother. "It's alright. As long as you promise to stick with us next time."

"I promise."

"Good. Now, are you hurt anywhere?" Alma looked over his brother carefully, and then picked him up when he found the twisted ankle.

With the two children found at last, everyone dispersed back into their homes without worry. The next day, Timothy came to her house with his older brother in tow, the latter formally thanking them for finding the young prince, giving them a small bag of coins for their help. Everyone in the town had been similarly gifted for their efforts.

"Thanks for finding me. You have a great voice." Timothy told Lala shyly.

"Thanks! I'm glad you were with me too." Lala replied also a bit shy.

"Um," Timothy kicked some dirt on the ground, not meeting her eyes. "I don't live around here, but do you want to be friends? I'll come and visit lots, I promise, and we can play anything you want!"

"Sure!" She reached forward and clasped his hands between hers. "We can be best friends! I've never had one before."

Timothy beamed at her. "Me either! Can we?" He looked up at his brother who nodded at him encouragingly.

Lala looked up similarly at her father who nodded, happy his daughter was making friends, and with a prince, no less! It was a fortune that didn't come often.

"Yay!" The two children hugged each other happily, and parted. While Timothy walked ahead of him, Alma stayed behind, looking Lala in the eye.

"Be a good friend to Tim for me, will you?" Lala nodded, her eyes wide and he ruffled her hair with a smile. "Thank you. I know he's in good hands. See you later, Lala!" Alma called as he joined his brother, departing from the town together.

From that day on, Timothy and Lala were the best of friends, no matter that one of them was poor and the other rich. For those two cared only about heart, something taught to them by their families.

~x.x.x.x.x~

With his knife and a block of wood, he could create works of art. Sure, they weren't all fine lines of perfect skill, but they had heart contained inside. Lala thought that was the best of any kind of work, admired her father greatly. She was often content to spend the day away just sitting down and watching her father create magic.

Although the two did not truly possess magic like that of known sorcerers, Lala was unworried. To her, the ability to make something out of nothing was a magic in itself, and she was proud of her father's hard work. Once, she had said so, defending her father from some traveling tourists who were en route to the Falaron Castle. Lala smiled as she recalled the incident. It had happened two years after she met Timothy, and they were seven years old.

~X.x.X.x.X~

Three men had arrived in town, and it was obvious from their looks and mannerism that they were outsiders. Tourists, they had been labeled, because of their admiration of some of the more beautiful decor of town.

In the marketplace, Guzol had been advertising his wares to the public. He sat on a spread of bright green cloth with many wooden carvings on display. Walking by, his carvings had caught the tourists' eyes. Unfortunately, it was shoddy compared to what they usually saw back home, so they began to make fun of him, thinking they were justified to do so because they were richer than him.

They were in the middle of harsh words when Lala arrived, rushing over to stop in front of her father as she heard their insults.

"Stop it!" she cried, with wide arms flung out.

"What'cha doing, girlie?" One of the men asked, peering down at her.

"Lala, don't." Guzol said from behind her, more worry in his tone now that she had arrived.

"Papa, what they say isn't true." Lala told him.

The second man laughed. "Girlie, this is none of your business. We're just helping out, you see? None of this stuff should even be on sale."

"No, this stuff is beautiful and better than anything you ever saw because it's from the heart!" Lala cried out. "My papa worked hard day and night to make these-you can't just trample on them like it's nothing!"

The third man snarled at her. "Oh, but I think you'll find that we can." He raised a foot above one of the wooden animals on display as if too stomp on it, and Lala hurriedly went forward and grabbed it. "You better git, girlie." He told her, and Lala was frightened but refused to back down.

"No, I won't," she said defiantly. "You go!"

"Why you-" he swung a fist at her and she shut her eyes, bracing for the pain to come.

"Lala!" From behind her, Guzol pulled his daughter back into his arms so that the swing of the other man's fist hit only air. He stood and glared at the tourist, putting Lala behind him. "Don't you dare put a hand on my daughter!"

