Disclaimer: I don't own DGM.

Chapter 4

Komui decided to ignore him. "Lavi, I've got something to tell you. You know, you've just rejoined us, so you're probably not too familiar with the current state of affairs. You need to start training hard from now on."

Lavi groaned. "Must I? I'm plenty fit as it is..."

"Of course you must. You'll have to go help out at the hotel for some time each day from tomorrow onwards too, to get a hang of how things are done. Bak and his people will teach you well, don't worry. As for a revision programme for your agent training... none of the generals are around right now, so Allen will be your instructor when she gets back."


"Yes, her." Komui rose hastily. "I need to go now."

"But Komui – "

"Chop chop." Komui rushed to the door, his white coat billowing. "Don't forget your schedule!"


28 November, 2018

It was cold when Lavi woke the next morning; the chill had crept under his nightclothes and snuggled up to him under the sheets. His toes were tingling and so were his fingers, and his nose ached. Staggering up, he found his way to the door, only to slip on an innocuous piece of paper that had been slid under the door.

Dear Lavi,

Please report to Bak by 8am sharp today. It's a good day for working hard!


Lavi groaned. He was cold, he was hungry, and he was supposed to go to work?

Oh, and he was late.

The clock on his mantelpiece said that it was but ten minutes till eight. Luck just loved him.

He did reach the lobby in the end.

"Lavi." Bak Chan frowned and rapped his knuckle on the banister against which he was leaning. "You, my good man, are late."

"I know. I'm sorry, Bak," Lavi told the hotel's CEO sheepishly, running a hand through his red hair.

"It's the first time, so, I'll forgive you. Just this once. Now, you need to be familiar with this hotel; you need to be able to navigate through this whole building. Did Komui tell you this?"

"Uhh, no?"

"Just like him to forget." Bak paused. "Anyway, you need to know the secret routes, the escape routes, the ventilation system routes and the room numbers. This allows us to conduct real-time spying, or observation, of our guests, especially those who have links to the Noahs."

"So what am I doing today?" Lavi asked genially, slightly excited.

Bak flipped through a notebook in his hands. "You'll... you're down for concierge duty today. And... get the uniform."


"Lou Fa!" Bak snapped his fingers, and the mousy girl hovering nearby rushed over, nearly tripping. "Get Lavi the concierge uniform and then bring him to the station and explain the details."

The bespectacled girl beckoned, and Lavi followed her to a closet nearby. She handed him the uniform – standard white shirt and black pants – and a coat? He gaped at it and transferred his gaze to the girl. She didn't respond, merely choosing to stare at the ground.

"Uh, Lou Fa? Is the coat necessary?" Lavi queried.

"Ye-yes." She nodded, her face flushed.


Mana wobbled into his mother's room, bored, hungry, and lonely. He wanted his Mummy back – where was she?

Crossing the ground of her treacherously messy room, he stumbled upon an old diary. It was usually placed deep inside a trunk she hid under her bed, but in her haste to leave for her latest mission it had been left on the floor.

Mana picked up the old book; it had a musty smell to it, as if it lived still in old memories and clinging dusty years. The faded black cover was worn and dotted with what looked like it might once have been tears.

The little boy flipped the book open and tried to make out the words. He could read his alphabets.

"I. W. A. S. H. A. P.P." His finger traced the words as he read the alphabets out.

30 July 2011

I was happy yesterday. Really, really happy! Being happy is not something that comes easily to me – I've about two-thirds of Cross's debts left to pay and he's probably racking up more right now – but, Lavi confessed to me yesterday. We were resting after training, and I swear I beat him hands down, and there was lemonade.

Anyway, he suddenly looked over from where he was sprawled on the ground, grinned and then grasped at my hands. And confessed. It was sweet; he told me he would never rack up debts and then make me pay, and then offered to help pay off my guardian's debts. I refused of course – how could I do that?

Mana did not understand a word of it – he flipped the pages again.

