Hopefully these revisions will be done soon...

"I found him! Hey Airi, he's over here!"

Church awoke to the sound of a voice that he happily recognized. He pushed himself up into a sitting position with his one good arm, looking towards the source of the noise, all the while noticing Alleyne's absence.

He didn't have time to think about his final moments with the elven beauty though. All of his attention was drawn to the two women who were rapidly approaching the lakeside to get to him. He didn't even have time to utter a word of greeting as Melona tackled him to the ground. Surprisingly, despite the force she had put behind it, the impact had been really soft: sort of like Jell-O. Thanks to this strange phenomenon, Church's injuries were hardly jostled at all.

"Geez Church, what's with you and disappearing on us without warning? I don't know how many times Airi will come for you if this keeps happening..."

Church just grinned and did his best to hug the peculiar girl that pinned him to the ground, noticing that there were quite a few beautiful bluish-white feathers stuck to her body. Hardly having the strength to say anything unnecessary, Church didn't ask about them.

His smile only widened as Church saw Airi walk up behind the two of them, a relieved smile dominant on her face. Melona, noticing the arrival of her slower comrade, pushed herself off of Church's body, and stepped out of the way as Airi offered her arm to help up the wounded man they had worked so hard to rescue.

But as Church clasped Airi's forearm to help himself stand, her pleasant smile quickly turned to a pained grimace, and he finally noticed her gruesome injury.

"A-Airi! Your arm... what happened?"

The redheaded woman looked down at her right arm with a look of disbelief: almost as if the bloody gash that marred her usually flawless skin surprised her as much as it did Church.

Disregarding his considerable agony, Church quickly got to his feet so that he could examine the injury. He gingerly clutched her arm at the elbow and wrist to avoid touching the wound. Airi resisted for a brief moment, but quickly gave up her efforts and allowed Church to worry about her. The look on her face spoke volumes about Airi's exhaustion: she was clearly too tired to really berate or argue with him.

With the best analysis that he could make without proper equipment, Church decided that Airi's wound wasn't fatal and probably wouldn't scar, but there would be a good chance of infection if it wasn't treated. Coming to this conclusion, he remembered a little gift Alleyne had given him before his brutal fight with Echidna. Reaching his bruised arm behind his back, he withdrew a roll of linen bandages from his rear pocket. Alleyne had told him that they were sterile, although how she could assure that without modern medicine was beyond him.

Seeing the item he had grabbed caused Airi to frown and tug her arm away from Church once more, but his firm grip held her in place, and she gave up the futile resistance. Church noted that Airi had yet to say a single word: her exhaustion must've been mental as well. Church pushed the thought from his mind as he contemplated how to best treat her wound.

He muttered to himself as he tore off as much of the bandage as he would need. "Man, how am I going to clean this thing?"

Melona must've heard him, and offered an idea that was both useless and ridiculous. "Why not wash it in the lake?"

Church noticed Airi considering it, and he shook his head and pushed her away from the lake edge. "No, very bad idea. Who knows what kind of pathogens are in that water? It'd be better for me to just wipe it down with the bandages..."

Melona put a finger on her chin and made a questioning face. "What's a... pathogen?"

"It's like a germ."

The look of confusion on the girl's face intensified. "What's a germ?"

Church shook his head as he began dabbing at Airi's wound with a wad of sterile bandages, causing the woman he was treating to flinch in pain whenever he touched her. "Never mind. It's not really important."

Taking note of a lack of any kind of ointment or medicine, Church began to move off towards one of the many trees Alleyne had identified as having leaves with medicinal properties. Motioning to the two girls, he said, "Wait here, I'll be back in a few minutes."

Church, having temporarily left their side, left the two servants alone together. Melona took the opportunity to question Airi about her condition. "Airi, what's up with your arm? Shouldn't that have healed by now?"

Airi shook her head from side to side lethargically. "I... don't have enough energy... to heal it."

