In spite of the fiasco, the trial went over well. Or at least, Battler hoped it went over well. It was just the beginning, so it was too early to arrive at any conclusions. In the mean time, as he sat down at home to have dinner with his family, he struggled with how to address Beato's behaviour. Charming as she had been when they first met, her little "look at me I'm the Golden Witch" routine, from what Kyrie had described, had failed to bring smiles and laughter to the faces of the other businessmen. Battler tried to remind himself that Beato had been sheltered for most of her life and therefore didn't understand why it wasn't socially acceptable to boast of her magical abilities in the middle of a court house.

But on the other hand, he was pretty sure that what she did cost them a good chance in court. How could he make her understand that?

He wondered this as Beato sat across from him at the table. She looked as though she knew she had done something wrong to earn this silence, but was trying to figure out what.

"So," Battler finally said, "if worst comes to worse, we could go live with Aunt Natsuhi on Rokkenjima for a while. You know, just until things smooth over?"

Already, he could see the look of disgust on Rudolf's face, but it was Kyrie who spoke: "You and Ange still have school over here. We might have some money left over to manage for now."

"It's no big deal," Battler insisted. "We can put school on-hold for a short while. Or maybe we could hold out until summer vacation starts and then go."

"And go crawling to my dear brother on my hands and knees?" Rudolf scoffed. "Please. I'd rather live in the streets."

"Oh yeah?" Battler said sharply. "You'd rather live in the streets, huh? What about Ange? Do you want her to live in the streets as well? Do you think she should have to sleep in a lice-infested mattress just because her father was too proud to ask for help?"

Ange shot her father a worried expression. Rudolf sighed and picked at his dinner.

"Look," Battler said, "I know you have your issues with Uncle Krauss—heck, I think it would be easier to name someone in this family who doesn't have an issue with everyone—but desperate times call for desperate measures. We might not have to live with them after all, maybe things will turn out for the best, but we should be prepared to swallow our pride just in case they don't."

Rudolf ate his dinner in silence for several minutes before finally saying:

"Then what will you do about Beato?"

Battler and Beato shared a glance. "We'll take her, too," he said.

"And if worse comes to worse…" Rudolf paused. "Would you be willing to let her stay on the island until—"

"Absolutely not!" Beato cried out as she slammed her hands down on the table and shot up.

"Beato," Battler said in a calm but firm tone, "no one's saying you'll be going back for good, or if you'll even have to stay there at all. It might be for a little while, or we might not have to do it."

"That's what you say," Rudolf said as he struggled to cut up his steak. "But if it should come to that…will you be prepared?"

Battler fell silent.


After dinner, Battler and Beato sat outside in the backyard on the grass. From the smoky night air to the sound of the last few crickets chirping to the cool, ticklish sensation of grass beneath their hands, they wanted to focus on anything but the possibility of having to be apart.

Yet now, Battler knew he could no longer beat around the bush.

"Beato," Battler said, "you know what you did today was very foolish. I understand that you were just trying to help, but…" He hesitated. "Well, most people over here don't think it's cute or charming when you claim you're a witch. I'm not saying you should hide who you are or anything, but…look, you're not on Rokkenjima anymore. We have actual rules in society to live by. The last thing you want is to stick out like a sore thumb. That just brings all kinds of trouble. And today, you might've given those guys the impression that we're a bunch of nutcases."

"Nutcases?" Beato's tone was icy.

Crap. Backtrack, Battler, backtrack…

"Wait, uh, I didn't mean it like that!" Battler said quickly, waving his hands. "I meant they think you're a nutcase—I mean they think we're—ah…um…"

Beato huffed and began to stand up.

"No, wait, come back!" Battler called out as Beato stormed back into the house. "I didn't mean it like…"

Slam.

Battler groaned and lay in the grass. He stared at the light evening sky and wondered what was happening to him and Beato. Already, he could tell things were taking a turn for the worse. But even so, he tried to tell himself there might still be a chance things could work out for the better.


"I don't think onii-chan meant to hurt your feelings," Ange said as she sat on the couch next to Beato. "He was just trying to explain to you how things are over here."

"Hmph…even so…" Beato muttered. She crossed her arms and huffed, "What's his problem?"

"He just wants us to stay together, that's all," Ange said. She cuddled up next to Beato. "I don't want you to go back, either. So maybe you should lie low for a little while, or maybe find another way to help out."

"Like what?" Beato sighed.

"Like, I dunno, getting another job?" Ange suggested. "Just suggesting."

She yawned and closed her eyes. Beato smiled at the tired Ange. She enjoyed the freedom she had been given over the past few months and she would never, ever trade it in for anything in the world.

"Are you right?" Beato muttered. "Could I help out by also getting a job?" She yawned, "But who would want to hire an…old…witch….mmph…"

She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

A few minutes later, Battler came back inside. He smiled and picked up Ange. As he carried her off to bed, he briefly considered waking Beato up.

On second thought, nah, he thought. Never wake a sleeping witch.