26 Dec 2011

Christmas is over! Lavi and I took a long ramble out along the coast yesterday. I've never really liked the coastal area here; it's so bleak and dreary and so lonely. It's almost as if all the lost souls gather here to mourn their misdeeds and lack of judgement.

The snow is sparse this year. Lavi says it's a sure sign of good luck for the next year, but I don't really believe him. I've heard that sparse snow indicates something else, I just don't remember what.

I'm sidetracking again. Lavi and I walked the entire length of the seaside moor, and he told me that he's never seen anything as lovely as my white hair against the violet sky. He might have just been saying something to make me happy, but... I was happy to hear it. It feels almost shameful to admit this, but it's true.

Mana again ruffled through the pages.

December, 2012

It's been some time since I had time to write; the missions are piling up. I haven't had much time to spend with Lavi recently.

Sometimes I wonder if we're growing apart. Lavi looks at me with an empty expression sometimes. It's fearful to think of being separated from him.

The next page he looked at was equally boring to his toddler's eyes.

March, 2012.

Isn't Lavi coming back? Every day, I stand at the gates looking out. It's cold still, and the wind blows hard till my nose feels like it's going to fall off, but there's still no sign of Lavi. I miss him so much,so much. Komui refuses to send me out on missions. He says I need to start eating more again first, but how can I, when every moment I spend eating is another moment lost from waiting for him?

He did say he would come back. I don't want to think that he's going to break that promise. I don't want to... I thought I'd found family at last.

December, 2012.

Suman's dead. I can't believe it. The two men I love are both gone. Suman's death was tragic, and it hurts, but so does the ache that Lavi left in me when he left without saying goodbye.

I hate this world.

My poor, poor child.


Lavi yawned and reached for the towel. He was cold, hungry and tired, and he wanted his dinner. It'd been a long day at the front desk, serving demanding guests (more like monsters, he personally thought) with only a silent companion nearby.

Lou Fa had condescended to tell him the basics of watching the guests, and had pointed out one who she suspected of being an Akuma. The term, he recalled, was used to refer to those who worked as spies and servants for the Earl and his Noah.

He'd watched her send a quick message to the finder department, who would soon take care of investigating the suspicious character. That, however, had been the only interesting thing that had happened the whole day.

Towards evening, Bak had appeared again, thrusting his schedule at Lavi and ordered him off to the gym. It wasn't really that bad an idea; over the years, Lavi's toned body had largely disappeared. With a shrinking feeling, he remembered how Kanda had looked no different from the lean and fit swordsman he'd been all those years ago.

Lavi glanced down at his own roll (albeit a small roll) of fat and sighed. He really needed to get to the gym more often. The cardio cycle hadn't been pleasant, since he'd stopped running about four years ago, and the weights session had left him utterly drained.


29 November, 2018.

The next morning, Lavi was almost late again, but this time, it was because he'd waited for little Mana to finish having his breakfast before he slipped off to his duties. The day passed like the previous one, only, there were no suspicious characters that day. At the very least though, he was pleased to note, he was no longer paired with the girl Lou Fa. His partner today was a tall male named Rikei, who was friendly and chatted with Lavi most amiably.

After his duties were done, Lavi headed to the gym again, and following that, he stepped into the training rooms for the first time in many years. He picked up many weapons and trained with them – he tried out the basic sword routine, the archery, the rifle course and the pistol practices. Last of all, he walked over to the weapons cabinet, and with great joy, found his favourite weapon of old – a worn hammer.


5 December, 2018

Lavi stood alone at the concierge desk, his green eye alert. Lou Fa had disappeared to use the toilet, but she was certainly taking her own sweet time because she'd been gone for close to half an hour. Lavi sighed and sank back into the chair.

Then Allen Walker walked into his line of vision. She was in heels and lipstick and a tight uniform that left Lavi reeling from the impact.


