I'm going to die.

It was so cliché, but everything seemed so slow down to a pathetic trickle as Len fell, his golden hair fluttering frantically in the rapid winds his decent stirred and his dress flapping madly about his ankles - his mouth opened wide, a sharp, shrill scream piercing the air. It was shameful to scream, but Len was terrified; an ice-cold fear that clawed mercilessly at his chest and filled him with unimaginable dread.

Len could still taste Kaito's tongue on his lips. A little voice in the back of his mind wished he hadn't been so hard on the man - perhaps even asked for that second kiss after all. Forgive me, Kaito.

Rin's round face flashed through Len's mind, and his heart clenched. Rin would be devastated. She would cry for hours, her little shoulders shaking uncontrollably as she wept for her twin brother. Forgive me, Rin.

And then it all sped up again - the world kicking into overdrive - and the wind whistled shrilly in his ears as he fell, faster and faster and faster, and the ground leapt up to meet him, and Len squeezed his eyes shut and prayed the pain would be momentary -


Len's back smashed against something hard and something rounded, and all the air gushed from his lungs, leaving him breathless and disoriented. Pain flared in his spine and boiled in his blood, and for a moment, Len simply lay there, on whatever there was, and gaped up at a sky he could scarcely see through the curtain of tears that swelled in his eyes.

"Len, are you alright? Len!"

A loud and deep and strong voice - booming off from somewhere in the distance, it seemed to Len. A hand cupped his cheek, and gently wiped away his tears, so soft and gentle and loving it was unbelievable. Kaito...? Len blinked, screwing his eyes shut and willing the pain to leave him, to fly away and return to him control of his body, and, after a few, throbbing moments, the pain did subside; but it did not disappear, it simply smouldered off in the background, flickering and twitching, promising with a cruel little smirk that the agony would come later.

He blinked the tears from his eyes, and the hand carefully brushed them away, and a long, narrow face with equally narrow eyes and too-long hair filled his vision.

Len gasped.

"L-Lord G-Gakupo..." Len breathed - but his voice was barely audible, trembling and horse.

"Oh, Len," Gakupo let out a sigh of relief, and a small, but brilliant smile graced his pleasant features. "For a moment I thought you were gone."

"So did I..." Len mumbled, and winced softly as Gakupo gently lowered him into the ground, which, Len realized, was smooth and flat and completely flawless - not a stem of grass or a rounded rock in sight. He was in the sparring grounds, and the huge, circular patch of smoothness spiralled around him. He looked up at Gakupo, who, even kneeling down, was so much taller, like a giant or an ancient tree. "How...?"

"I saw you fall," Gakupo explained. "I ran over and - well, I caught you. You face drained of colour instantly and I thought your back or, worse, your neck, may have broken." Gakupo shuddered, and Len felt a prickling, chilly sensation rip down his spine. He shivered and hugged his arms close.

He had almost died. If he had fallen differently - his body jerked on it's side or his head plummeting towards the earth first rather then his back - Len would be dead, little more then a cold and white and lifeless corpse sprawled motionlessly over the dusty ground. If Gakupo had not seen him -

"You saved me, Lord Gakupo." He whispered in realization. He stared into Gakupo's face, his eyes wide and his lips slightly parted. "You saved my life."

Gakupo smiled warmly, his eyes twinkling and his mouth gently curving, and Len blushed, his heart fluttering strangely in his chest.

"Anyone would have done the same, Len," Gakupo murmured modestly. His voice was even lower then before, and whispered across Len's neck, tickled and caressed his ear drums in an almost seductive fashion. His lips quivered as his heart did that curious little flutter again, skipping several beats before lunching into a few erratic thumps.

"O-oh, w-well, um..." Len wasn't sure what to say. His conscious mind seemed to have shut down, leaving him stranded and flustered while the separate halves of his brained warred viciously over what action to take next. Run away! One side commanded fiercely. No, stay with Lord Gakupo! The other shrieked furiously.

"...Len," Gakupo's voice brought Len slamming back to reality, and he shook himself, chasing the arguing voices far away.

"Yes, My Lord?"

Gakupo stared at him for a moment, his stony expression unreadable; and then, much to Len's surprise, he bent down, and gently parted Len's golden bangs, and planted a soft, affectionate kiss on his forehead.

