Prologue

Lancia pushed open the unlocked wrought iron gates that surrounded the modest-looking manor which boasted its heavy Spanish influence.

"Are you sure this is the correct place, Lancia-dono?" Basil asked the twenty-five-year-old.

The man in question gave a brisk nod before he strode inside. "Mr. Blanche used to live here with his fifteen-year-old kid."

Basil promptly trailed after him, keeping a few paces slightly behind. "If you are sure…" The pathway leading up to the manor's entrance, he noticed was unkempt with debris and overgrown weeds. It seems like no one even lives here anymore… he thought to himself, suddenly having doubts about this whole thing. The prior visits to other families that they made to other households were more or less welcoming but this was definitely the first of its kind. I wonder if his child is even living here anymore…

Basil did not dare voice out his thoughts; truthfully, he really respected what Lancia was doing by facing his own past even if they were hardly well-received by the others of other families. After all, the man had murdered their cherished people although it was inadvertent…not that many would rather want to listen to his gruesome explanations about that. They would much prefer to blame him then be left in skepticism and valiantly Lanchia had more than willingly accepted the burden of their severe words with no questions asked.

Lancia stopped and raised his hand, rapping his knuckles against the door of polished dark wood. The knocking sounds echoed eerily throughout the inner reaches of the darkened house. They waited a few moments in silence but no one came to answer their call. Lancia raised his fist again to knock but the door swung ajar slightly, groaning on its hinges.

"Hello?" Basil called out. "Is anyone here?"

Again, no one answered; it was like the whole house was completely empty. Basil was about to try again when Lanchia made an abrupt gesture that silenced him.

"Someone's here," Lancia replied flatly before he continued further inside the house. They arrived at the end of the hallway where there was a hooded figure that stood at the top of the staircase, glaring down at them.

"What have you come here for?" the unknown person demanded coldly.

Lancia stepped forward, boldly. "I'm here to pay my respects to –"

"I don't need a murderer's condolences! Get out!" he hissed, interrupting the other man.

"If thou' wilt just listen to Lancia-dono for a minute please," Basil spoke up.

"If you don't, then I'll make you!" the person screamed. He darted forward and headed directly towards Lanchia. The dull glint of a hidden blade within the folds of the cloak alerted Basil to shout out a panicked warning for Lancia to move aside. Nevertheless, the navy-haired man did not; instead, he stood there brazenly as the dagger pierced deep into his hand, drawing blood.

"I hate you, Lancia…"

Lancia wrapped his fingers around the dagger and took it from him. "This doesn't suit you." Awkwardly, he used his free hand and placed it atop his hood and gently tugged it off. "I'm sorry, Livia…"

Within that split second when Blanche's kid had rushed him, the mafioso had instantly recognized the short stature. Before the massacre, Lancia's ear had always been tortured by Alanzo to listen to his 'daily life' stories about his darling daughter and his proud complains about how too fast she was growing up…not to mention his tormented eyes as well; Livia's pictures had all but decorated Alanzo's black coat pockets and he would not waver to boast them to him.

It seemed that it was more than enough for poor Livia as she burst into emotional tears and instinctively held onto Lancia for support. "Papa used to talk highly of you being the strongest man in Northern Italy every time he came home for dinner…you were his best friend but you didn't even come see him at the wake."

"I'm sorry…" Lancia repeated though he made no attempt to correct her mistake; he was in Vindicare prison before the prison break occurred. Although he had been through, what he deemed as hell, he wondered what nightmares a child like her could have possibly went through the last five years. He did not say anything whilst she stood there soaking his shirt through and finally came to a decision which was so uncharacteristic of him which Basil later reminded him of. He might have questioned himself whether or not he did the right thing of taking her under his wing but there was one thing that he was sure of, the orphan reminded him of a part of himself when he was younger; he too was an orphan before his beloved mafia boss took him into his care.


A few months later

"LIVIA ALLEGRA BLANCHE!" Lancia roared out before muttering to himself about hating mischievous and bratty kids like her and what he had gotten himself into when he decided to take her in based on one senseless whim.

The said fifteen-year-old sighed grumpily and took off her headphones. She could hear Lancia's voice even with her blasting loud music into her ears. Livia knew what he was angry about…of course she knew exactly why. It was not her fault, anyway. She unhooked her finger from the hole and placed her palette down beside her, on the empty chair. Slyly, she waited for Lanchia to call her name again. Livia knew what extremely bugs Lancia and that was of course, the punctuality issue which was obviously very much deficient in her. He would get so worked up about it and she could not wait to see the look on his face.

"LIVIA, ARE YOU GONNA COME HERE OR NOT?"

Livia smiled gleefully as she quickly wiped her hands on her apron which was splattered with odd colors of paint until it had turned an ugly dull color, staining her hands further but not that she noticed. "Geez, yeah I'll be right down!" she yelled back.

Livia wiped the impish smile of her face and molded an expression of innocence which involved making her dark emerald eyes bigger that they usually were. The puppy-eyed look usually works with adults so I'll just have to try it on him and see if it works… she thought, grinning inwardly. She almost tripped over her own feet as she skidded to a stop in front of the bathroom where Lancia was standing with his hands on his waist. Honestly, she wanted to laugh when she saw the look on his face.

"W-W-What did you do?" he spluttered out as he jabbed a finger at the toilet bowl which was now choking.

Livia blinked innocently and shrugged her shoulders. "The toilet bowl appears to be choking?" she offered cooperatively seeing that Lancia could hardly get the words out of his mouth.

The twenty-five-year-old glowered at her; he took a deep breath to calm himself and exhaled loudly. "I know that the toilet is choking its ass off but why is it that it's spewing out your hair?" he snapped impatiently.