Allen turned and her eyes were cold as she took him in. He almost hid under the table, but decided not to. Instead, he stood up and bowed to Allen and the Finders behind her. "Good afternoon, ma'am. May I take your luggage?"


"Alright then, ma'am. This way, please."

"Thank you," Allen told Lavi somewhat stiffly, the ghost of a frown hovering on her face. "You are supposed to be at the training room tonight, 9pm sharp, for some customer service lessons. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Lavi suppressed a shiver as Allen walked on. Have I done that to her? His heart bled inside.


At 9pm exactly, Lavi stood outside Training Room A. He didn't want to risk Allen's wrath on the first day of his lessons. She arrived in seconds, giving him a curt nod. There was no sign of recognition in her once-familiar grey eyes

"Today, we will do the basic elements. I hope you have not forgotten them. Bak told me that you've started on your exercise routine, so I shall assume that you can carry that out yourself. Unfortunately for me, not other exorcists are available at the moment to train you, and this unpleasant task falls to me."

"Alright, Allen-chan, no biggie."

Allen threw him a frosty glare, before she proceeded with her lecture. "You have many things to relearn. We'll start with... we'll start with basic stealth and combat lessons. Then we'll go on to the finer elements."

They spent the next hour in arm-to-arm combat, the basic kind, and Lavi did not much enjoy it because Allen beat him every round. There was once he managed to wrestle her to the ground and sit on her abdomen, but it didn't last very long because she'd recovered quickly and thrust him head-first onto the ground.

"Practise," Allen said, and swept out of the room.

Lavi rubbed the sore bits of himself and grumbled. He'd deteriorated big time.


14 December, 2018.

On this day, they moved on to armed combat.

Lavi complained that Allen wasn't being fair at the end of the first lesson, simply because you've got a real sword and I haven't and all Allen deigned to say was are you an idiot Lavi? Because if you can remember, we don't really use swords and hammers in real fighting. We use guns.


22 December, 2018

This was the day Allen started training Lavi in the use of artillery. He proved to be a good student, because he hadn't forgotten how to shoot.

She smiled at him, for the first time since they met again.

It was also the day Kanda and Lenalee returned from their honeymoon, and the Order was in raptures because Komui declared it a no-work day.


29 December, 2018.

"You've got to know how to track your target," Allen lectured, "so that he doesn't know you're there. You cannot lose sight of him, but you mustn't let your presence be known. Also, you have to watch out in case he has a partner."

"Got that." Lavi nodded.

"Are you sure, Baka Usagi?" Kanda asked, his voice thick with sarcasm.

"When did you come in, Yuu-chan?" Lavi asked, grinning widely. "I missed you, darling!"

"I told you before not to call me that!" Kanda's hands went to his sword but Lenalee, who had come in behind Kanda, pushed his hands away from the sword's sheath.

"We came to watch your retraining," Lenalee told him, smiling widely.

"Lenalee! You're positively glowing. I didn't know Kanda could make a woman that happy…"

"Lavi!" Allen called her class back to order. "You are going to undergo the simulation exercise now. We will be watching you from here. Go on."

Lavi then walked into a curtained recess to put on his battle gear. He managed to put on the latest uniform - black, with red patterns – and came out. Allen nodded, and thrust a stun gun into his hands. "You may use that to shoot at your targets if need be. But remember, no wrong movements, or you'll fail."

Lavi crept stealthily to the door and into the next room. It was night, in the room, and the crescent moon sailed across the starry skies. Such clichéd decorations, Lavi thought. I wonder if Allen designed them.

And then he didn't have time to wonder about the identity of the person who had designed the simulations because right at that moment a shadow crossed his path, before the silhouette fled from him. His instincts from before kicked in; right away, he took after the shadow, trying his best to stay in the shadows himself.

Leaping from dim spot to dim spot, always aware of his target's own fluid movements, Lavi once again relished the excitement of missions. This was how life should be lived, with adrenaline pumping through him, surging through his bloodstream and engulfing him whole in excitement. Why had he chosen a path that led away from this pure bliss?