"Don't talk back to your superiors, you piece of dirt!" The first man spat at Guzol, and the third man swung a fist at the commoner. It was held back by a hand accompanied by a voice, and the man looked in that direction.

"Hey there now. What's going on here?" A redheaded teen asked the stranger, and both Guzol and Lala sighed in relief upon seeing their savior.

"They need to be taught a lesson!" The man retorted, and tried to remove his fist from the other, but the teen held fast.

"And who would you be to administer that lesson?" A cool voice challenged, entering the arena. Unknown to the participants, they had garnered a crowd with their fight, and the two had stepped in to determine the cause, intervening when they thought it had gone far enough.

Regal in his common clothing, those dark blue eyes held only contempt for the strangers who had started this uprising . But common was still common to these ignorant and haughty people. "Us, of course. Do you think you're important, kid? Run along and let the adults handle business matters."

A collective gasp went around the crowd. How dare he talk to the prince like that? It was simply unheard of!

His jaw clenched tight and a flare of anger lit in his eyes. But before he could mouth off a word, the redhead stepped over and whispered something in his ear. A feral smile replaced the clenched jaw, and satisfied, the redhead turned back to the tourists.

"You are completely right!" he said with a smile. "For this you should head up to the castle and petition the king. You've been done a complete injustice and I'm sure the king will definitely take your side."

They looked at him suspiciously. "The King does that?"

He nodded emphatically. "Of course! All subjects are allowed to see the king or another royal to settle disputes or if they just want to see the king in person. Lucky for you, I know someone who knows someone who can put in a good word for you all."

"Really?" A calculating gleam showed in the second man's eyes.

"Of course! It's a Tuesday and the petition line is always open on a Tuesday."

The first man frowned. "But, it'll take us days to get there!"

"Nope. Despite this town being the third, it was built relatively close to the castle. If we start now, we'll have plenty of time to spare. Come on!"

The strangers followed the redhead and the blunet and the townspeople followed them, hardly willing to miss the action that would follow. Walking at a fast pace, they soon entered the city that the castle was housed in. The strangers wanted to slow down to admire the sights, but the blunet encouraged them not to lag. Before long, they found the line that led to the castle, and the redhead told them to wait in line.

"It won't be long now," he told them cheerfully. "We'll just go over to that someone and put in a word for you." They disappeared into the crowd, and the townspeople dispersed, walking around the city as they waited, for the tourists were at the end of the line, and the line was long.

After hours of waiting, the three were finally ushered into the castle's throne room. The townspeople went through a different entrance for visiting viewers, eager to see the verdict that the strangers would get. The three strode in, looked up, and collectively gasped at the sight they saw.

Sitting before them on the throne very lazily was the blunet who had led them there. The redhead stood a step below the throne with a piece of parchment held out in front of them.

"You!" they cried, and got hit over the head by the guard who had escorted them in.

"You'll show proper respect towards his highness!" The guard told them gruffly.

"He's the king?!" They cried in disbelief.

The guard scoffed. "Of course not. That's Prince Kanda on the throne, and you'll be quick about stating your business if you want to be heard. The prince is not a patient man."

"Enough." Kanda waved at the guard and he stepped back. "What brings these people here?"

Regaining himself, the second man spoke. "Your Highness, we have been done a grave injustice. We only hoped to have a pleasant journey, but that merchant insulted us after we politely refused to buy his merchandise. His vile daughter also cursed at us, and we demand a lesson be dealt out." He said, pointing over to where Guzol and Lala stood with the other townspeople in the viewing area. He had figured since the prince hadn't been there in the beginning, they could twist the facts and use it to their advantage.

"How terrible," Kanda said dryly. "But I'm afraid to say that's not what I heard." He pointed to Lavi. "Read the charges."