Len gasped, blushed ruby red, and his heart seemed to stop beating all together; his hands began to shake, a little like Kaito's had, and, abruptly, his heart lurched, and started beating again, only now at a hundred miles an hour. Gakupo's long cheeks were coloured very faintly, but, apart from that near invisible blush, Gakupo did not seem flustered or embarrassed at all, while Len's cheeks burned beneath the older man's soft lips. His hand gently stroked Len's blushing cheek, and Len wasn't sure where to look or what to do, whether to shove the man away like he had Kaito and glare at him in the eye or thank him - seriously? - and humbly accept the gesture of affection with his eyes down or...

Gakupo's thumb moved across Len's skin in a backwards-and-forwards motion; Len's blush darkened, and spread down his neck, and up over his ears. Gakupo pulled back, still smiling that small but brilliant smile of his; and, glancing at his eyes, Len thought he saw another smugger, cheekier emotion there, bouncing around in the darkness of his purple iris.

"Call me Gakupo."

Chapter Five

:: The Woman in Red - Part One ::

Hibiki Lui had a disease.

It was called Chatter Box Syndrome. It was a dreadful illness that caused him to talk endlessly on a subject no-one even understood let alone cared about, and it often resulted in his being thrown out of rooms or chased into the halls or screamed at until he cried. With his girlish appearance, all was quickly forgiven and his cheeks were hastily wiped clean of the tears. But then he'd start talking again, talking and talking and talking, and his companions would wonder why they didn't just kill him in the first place.

Rin was beginning to wonder the same thing.

Yes, Rin liked a good chat. She loved to talk. It was her favourite past time.

But there was a point where even she wanted to scream: "SHUT UP!"

"So, you see, Rin-kun, the reason the sky is blue is because of the gases in the atmosphere. They trap the sun's light and the colours which we can see are blue, you see, but there's actually lots, lots more up there. It's pretty awesome. You know what else is awesome? Swimming. I loooooooovvvvveee to go swimming. It's so much fun. Just swimming around in the cool, gentle water. It's so nice. Princess Miki is nice. Don't you think? She's pretty, too. But not as pretty as Ring. Oh, do you know Ring? She's a friend of mine. She's like my elder sister, really. We've been together for years now. She works for Miss Kasane... Miss Kasane is terrifying, huh? Like spiders. She's a big, pink-haired spider. You know, I wonder about her hair. Pink isn't a natural pigment in human hair. I can't imagine she dyed it, though, because it looks so natural and smooth.. Soft, too. I wonder what happened? Maybe -"

"Lui!" Rin screamed. She was about five seconds away from leaping off her horse and strangling the boy. "Please! Enough."

Lui frowned, hurt flashing in his round and bright orange eyes, and for a few blessed moments, he was silent. Rin let out a sigh of relief.

"...maybe she fell into a tub of wine. Because, you know, that wouldn't be as strange as it seems. Wine is a very curious liquid..."


Rin suppressed a groan, and twisted around in her saddle, and did her best to tune out Lui's insane rambling; his light, cheerful voice dancing merrily about her ear drum along side the rhythmical thud-thud-thud-thud of the horses' hooves clacking against the dry, stony earth, mostly devoid of life save for the half-dead grass that peered hopefully up at the sky as though silently begging for some rain and the pale, leaning trees that seemed to be screaming for the same thing. All around them, the half-dead desert of stone stretched; in the distant, it rose and fell like the waves of the ocean, and Rin guessed that was when it went from stone to sand.

Sprinkled across the desert were these tall, bulky mounds, dark and ominous against the startlingly blue background of the sky. According to Lui, they were probably made by an insect, most likely termites.

The sun was hot and merciless against her neck, and Rin tugged her hat down lower, hoping to protect her milky skin from the harsh, sizzling rays. Lui didn't seem to mind the sun, dressed in such exposing and thin attire as he was. His shorts were very short, and his pale legs were uncovered and naked, and his tunic was sleeveless, and the only article of clothing that clung to his equally pale arms was a thick orange, belt-like band wrapped loosely around his wrist. There was a large black bow at his throat, and his dusty brown hair was cut short and cursed slightly at the ends, leaving his neck just as exposed as Rin's was.

The four soldiers accompanying them didn't seem to mind the sun, either, or they would have fled into the shade by now. Their armour was heavy and glinted silvery in the bright sunlight, and the clothing beneath was thick and padded. It was a wonder they hadn't collapsed from heat-stroke.