And then the target was nowhere in sight. Lavi hastily came to a standstill, his arms tucked tightly against his body as he crouched in the hostile shadows amid a bush. He wasn't supposed to have lost the target – he had lost his focus. Damn, he thought, I should have paid attention! Now he didn't know where the target was, and any time soon he might feel the metal nozzle of a gun lying against his skull.

Sure enough, he heard the slightest hint of breathing to his right. Before he had time to spin around and unleash his own weapon, a woman dressed in a nude and purple uniform had cornerned him. Oh, he was a goner.

Lavi breathed deeply to regain his composure; he was about to be killed by this woman with orange hair and what could he do to escape? There was a heavily blocked path leading from the bush, and with fair chance he might be able to clear his way across. There was a chair over there, and maybe he could – he blinked.

The lights came on, and Lavi rubbed his eyes, realising that he was still in the simulation room. Then he heard the soft click of heels, and Allen rounded the corner just as the holograms vanished.

Allen nodded to the woman. "Fou," she greeted.

"This one needs more work," Fou told Allen dismissively, "he forgot what he was running after.

"And he was panting after a while, I heard him. You," Fou said, her finger poking at Lavi's abdomen, "need to train more rigorously."

"You forgot one of the most basic rules when chasing a target," Allen chastised. "It could cost you your life!"

"Why don't we show him how he's done? He looks like he's forgotten our old training." Kanda entered the room, smirking all the way.

Fou nodded and left the room to prepare. Meanwhile, in the outer room, Kanda and Allen changed into their battle gear and loaded up their weapons of choice. They then entered a different room through a separate door.

"That room's the real training room," Lenalee told Lavi. "It's where the simulation is as close to reality as possible. Those things you see in there aren't holograms; they're real obstacles."

"Ohh." Lavi's voice was flat. He hadn't come to terms with the fact that despite his superior memory, his physical prowess and skills had deteriorated.

"Yeah, let's watch them through the monitor."

Out in the training room, Kanda and Allen staked their positions amid bushes, instead of standing out in the open the way Lavi had at first. Allen's revolver was already out, and she was clutching it to her chest, finger on the trigger, all ready to fire. Kanda crouched next to her, his sword strapped to his back – much as he loved Mugen, he knew that using it and it alone would spell doom for him unless the situation did not involve firearms. Meanwhile, his right hand held a stun gun, simply because he wanted to knock his target out sufficiently to have him at sword point.

Then something flitted across their field of vision; it was hard to tell because the target travelled through the terrain with practised ease, her movements much more fluid then when she'd helped to train Lavi. Her dark cloak melded into the darkness, and only when the moonlight came through could she be seen at infrequent intervals, and even then, she was still hard to spot.

But that didn't seem to perturb Allen and Kanda. They jumped after the fleeing shadow, weapons always held at the ready. Kanda, always kept his eyes in the direction of the shadow they were trailing, but from time to time, Allen would turn her head and scan the surroundings for signs of other targets that might be in league with their main target.

Soon, the two entered a dark alley, leaping with practised ease over a low wall and then blending into the shadows as they crouched below a magnificent patch of shrubbery. Their target was now out in the open, walking down the alley as if she thought that she'd thrown her assailants off the trail. Kanda and Allen gave no sign of their presence, and Kanda signalled to Allen with his stun gun.

Without warning, Kanda launched himself from the protective shadows he'd hidden himself in, and leapt toward the cloaked figure, pressing the stun gun's trigger the moment she turned around. The target crumpled to the ground, limbs folded and seemingly weak.

"Be careful," Allen shouted, "handle with care!"

"I know, Moyashi." Kanda replied, his hair fluttering slightly in the gentle breeze blowing around them. He bent over the woman lying on the ground; by now, he had unsheathed his sword and was pointing it at their target's neck.