Livia laughed nervously; she had not seen that part. The stupid dog look didn't work a bit…! "Uh…well, that's coz' I flushed it down after I cut it off."

Lancia's eyes widened as he stared hard at her brown head, as if noticing her short hairdo for the first time. "You did what?"

The fifteen-year-old smiled timidly. "I cut it off," she repeated feeling slightly doubtful.

His dark eyes returned back to its original position, her eyes and boy, could he glare. "And why did you do that? Growing girls are supposed to be feminine and have long hair and not that," he emphasized his point by thrusting a finger at her head. "You look damn horrible with that hairstyle."

Livia made a rude face at him and turned her head to the side. "Chech, I don't give a hoot about your remarks, uncle Lanchia…I like my cropped hairdo just fine. Besides, I look much cuter this way."

In response to her unperturbed attitude, Lancia's face grew slightly red from irritation as he scowled disapprovingly at the girl. This Livia before him and that Livia in the pictures Alanzo took were completely different. But it could be the different hairstyles… he thought to himself. Ah, heck teenagers these days…we used to be different last time…

Finally, he sighed in defeat. "The least you could do is clean up your mess," he said evenly and stepped out of the bathroom. "Oh, and you're grounded for disobeying me…I made arrangements for you to go to Japan and you can finish your school there."

Now it was Lancia's turn to be entertained as he watched her facial expressions fighting with each other to dominate; shock, alarm, horror, panic and anger flew one after another in this ordered sequence.

"J-J-J-Japan?" she echoed breathlessly. "Why in Leonardo da Vinci's name do I have to go there for?"

"Because I said so," Lancia answered calmly. "By being bratty, that's your punishment."

"But I'm in my rebellious phase…IT'S NORMAL!" she protested, forgetting completely about cleaning up the toilet bowl.

Lancia raised an eyebrow and smirked at her. "We didn't have the luxury to indulge in this abnormal phase last time. Besides, I'm the adult here so you'll just have to listen to your uncle and go there."

Livia pouted. "Okay, okay I promise I will not be bratty again," she vowed sagely. "I will do whatever you ask me to do. So could you let this one slide? My hair will grow back again too."

This time, Lancia just knew that he had the upper-hand in this argument; all adults do and he loved every second of it. "Nice try, brat but when I say you're going…it means you're going to do just that. You're leaving tomorrow."


Lancia turned his head slightly to glance at the fifteen-year-old girl sitting docilely and all tied up beside him, chuckling inwardly. It felt like he was being a kidnapper and she was his victim. He knew the girl was definitely in one of her foulest moods ever judging from her heavy-lidded eyes, clenched jaw, folded lips and her refusal to talk to him. Boy, did she try her hardest to resist against him even to the extent of running away. He did manage to catch her while she was wandering aimlessly around in the woods nearest to his mansion. What a dumb niece I have… he thought fondly. Still, it was great to have a family member again even if the two of them were not blood-related. It was difficult to be raise a child, he knew which did not mean that he was abandoning her by packing her off to Japan but he did not want Livia to be too involved with what he was doing; it would do no good for her future to be involved with a murderer. Lancia knew that Livia had forgiven him in the past few months though she never did say so directly. In his opinion, those words were not essential but found through action. He had always believed in less words and more action which his dearly departed mafia boss had taught him and in turn, wanted Livia to learn. He wondered if Livia got her slight tomboyish nature from him…

Finally, they had arrived at the airport (Lancia had reluctantly given in when Livia had insisted on travelling alone without bodyguards after her well-spent hours of begging). Since, they were going to a public airport; Lancia had to tone it down a little which meant no bodyguards, no branded black mafia suits, and no black limousines…well, except for a hidden revolver to replace his steel Serpent ball just in case. He even had to go with an uncomfortable pair of gray slacks and a white shirt underneath a gray coat.

"We're here, Mr. Lancia, Miss Livia," the driver announced as he pulled the car gently over beside the airport's entrance and left it to idle. He got out and hastened over to Lancia's side of the car and opened it.

"Don't go around creating a scene, Livia…" Lancia murmured, a light warning laced in his tone.

Livia looked at him, grimaced and then turned away from him. "Hmph, yeah I won't. Now, untie me."

From within his coat, Lancia fished out a pocket knife and summarily cut the ropes with quick reflexes before he replaced it back into his pocket. He got out of the vehicle and Livia followed suit albeit grudgingly since things did not turn out the way she wanted it to be…at least not totally.

"Will you be alright on your own –"

"Uncle," Livia sighed deeply and shook her head. "I'll be okay; you gave me the map for Namimori so I'll be able to find my way around there."

Lucia looked down at her for a long moment before he turned to the driver. "Turn around," he ordered in an authoritative, flat tone.

Once he had turned around, Lucia turned back to face his niece. "I'm not particularly good at goodbyes and sappy moments so I'll write you letters…and you very well better reciprocate."

Livia stared up at her uncle before her eyes glistened with unshed tears.

"D-Don't you dare cry now!" he hissed at her. "People will start thinking that I bullied you or something!"

She flung her arms around Lancia and hugged him tightly. "I'll miss you so much, uncle Lancia…"

The spiky-haired man stiffened and awkwardly patted her head. "I can only send you until here; you have to go on your own to the terminal."

"Uh huh, I know." Livia nodded into his tummy, her voice muffled by his shirt.

Lancia took off the thick silver chain that dangled from his neck and placed it over her own head. It hung loosely around her small neck and went past her under-developed bosom. She gave him a questioning look. "Isn't this your favorite cobra chain you told me never to touch?"

"Keep this as a protective charm; it'll help remind you not to act bratty."

Livia scowled at him. "I told you already; it's the rebellious phase!"

"Okay then, don't be rebellious and be a good girl not a tomboy," Lancia smirked before he stepped back and gave her a gentle push forward. "I'll see you off from here."