Rin blinked against the sun's light and stared across the stony plain. They had left Miki's castle a solid four or so hours ago, and they had hurried through the peaceful, open and cool country side of Rosemaria before abruptly reaching a sudden rise in temperature, and along with it a dense and green and humid stretch of towering trees with broad leaves and gnarled roots that erupted from the earth like fossilized waves.

Now, after what seemed like a life time of riding, they had reached Dragonstone Desert. It was from somewhere near in this vast, stony expanse that Lady Sakine sent word via messenger hawk of her rapid arrival.

Rin, at the start of the trip, had thought it would be easy as pie for Lady Sakine to gallop into Rosemaria. She thought the road from Rosemaria to Belzenia was flat and made for swift travel. She now knew it was anything but. How Lady Sakine hoped to ride through that thick jungle of a forest within two hours was beyond Rin. She's probably still trekking along somewhere out here! Stupid, over-confident woman...

Suddenly, Lui tugged at his horse's reigns and brought the huge, honey-coloured beast to a stop. Rin and the soldiers copied him; Rin peered at him curiously.

"Lui-san? What's up?"

"Sake caught up with us," He replied. He lifted his arm, and parted his lips slightly, and then let loose a high-pitched, screeching whistle that made Rin's hair stand on end. A moment later, a similar whistle returned his call, and a crimson coloured bird flew down to hover above Lui, flapping it's broad, feathery winds. They were streaked with orange and yellow and other shades of red, all of which seemed to glow and gleam in the brilliant, golden rays of the sun.

Lui made a clucking nose with his tongue. The bird lowered itself onto Lui's unprotected arm, pressing it's gigantic, grey talons against Lui's white skin.

Rin gasped.

"Lui! You can't let that thing sit on your bear arm!" She wailed in alarm, and the bird's golden eyes snapped to her face. "It'll rip you apart!"

Lui frowned; he looked annoyed, and somewhat offended.

"First of all, Rin-kun, Sake isn't an it. Sake is a she.Second, I know what I'm doing. I'm a Messenger. I work with these birds everyday. Third, Sake knows what she's doing. She works with Messengers everyday." The bird - Sake - ruffled her red-orange-yellow feathers and gave a little whistle of confirmation. "Have a little more faith in us, would you? She may be Lady Sakine's Messenger Bird, but she's a Messenger Bird all the same."

Rin stared wearily in reply. That huge bird was making her nervous. Lui could say whatever he wanted; Rin would always see that muscular bundle of fiery feathers as a death machine without conscious thinking, a creature that could rip her to shreds in a matter of seconds if it so desired.

"So, we're in the right spot, then?" She asked.

Lui glanced at Sake. The bird made some tweeting noises.

Lui turned back to Rin and nodded. "Yeah. Lady Sakine should be somewhere around here."

Rin stared. Who is this guy? Doctor Dolittle? The Bird Whisperer?

"Can you direct us in a more accurate direction?" One of the soldiers asked suddenly, his voice low and deep and partly muffled by his helmet. It gleamed a bright white when it caught the sun, and Rin winced, looking away.

Lui told them what he knew, occasionally looking to Sake for assistance, and the bird appeared happy to help with whatever information he needed. Without questioning his insane methods, the soldiers nodded, and quickly organized themselves into teams. Team 1 would scout ahead and check for signs of danger, while Team 2 stayed with Lui and Rin and guided them along Team 1's approved path.

"If we encounter danger," The solider continued. His name, Rin remembered, was Akaito. "You, Sir Kagamine, are to stick with Gumo, and you, Sir Hibiki, go with Bruno. Stick to them like glue, but if worst comes to worst, flee on your horses. Just run and don't look back. Do you understand?"

Rin nodded, silent, while Lui sighed and reluctantly agreed.

"Good. Me and Dell are going to scout ahead. We'll send back a signal once we've OK-ed enough land. Stay here with Bruno and Gumo until the signal. Got it?" Akaito's narrow, glittering red eyes flickered from Rin to Lui, but Rin noticed they lingered on her face for in inappropriate amount of time. A bubble of indigence swelled within her little chest as Rin realized he suspected her to be a trouble-maker - a vicious little boy who did no more then struggle against authority like Akaito. Rin stared back, blue eyes blazing with defiance.