"No!" Allen shouted, and kicked up a ruckus as she sprung to face the other target who had suddenly caught up with them. Flinging herself at him, she kicked at his vital areas and with an ungodly howl the latecomer dropped his gun and hopped around on one foot.

Allen plunged forward and wrapped her arms around his middle, tackling him to the ground before sitting on him. She got her handcuffs out.

"Simulation over!" Lenalee announced, and then the lights came on again.

Lavi watched in awe as Allen got off her prisoner and chuckled when he saw a most disgruntled Chaoji emerge, his spiky hair all mussed up. Meanwhile, Kanda extended a helping hand to Fou, who groaned and sat up, rubbing at her temples and her sore joints.

"They're good," Lavi said, still in shock.

"I know." Lenalee smiled. "The two of them together are a team to behold."

"I thought… Kanda and Allen didn't get along well."

"They didn't, but their relationship has improved the past few years. They tolerate each other now, though sometimes I think Kanda sees Allen as the little sister he never had. They work together really well – there's nothing like that pair. When they go on missions together it's sure to succeed."

"You aren't jealous?"

"Should I be? It's an asset to the Order, I think, and I'm happy if my friends are. And anyway, I know that Allen doesn't have that kind of feelings for Kanda. She's still reeling from the tragedies that have clouded her life."

Lenalee's large eyes bored into Lavi's, as if reminding him that he was one of the people who had brought tragedy into a life already dotted with misery. Lavi looked down, unable to meet Lenalee's eyes. He was guilty, he thought, of spoiling another's dreams and hopes. He was the villain here…

"Can you remember doing all these before?" Kanda asked as he re-entered the main room.

"I have a feeling I can, but I need more practice."

"You need to practise, no doubt about ii." Allen snorted and fastened a cold stare on Lavi. He noticed how her eyes hadn't changed over the years; they were still clear and the same shade of gray he'd last seen, but they were now laced with the sorrows of the years, and hardness lurked behind, stirring again the guilt in his breast.

"I will."

"Try to master it soon," Allen sighed. This time round, her eyes had softened, and weariness sat on her brow. "The Earl's moving his forces and building them up. The play… has started. How tragic. "


4 January, 2019

"Good morning," the self-styled Earl of Millennium said.

He thumped on his wooden pulpit, beaming widely as his portly self stood before his congregation. The Noahs were all there, and so were the members of the cult who were lower down in the hierarchy.

The noises died down, and soon, everyone gathered in the large room was looking at the Earl.

"We are come today to commemorate a special day."

"Is it something exciting, Master Millennium?" Road asked suddenly, standing up from her seat.

"Yes, Road dear, but sit down for the moment. As I was saying, today, we come together to listen to the words of Lucifer the saint, and to realise the plans for the future, dear friends. It is said that man fell to suffering through sin, after Eve and Adam partook of the forbidden fruit from the forbidden Tree. This is why we are on earth now, suffering, in the throes of despair; women die from childbirth, disasters continue to strike the surface of the earth, and men die in the flowing years."

The Earl pounded on his pulpit. "But I say to you, we can overcome this! Dear friends, in the name of the real God I command you to forget the blasphemies of the fake God who sits and watches as we go throw hell on earth. The real God loves us, and I am his prophet! Come to me, my flock, and let us believe in salvation – it is coming! The real God intends to bring about the destruction of this world, to free mankind from the unkind and heavy chains of the fake God. We have to aid him in his quest. Destruction shall be our motive, as we strive for entry into a higher and holier realm! Do you hear me, ye people of the faith?"

"We hear you!" the congregation chanted, mesmerised.

"Let us now break the bread and partake of the red wine. When we see the blood of unholy humans flowing like the wine you now behold, then salvation will surely come."

"Earl," Tyki greeted, rising from the benches as the Akuma rushed as a body to participate in the symbolic activities. "Why'd you call us here? You know some of us don't ever come for your sermons."

The Earl laughed, ruffling Tyki's hair, before addressing the congregation at large. "We are now holding a special council meeting. All members of the Noah council please step into the meeting room!"