Lavi cleared his throat and began to speak. "Vlad, Vard, and Vark have been accused of rudeness, slander, violence towards civilians, lying, and insulting yourself, the prince. All of these charges have been verified and accounted to be true."

They gaped at him.

"Very well. This shall be my verdict," Kanda said. "These men are sentenced to two nights in the dungeon, thirty lashes each, and shall be escorted to the nearest border after their nights in the dungeon."

"You-you can't do that!" they cried, pointing an accusing finger at the royal.

Kanda glared at them with steely eyes. "I think you'll find that I can. This is my kingdom, and no one is allowed to harass my citizens. Certainly not bumbling, idiot strangers like yourselves. Guards! Escort them to the dungeon."

A collective cheer rang out from the townspeople as they guards took the tormenting tourists away.

As soon as they were gone, Kanda turned his attention to the townspeople.

"People of Terza Città(1)!" He called, and they stood alert. "You were lucky that we happened to walk by today, but next time you may not be as lucky." His eyes swept over all of them. "You are citizens of Ardua. And you are the townspeople of Terza Città. Guzol and Lala are one of your own. Were you all just going to sit by and do nothing to stand up for yourselves? Letting some stranger walk all over you is despicable. You might as well be ruled by a tyrant! Next time, if you see something wrong, take reasonable action. Or if the matter is too great for you to handle, alert the guards in your area. Are we clear?"

The people of Terza Città had a mixture of shame and fear on their faces.

"I said, are we clear?"

In unison, they chorused, "Yes Prince Kanda."

"Good." He looked over at some other guards. "Escort the townspeople back to Terza Città."

"Yes, Your Highness."

Lavi turned back to Kanda as the people filed out. "There, now. What did I tell you? Feel any better?"

"Tch." Kanda got up and stretched his arms, rolling the cricks out of his neck. "The tension does seem to be gone now." Seeing as how there were no more petitioners, Kanda motioned for the door to be shut as soon as the townspeople left. "But I'd feel better if we actually had some results."

"I'm sure that we'll find your brother."

"We'd better. Come on, I want to go over the reports again." Kanda left the room to go farther into the castle and Lavi followed, but paused by Lala who was lingering at the end of the line on his way out.

"You were right, you know. Hard work makes things beautiful and ten times more valuable." He winked at her. "Good luck kid."

~x.x.x.x.x~

"Lala, my songbird, it's getting late." Guzol set down his carving on the table and walked over to his daughter.

"I'm not sleepy." Lala said softly, with droopy eyes.

Smiling, he picked her up, and carried her back into her bed, tucking her in. "Sweet dreams darling."

"Night Papa."

After cleaning up, he blew out the light and retired to his own bed for the night.

~x.x.x.x.x~

Author's Notes

So there was a lot more of Lala in this chapter than I had originally intended, but I think it works out quite nicely. Flashbacks made up the long parts of this chapter, so hopefully you guys don't mind too much. I'll still type up chapters for this story, but I cannot guarantee another update any time soon. Also, I'm headed off to college, so any more chapters within this year will be sporadic. I also have to type up chapters for my other continuing story, The Book, a Teen Titans fanfiction. But you can be reassured that some exciting things will happen to our heroes in the next couple of chapters. Thank you all for sticking with me so far and those of you who have continued to do so. ALSO, the song that Lala and Guzol sings, well, I made that up. There is no such song as far as I know.

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(1) Terza Città : Italian, literal translation from Google, Third Town

Response to Reader Reviews

Dgraymangrl: Yup. He's their target after all.

FrozenClaws: Thanks. I just picked a random yellow bird.

erihan: I know, it's kinda sad, but all part of the plot.

scarf: Indeed, but I doubt they would even know what it meant in the first place, since they're all muscle. It would be safe to assume that their victim was calling out for his companion for help. Only logical, right? We'll see how the story progresses from here.

Length of Entire Text and Afternotes

Twelve pages of Microsoft Word