She had hoped to nullify Akaito's fears - show through her fiery, flaring gaze that she was strong and loyal - but instead Akaito sighed, as though she had confirmed whatever belittling thought drifting through his brain to be fact, and Rin tensed as he tapped the horse's flanks with his foot and whispered something to another solider - Gumo, Rin supposed. Then he and Dell were off, galloping down the path and sending a dust storm of sand swirling about the horses' hooves.

Jerk. Rin thought tartly, glaring at his retreating form. I hope a desert lion swallows you whole.

Whether desert lions were real or not, Rin didn't know, but it was nice to dream.

Lui, shockingly, didn't immediately launch into a conversation the moment Akaito - aka JERK FACE - and Dell disappeared into the distances. Instead, he murmured beneath his breath to the fiery hawk, and she twittered and clucked and crooned in reply, and though she sounded sweet and harmless, Rin couldn't look away from those huge, glinting talons wrapped securely around Lui's arm. How they weren't slicing into his skin and ripping his delicate limb into ribbons was beyond Rin. As far as she knew, those talons could crush bone and Lui's arm was not all that thick nor strong, and should have been easily wrenched apart by the bird.

"Oh, is that the signal?" Lui asked suddenly, pointing with his free hand and Rin whipped around and tightened her grip on the reigns, prepared to spring her horse into motion at any moment. Peering across the sizzling desert, Rin saw a distant flare of orange fire - it swirled through the open air and licked hungrily at the sky and burned furiously for several seconds, giving them plenty of time to digest it's existence and it's location.

"Yeah." Gumo confirmed. "Let's get going -"

"Hold on," Bruno interrupted, and he lifted his hand. A signal of silence.

Gumo did not look like he wanted to be silent, but, out of respect for the older and more experienced solider, he kept his mouth shut. Rin glanced at him - and almost fell out of her chair. He looked just like Gumi! His green hair was, perhaps, a few shades darker, and his sparkling emerald eyes were noticeably narrower and his chin slightly squarer and shoulders broader - but he could have been Gumi's twin!

Gumo glanced at her and grinned. "What?"

"N-nothing!" Rin squeaked.

"Silence." Bruno growled irritably, and Rin pouted. Why was the guy so stubborn? That flare was obviously the signal from Jerk Face and his friend Dory. Or Daniel. Or Dell. Whatever. Rin honestly didn't care - all she cared about was finding Lady Sakine and getting back to Rosemaria before she shrivelled up and materialized into ash under these unforgiving rays of sunlight. (And, more importantly, before Len found out she was gone. He'd have a heart attack.)

She glanced at Gumo and he winked at her. He held his hand at the side of his head and spun his pointer finger around in a small circle and let his tongue lolly out of his mouth; with his free hand, jabbed an accusing finger at Bruno's safely turned back. Crazy! Laughter tickled Rin's chest and her shoulders began to shake with the effort of keeping them suppressed.

"I said, silence." Bruno snapped icily from his horse.

Gumo rolled his eyes at Rin, who flashed him a cheeky grin and wriggled her fingers in Bruno's direction. Loser, she mouthed. Gumo snorted - a loud sound that exploded in the near-silence of the desert - and Bruno whipped round and slapped his horse into a swift trod and held his hand right up in Gumo's face. Gumo leaned back slightly in his saddle, his eyes widened in alarm, and Rin gasped softly and Lui squeaked with surprise.

"I said," Bruno snarled viciously. "SILENCE!"


Rin whirled round in her saddle and saw Akaito and Daniel - Dory? Dell? - riding back towards them in a churning cloud of sandy yellow dust that swirled about their frantically galloping horses and the lightning-quick lashes of their short whips. Rin felt fear bubble up in her chest. They were riding too quickly - something must have happened -


Rin frowned as the sound reached her ears and swung back around, and Gumo was staring wide-eyed at Bruno's glossy black horse, and Lui was stroking Sake's fiery feathers and murmuring soothing nothings under his breath and Bruno was on the ground with an arrow sticking out of his throat and blood was pooling everywhere -

Rin froze.

"Shit," Gumo hissed. "Shit." Moving like lightning, he withdrew his sword and the silvery blade caught the light and shone like a star.

"Both of you, go!" Gumo commanded. When they simply stared at him, shell-shocked, he lifted his sword and kicked his horse's flanks harshly with the corner of his boots. "GO!"