Slowly, the Noahs trickled into the next room, and the Earl closed the door behind them.

"Sit," the Earl commanded gently. "As you may have realised from my sermon, I am contemplating… starting the play."

"Really, Master Millennium?" Road asked, her wide eyes barely concealing her interest and joy.

"Yes, dear child. The prologue is over, thanks to the hard work of Tyki-pon here. Now, the first act will soon start, and the Order will crumble, as it should have all those years ago."

"Master, when do we start? I am always ready to do your bidding," Lulu Bell chimed in, her expression unusually severe. There was no smile on her face as usual, but her eyes were hard today, with no hint of their former softness.

"Hmm. You will each have to deal with one of those pesky exorcists…" the Earl muttered to himself.

"We want in!" Jasdevi chanted together.

"And we have to train the Akuma…" the Earl continued, as if he hadn't heard the twins. "I'm sure someone will get down to it. Maybe you, Sheryl?"

"I'm glad you place so much trust in me, Earl, but… I have a country to run!"

"Oh, that's true. We'll decide that at a later time, then. Right now, I want to go over the plan with you. Look at the cards you have been given – those are the exorcists you need to remove from the face of this earth. At the same time, we need to continue destroying the world according to plan. This is the busiest time, my Noahs!"


8 January, 2019

"You're really hungry, aren't you?" Lenalee asked, amused, her large eyes laughingly tilted towards the scene before her. "I swear you're almost eating as much as Allen!"

"I… have been working hard!" Lavi argued, all the while spooning mouthfuls of bacon into his mouth. "I have a duty to keep myself healthy, Komui said."

"Since when did you listen to him?" Lenalee returned a little mockingly.

"Pnow." Lavi's voice was almost indistinguishable from the chewing sounds emanating from his mouth.

Then he choked; Mana had poked him from behind in the stealthiest manner possible.

"Someday that boy will be as good as Allen," Lenalee mused, reaching over to pull the boy to her side of the table. "Sit down, Mana."

"Where's Mummy?"

"She's on a mission. Be patient, Mana, she'll be back in a few days."

"I want Mummy."

"You can play with Uncle Lavi!"

"I have lots of work to do!" Lavi looked mortified.

But no one heard him, because Lenalee was now playing cat's cradle with the boy in a bid to distract him from his mother.

"I shouldn't have come back to this hell," Lavi told himself, consoling himself with a spoonful of soup.


Later in the day, as Lavi finished his uneventful shift as a waiter at the restaurant, Lenalee stopped by the counter and beamed at him.

"Hello Lavi, leaving already?"

"Yeah. I'm done for the day." He hung his apron up and replaced his bandana on his head. "Why?"

"Because it's time for your training!"

"But Allen's not here!"

"I'm your temporary teacher."

"Don't you have to train?"

"What did you think I was doing the whole of today?"

"Aren't you tired, then, Lenalee?"

"This is nothing compared to missions, you know. Come on, we've got to get you into tiptop shape! We're badly in need of exorcists. Another one –Tina Spark , remember her? – "

"No. Who's she?"

"Who was she, you mean. I'm sure you remember her. She was from General Cloud's unit." Lenalee grimaced slightly, her well-shaped lips curving downwards. "They found her dead lying in a pond, half-decayed and moss-eaten, with her kidneys gone."

"Oh." Lavi paused before the training room, his mind returning to the dying finders who yelled for him to escape even as they bled, nailed to wooden crosses. A tiny whisper of hate and anger rose within him, biting into his heart. His courage railed against the indignities of their lot, and he growled.

"We have to accept it though," Lenalee said softly, her eyes wet.

"Another part of your world gone."

"Mmm. But I was never that close to Tina, so… it's not that painful. But it seems like my world is crashing down around me."

"You seem so strong all the time, Lenalee. Sometimes I envy you for that."