Melona cocked an eyebrow at her, as if that was a stupid explanation. "Well then go get some! You do it all the time."

Her comment only garnered her a look of annoyance from the weary wraith. "Do you see anyone around here? It's not that simple..."

"Of course it is! You can just take some from Church. He's-"

This time Airi's response came with more energy. "Absolutely not. I didn't use all of this time looking for him to drain him now. Besides, you saw his condition. The last thing he needs is me taking his energy."

Melona frowned. "I don't see what the problem is: you don't have to take a lot. Besides, you've said before that life force regenerates, so what permanent harm is it gonna do?"

Airi scowled at her friend. For some reason she had never considered draining Church of life force if it was needed, but now that she was, she didn't like the idea one bit. To use him like that felt like betraying his trust. "That's not the point Melona. He doesn't deserve to be used that way... besides, I want him to stay as far away from anything to do with the Swamp Witch as possible."

Melona began picking off the angelic feathers she had stuck to her body. "That's a first. When did that sentiment crop up? I never would have guessed that you would think to withhold something from the Witch."

The redhead's scowl deepened as she realized that Melona was right. When on earth had she decided to be so protective of Church? She barely knew him as it was, and her loyalty to the Witch should have taken precedence over her misguided concern for the man, yet it wasn't. He had been so relieved to see her earlier, so happy that they had come to rescue him... he clearly counted her as his friend; how could she in good conscience turn him over to the Witch to be enslaved?

Still, it was difficult for her to put these sentiments into words, so she simply didn't. "I don't know Melona. It just feels wrong. He hasn't done anything to deserve being unwittingly turned over by his friends."

Melona cocked an eyebrow at her. "Friends? I'm surprised you actually consider him one."

"I know Melona. Look, I don't know when it happened, it just did..."

"Well in that case, what are you gonna do if the Witch just orders you to bring him to her?"

Airi's eyes widened in shock as she realized what a serious possibility that was. It hadn't occurred to her until now, but under the obedience spell, Airi would have no choice but to do as she was told...

"She can't make a command like that if she doesn't know about him, Melona."

The slime gave her a questioning look. "Are you really doing this, Airi? You, so fanatically loyal, is trying to circumvent your duties as a loyal servant? Aren't you supposed to report everything?"

Airi looked down at the ground, agitation and uncertainty written all over her face. "Please, Melona, stop it. I don't... I can't... I don't know what to do. Just... leave it, alright?"

Seeing Church returning to the two of them, Melona took the last few moments of privacy to make a serious remark. "If you want to keep him away from her, Airi, then eventually you'll have to keep him away from us."

Airi made no response, either because she was afraid of Church hearing in his now close proximity, or simply because she had no reply to give.

Church beamed as he exited the rim of trees that signaled the outskirts of the gargantuan forest that had been his home for nearly a month. Sure, he had many good memories of it and had become quite fond of the place, but in all honesty, he was sick of all the trees. Which was why what was before him made him smile so.

His eyes were met with hilly, rolling plains of grass, the blades shifting to and fro in the winds that coursed through them. A clear blue sky and fluffy white clouds above, without any treetops to obscure its magnificence, welcomed him back to the outside world. Coming up from behind him, Melona did a fine job of enthusiastically putting his thoughts into words.

"Finally, no more trees! If I'd been stuck in there for one more day I would have started cutting 'em down!"

The excited girl ran out to the top of the hill that the trio of companions stood on and tossed herself down the hill, rolling down it with a passion only an over-exaggerating individual like herself could muster. Airi said nothing as she came to stand next to Church and watch their mutual friend frolic in the fresh grass.

She had spoken very little since being reunited with Church and heading for the forest's edge: Church had, at first, believed it was because her arm pained her, but that had become an unlikely possibility. In all of the hours since he had treated her injury, Airi had shown little to no signs of discomfort, and had only stared at the ground with a furrowed brow, as though she were brooding over a distasteful thought. He had also noticed that her complexion was much paler than he remembered. She had a sort of pallid look about her that pointed to sickness; yet nothing had happened to show any signs of less than optimal health.

Needless to say, her condition worried Church to no small extent. Her usual personality was buried under the muck of somber and introverted thoughts, and Church would have given anything to find out what they were.


The woman he questioned made no response, but instead merely shifted her dreary gaze to Church, to show that she was listening. Her injured arm, wrapped in medicinal leaves that Alleyne had shown him as well as the bandages she had provided for him, hung limply at her side, apparently not causing her any discomfort.

"Are you alright? You've been acting a little strange; is it your arm?"

Her response came slowly. "...no."

"Well then what's wrong?"


Church cocked an eyebrow at her, and examined her more closely. The only thing he could notice was that her eyes seemed to lack focus. Yes, she was looking in his direction, but she wasn't looking at him. It was worrisome, to say the least.

"So then everything's okay? You're not hurting anywhere, or feeling sick or something?"


Church sighed. He obviously wasn't going to get Airi to admit to him what was bothering her. So instead he took a step forward and gave her a gentle side hug.

"Okay then. But if something is wrong, you have to tell me, alright?"

A bit of focus returned to her gaze as Airi blushed a little and looked away from the man that hugged her. "I-I'm fine... please...let go."

Church stepped back from her, afraid that he had overstepped his boundaries. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."

Airi just shook her head forlornly, turning away from Church and then following Melona down the grassy hill. Church followed her with his eyes, watching the back of someone who was clearly struggling with something. He wanted to help her, but she wouldn't let him get close enough to figure out the actual problem.

He turned his gaze back to the forest behind him, overcome by sadness. Back there were his other friends, ones who had helped and protected him for over month. He even counted Echidna among them now, despite the many significant injuries she had left him with. And Nowa, who he hadn't gotten the chance to say a proper goodbye to, was back there as well. She had helped him through some tight spots, her encouraging words carrying him onward when he needed it.

And Alleyne... he wasn't sure how he felt about her. Their last moments together had been intimate, and he wasn't sure what to make of it. His feelings right now were a confused jumble of things; old friends, new friends, the past, the future, Airi and Alleyne... He didn't know what to make sense of first. All he knew was that he had left Alleyne with a promise he may not be able to keep. And for some reason, the thought of breaking his promise to that woman stabbed him in the heart like a fiery dagger.

Nanael and Hachiel hovered over the scene below them, one indifferent to the situation and the other very uncomfortable with it.

"Who would've thought... is that man in league with the Swamp Witch?"

Nanael yawned, faking exhaustion from her fight many hours prior. "Probably just one of her servants, Hachi..."

Hachiel looked at her friend incredulously. "Nanael, do you not understand how serious this is? If that man is with the Swamp Witch, then it is highly likely that those elves are too! And now he's protected by those two... how are we supposed to question him now?"

The blue-haired angel smirked at her. "Well according to you, you had him in your grasp earlier. So how did things turn out like this?"

Called out, Hachiel's face flushed, having been caught in a mistake. "T-they were having a very personal moment! I didn't want to be rude!"

Nanael sighed. "And look where that got us! Now we have to follow them to who knows where! Aw... I'm sick of this assignment already..."

Hachiel folded her arms as she berated her friend. "Geez, Nanael, you're so lazy! Keep this up and you'll be in the Netherworld in no time..."

Nanael's countenance turned somber at the mention of such an outcome. "That's not funny, Hachi..."

"Sorry. I didn't mean it like that. You know I won't let that happen to you, Nanael. But I need your help to make it happen."

Nanael put on a face of confidence and raised her fist into the air. "Yeah! Alright then, let's do this! C'mon, let's go take them on right now!"

It amazed Hachiel how quickly Nanael's mood could change. Needless to say, it took all of her strength to restrain her eager companion.

With relief; this chapter has been revised.