That bubble of fear in Rin's chest exploded into a raging inferno of overpowering terror, and with a little cry she bashed her boots against her horse's side with too much force. It screamed in alarm and reared backwards, and Rin shrieked and clung desperately to it's neck. The horse lashed out as the salty, copper-like smell of blood stabbed at it's nostrils, and Lui cried out as his horse - startled by Rin's - bucked as well. Taken off guard, Lui did not grasp the horse's thick neck, and was unceremoniously flung from the saddle and crashed bodily against the desert floor.

He lay there, unmoving. A small stream of red trickled across his forehead, weaving through his hair.

"Lui!" Rin screamed.

"Go! GO NOW!" Gumo yelled, and suddenly arrows were flying from all directions - some burned with fire, others simply sped towards them, undetectable save for the shrill whistle of the wind as they flew - and men were pouring in from every direction. Behind them, Rin could hear Akaito and Dell yelling and their horses' neighing furiously and the thud-thud-thud-thud of their hooves bashing and clapping and clattering against the stone floor.

A man painted cream to match the surroundings foolishly lunged at Gumo without considering the fact he was on horse back, and Gumo cut him down with a simple twitch of his wrist. Blood splattered against the earth and Rin's gut churched with disgust and horror and fear and panic gripped her mind.

Another man carrying a quiver of arrows locked with her terrified gaze and she saw nothing but intense and unimaginable hate and rage and loathing boiling and burning in his eyes - and the fiery, beast-like lust to kill and to slaughter and to rip through flesh and spill blood, her blood, her flesh, to kill her, her, he was going to kill her, she was going to die, I'm going to die -

I'm going to die -

Thinking of nothing but escaping the slaughter she hastily flicked the reigns and her horse rocketed away from the battle, half-crazed itself with fear, and the wild rocking of the horse's back almost sent Rin flying, and she threw her arms desperately about it's neck and clung as though her life depended on it - which it did.

Rin had no control over the horse now. It ran madly, furiously, aimlessly - simply racing to escape the suffocating scent of blood and the sounds of screaming and the thunderous smashes of hooves against stone and the soldiers and those cream-coloured men and the fight itself. Rin squeezed her eyes shut and willed the world to vanish - willed herself to believe she was back at the castle with Len, only they weren't cross-dressing and they weren't hiding and they were just having fun with Mama and Papa - but all she could see was Lui's face. She noted how pale it was, how all the colour seemed to have drained from his cheeks in a matter of five seconds. How red the blood was as it snaked across his forehead, like some grotesque crimson river. How dazed and lifeless his once twinkling orange eyes had been.

Is Lui dead?

Rin's heart clenched in her chest.

No. NO! It couldn't be true. He'd been alive a mere twenty minutes ago. They'd been talking a little - though, for once in her life, it was Rin who mostly did the listening rather then the chatting - and Lui had been full of life, his round cheeks rosy and his eyes bright and Sake was perched on his arm, trilling, and he'd smile and stroke her feathers and -

He lay there, unmoving. A small stream of red trickled across his forehead, weaving through his hair.

Rin's eyes snapped open and the world was rushing past her in a blur of blue and cream and brown. The horse's breathing was laboured and it's hooves were slipping and sliding dangerously over the plates of stone but it refused to stop, driven by insane fear made only worse by it's limited intelligence.

The reigns were flapping in the air, and Rin grabbed at them, and just managed to clasp them between her trembling fingers. She had to go back and help Lui. She had left him there - for dead - just lying on the ground, where he could be so easily trampled by a frightened or angry horse or run through or set alight by one of those men. Alone on the ground, he was as good as dead, and Rin had to help him. She just had to!

"I'm coming, Lui," She whispered under her breath.

Then she wrenched the reigns as hard as she could and her horse screeched with alarm and pain as the leather bit into it's tender neck skin. It almost reared up again, briefly lifting itself off the ground only to stumble backwards a few steps and snort loudly and shake it's head so it's black mane whipped and slapped at the empty air.

Rin ran her hands along it's glossy neck and whispered nonsense words of comfort, words she knew the animal could not understand, but surely it could recognize the soothing, calming tone Rin was desperately attempting to replicate.

After a moment, the horse calmed down, but Rin could still see the lingering fear and anxiety flickering it it's round, black eyes. Rin smiled warmly - she wasn't sure why. Would the horse even understand a smile? - and stroked it's neck some more.

"It's okay," She promised the startled animal. "It's okay now. Alright? It's all good. We just need to go and get Lui. Okay? Can you stay calm for me? Just for a little while longer? Please?"

The horse, unsurprisingly, didn't reply. Rin felt her shoulders slump a little. A small part of her had been hoping it would respond in some way, if only a little twitch of an ear.

"Good. Thanks." Rin mumbled anyway. She grabbed the reigns and gave them a tiny, weak little flick, and the horse started to trot. She turned it back towards the battle, and felt something hot and bright and golden bloom in her chest - courage. And determination. Fierce, unyielding determination. She was going to save Lui or die trying. Len would be sad if she died - but at least he'd know she'd died trying to save another life.

Rin's grip tightened on the reigns.

She felt so big and powerful and proud of herself that she couldn't help but grin. She could have turned her horse back to Rosemaria and sobbed into Len's shoulder and wailed about how sad it was that Lui was dead. Instead, she was going to save him. Like a hero would.

"Come on!" She shouted jubilantly, kicking the horse's flanks. "Let's go!"

The horse erupted into a gallop and Rin leaned forward slightly and the wind whistled through her hair and cooled the beads of hot sweat on her face and Rin silently begged that Lui was still alive, that no-one had gotten to him - perhaps Sake had tried to protect him. She seemed more intelligent them most birds. Perhaps she could tell the difference between friend and foe.

With that thought in mind, Rin's determination increased, and she gave the reigns another encouraging flick. Beneath her, the horse's massive, powerful muscles tensed and throbbed and bulged, and she could almost feel the strength and power racing through it's limbs. It may not be smart, but this horse was strong - and, perhaps, brave, if it's rider set a better example.

A glint of silver caught Rin's eye, and she whipped around and ducked, excepting an arrow to whistle menacingly over her head. But instead she caught sight of a glistening silver river that twisted and wound and snaked it's way across the barren, lifeless landscape.

And by that river, a sword resting on her knee and her brown hair strung back in a stubby pony-tail, was Lady Sakine Meiko.

"Lady Sakine!" Rin gasped aloud. She was alive! She hastily pulled the reigns and steered the horse into an abrupt turn. Lady Sakine was armed and an experienced fighter - a thousand times stronger then Rin could ever hope to be. With that red-eyed woman at her side, Rin's chances of rescuing Lui and coming out of the fight alive increased dramatically.

She had a problem, though. The part of desert on which Rin and her horse rode was raised above the river, and the closer you got to the edge, the weaker and thinner and more unstable the ground became. A small part even curved out over the river, and that slab was perilously thin - even someone as light as Rin could shatter that slab into falling fragments of sand stone.

Rin brought the horse to a stop and examined the area. The urgency to move and save Lui was burning like a raging flame in her chest, and beads of sweat tickled down her cheeks. The edge was a definite no-go area. The horse was too heavy. Further along, the ground was thicker and noticeably more stable and Rin saw there was a dusty path leading down to the water's edge - but it was extremely steep and narrow and seemed slippery, like ice, to Rin's eyes. She couldn't take the horse down there - she would have to go herself.

Moving quickly, she swung off the beast and hastily tied it to one of those termite mounds Lui had so enjoyed gossiping about, and stroked the beast's slender snout before racing back to the river. She tried calling out to Lady Sakine, but her voice was too small and was easily carried away by the wailing desert winds. Rin hadn't expected it too work. After all, wouldn't Lady Sakine have heard the sound of her horse approaching? They'd been riding extremely fast and loudly. Or the sounds the battle. Rin could hear them even here, the metallic hiss of metal against metal and the screams of dying men and the wild shrieks of petrified horses, though they were muffled by distance.

Rin glanced at the path. Between her and it, there was some of that thin stone that could give way at any moment - if the right amount of pressure was applied. Rin weighed nearly nothing.

Still, she moved forward cautiously and carefully. She took a hesitant step forward, froze and waited. The ground held. She took another, and another, and another, and still the ground remained firm and intact beneath her booted feet. Confidence swelled in her chest and she began to increase her pace. She remembered Lui lying on the stone, eyes dull and blood leaking from his skull, and moved even faster.

She hoped his dead-like appearance had caused those strange men to leave him alone. After all, what was the point of stabbing a dead boy? It was nothing more then a waste of time and effort. Perhaps they simply left him there on the ground and went off to fight Gumo, Akaito and Dell - Bruno was dead already, Rin realized with a shudder. And it had happened so quickly. One moment, he was alive and kicking and shouting in Gumo's face. The next - gone. Dead. A lifeless corpse on the ground.


A chill ripped up Rin's spine. How easy it was to kill a man. You need only blink, and a life can be lost. All the more reason to hurry, she reminded herself. Lui's life can be lost in the blink on an eye, too.

She was almost there now. The path was rapidly approaching. She glanced down and saw Lady Sakine stand and walk away from the river and slip inside a make-shift tent. A moment later, she re-emerged with a fat man wearing glossy pants and a sweat-stained shirt, and led him to the water. He gulped hungrily at the shimmering waves, and Lady Sakine patted his back encouraging - just like Rin with her horse - before plopping down beside him and taking a swig from her canteen.

So she isn't the sole survivor. Rin thought with a sigh of relief. Thank goodness -

A whistle, and pain exploded in Rin's leg and she screamed with pain and alarm. The pain roared in her blood and swept through her body and for a moment, she reeled, her thoughts colliding with icy panic and fiery pain and she stumbled this and way that before shaking herself back into reality and looking down and seeing the blood oozing down her left leg and the arrow that had ripped through it.

Oh my God Oh my God Oh my GodOhmygodOhmygodOhmygod -

Rin heart lurched in her chest and thundered against her rib cage and only caused the blood to flow faster, squirting out of her leg and splattering against the creamy stone. The pain abruptly vanished and Rin realized she was going into shock. She wasn't sure if that was good or not. Len had talked to her about it a long time ago. He'd been smaller and even thinner then he was now, with larger eyes and a rounder chin and bonier wrists. And his hair had been much shorter. Darker, too. More grime spread through it.

God. The random things you thought of when in shock.

Rin heard another whistle and managed to heave herself to one side just as the arrow flew past her - cutting through the area which her chest had once occupied. It smashed into the stone and cracks leapt from the arrow point and crept across the ground, snaking ominously towards Rin like blood-hungry demons.

Rin let out a little cry and limped backwards, away from the winding, searching cracks, and twisted around and caught sight of her attacker. He was painted cream like all the others, with some of that half-dead grass they'd passed earlier plastered to his arms and legs, and he was putting his arrows away and reaching for his sword.

Rin gasped and her eyes widened in terror. That man was going to kill her! She searched the area frantically for her horse and saw it was still tied up to the mound, watching the man with terrified eyes. She could try to run over, but with her leg the way it was, she'd never reach it in time, let alone heave herself on. Rin swallowed thickly. The man was too big for her to fight - his arm muscles alone were larger then her head, and his legs were long and bulged with muscles and slammed audibly against the stone as he ran -

Rin jolted as reality hit her.

The man was big. Really, really big. He must have weighed a tonne.

And that means -

Rin's breath hitched in her throat.

The stone wouldn't be able to hold him.

Rin opened her mouth to scream - to make him stop, to warn him of the danger - but it was too late, the man was already upon her, and the moment his gigantic, powerful feet crashed against the thin stone, it shattered like broken glass. The slabs beneath Rin heaved and bucked upwards, and Rin lost her balance. She rolled uncontrollably down the jerking slabs and screamed the whole way, and she was thrown about like a rag doll and stones ripped and lashed and stabbed at her unprotected limbs and her leg burned like an agony that consumed her, the shock wearing off as abruptly as it came - and suddenly the earth beneath her gave way - crumbled like dust, scattered to the wind - and she was falling, falling freely towards the river.

"Ah..." Rin gasped.

Bye, Len.

And then her body smashed against the water, and she knew no more.

Disclaimer: I do not own Vocaloid or Vana'N Ice and their Len-in-a-dress related works or mothy's Seven Deadly Sins countries.



So, YAY, quick up date, peoples! Thanks for all those awesome reviews. You have no idea how incredibly happy they make me.

Next chapter goes back to Gakupo and Len :D Piko might come back, too, for a little bit. Let Jealous!Gakupo rear his ugly face once again. But there'll be cute moments too. x3 Gaku x Len is cute, in a weird way.

For those who don't know, Hibiki Lui is a new Vocaloid3 shota. He's got two designs because he was picked out of a design competition. I don't dislike the new design, but I prefer the original one, so that's how I described him. Ring is the blue-haired girl he was shown with. Again, prefer her original design, so that's how I'll describe her if she comes into the story.

Sorry for the cliffy! But it's fun to write. The chapters long, too, so I've compensated.

I read through it, but, once again, I may have missed something. I apologize for any mistakes you found.