"I have to, to keep my world together. Allen's very strong too, always optimistic, she is. She doesn't smile quite so often, but she still sacrifices much more than anyone else."

"I can understand that." Lavi looked out the window, glancing briefly at the setting sun. The orange rays were dancing across the land, chasing away the shadows that lurked in the quiet eaves of the world. But soon, he knew, those glorious rays would disappear, their beauty slowly fading until the darkness swallowed them whole, and what was once beautiful would be sullied with the taints of evil unmatched.

"Come back to earth, Lavi." Lenalee waved her hand before Lavi's face, chuckling slightly, her cheeks still moist from her earlier almost-outburst.


"Today, I'm going to go through with you the ways of differentiating Akuma members from normal people. Of course, Allen's the best teacher for this course, but she's not here, and you should know this. We'll do some physical combat after that, and we'll call it a day."

"Oh, sure. I can't remember there being such a course before."

"I don't think you ever went through it before. Allen devised it a couple of years back. Okay, so look. Usually they slink around with twitchy ears and all that, and they tend to look around a lot." Lenalee switched on the projector in the room (Lavi hadn't noticed its existence till then) and pointed at the screenshot.

"So, Lavi, I'll let you view a couple of videos we've taken of Akuma to see if you can identify the normal characteristics."

"I… am bored."


Later that night, when Lenalee was finally done with him – and boy, her lessons were far less interesting than those Allen conducted – Lavi made his way to his room. The night was dark, and the clouds were hanging thick in the sky, and rather unfortunately, Lavi took the wrong turn and couldn't find his room.

Once he realised the fact, which he did after entering a room crowded with disturbing relics such as a bloodied axe, he backed out of the room and went down the corridor, occasionally inserting his head beyond unlocked doors to try and figure out where he was.

One door opened to reveal a room that shocked his memory; it was the same room he imagined night after night during his exile in France. Apart from the little boy lying on the floor, the room had changed little over the years. There were still drawers and cabinets labelled as "debts" and "snacks" and the painting of a clown still hung opposite the door.

Lavi stepped softly into the room, his heart light again as he was transported back in time, to when he and Allen were still young and love blossomed easily in their innocent hearts. He had spent many happy hours in this room, just talking to Allen on days when they were free from the never-ending missions. They would cuddle up to each other, and he would tell her tales, of when the world was young, and the grass was green, and the moon maiden went in search of love, and the cowherd found her and took her to be his, and they lived happily ever after.

How long ago those days seemed, now that he thought of it; those days were hiding in his memory, whispering to be let out. Lavi smiled slightly, the crooked shadows falling softly around him.

Bending over Mana, he quickly lifted the child up onto the mattress that was laid beside the bed. The poor boy had a hard time of it, his mother gone so often. Lavi sat by the mattress for some time, stroking the dark hair that waved about the boy's head. This was the son that could have been his, had he not upped and escaped from the uncertainties of life.

"Uncle Lavi?" Mana had woken.

"Hey, Mana. You're awake."

"I almost thought you were Mummy at first," the boy yawned.

"I saw you sleeping on the floor."

"I do that sometimes, Mummy says. She worries about me when she has to go off…"

"You poor thing." Lavi patted the boy's shoulders sympathetically.

"I get used to it." Mana nodded into Lavi's stomach. "Uncle Lavi, can you tell me a bedtime story? It gets boring having to put myself to sleep almost all the time."

"Sure. Which one do you want to hear?"

"Any one would do." Mana yawned again.

"I'll tell you a story of a boy and a girl, and the years they lost between them."

A/N: Happy (belated) new year!

So - a few days ago, I found the long-forgotten working document for this fic hiding in my laptop and have decided to revive it. It seems decent enough, though there are plot holes aplenty. Hopefully my writing has matured in the intervening years and maybe I can do some hearty editing and writing with the material that exists right now.

Sidenote - I can totally see the Earl as a cult leader. What do you think?

As always, thanks for reading, and any comments/suggestions/criticism would be welcome (: