Disclaimer: I do not own Familiar of Zero, only the D&D character that causes mayhem and discord.

A/N: My sense of scheduling is extremely out of wack. Just when I think I have a routine set up, I always end up forgetting something or I just forget. Oh, well, at least I finished this.

Anyway, I've finished the latest chapter and decided to update this fic. There's not much 'action', per se, in this chapter, just banter between characters to develop connections.

Well, regardless, here it is. Read/review and most importantly, enjoy.

The Alpha of Zero

Chapter Six

Diplomacy, Sometimes Better Than A Sword

I regarded the legitimately dangerous artifact that rolled harmlessly on the ground with a look of actual hesitancy and anxiety. It had the capability to summon lightning bolts and fire balls of equal power to a ninth tier spellcaster. I've never liked that specific artifact, due to it's sheer destructive capability. However, it's regularly used by those who either don't care about the risks, or measure them accordingly.

"Tabitha, get Louise and Kirche out of here, now. Let me deal with Fouquet." I looked to the more combat experienced of the three and requested her help.

The soft-spoken girl regarded me for a moment, then nodded lightly. She looked to the sky and waved her wand. After a few moments, her familiar, Sylphid descended and landed on the ground. Waving her wand, she levitated the Staff of the Magi and replaced it in its case. Lifting that, she approached the dragon and climbed on, beckoning her fellow students to follow.

"Lyall, I'm not going to leave you!" Louise said angrily, grinding her foot into the ground.

"You won't be leaving me. You'll be allowing me to better fulfill my task in the way I'm best at." I reached up and pulled down my mask, giving her a small smile. "Solitude is what I'm used to; so it doesn't bother me to be alone."

Louise's eyes widened ever so slightly, "Lyall..."

When she didn't move, I pointed to her with my sword and whispered, "Go..."

Kirche grabbed Louise by the shoulder and said, "C'mon, Vallière, Darling has to do what he feels he has to do."

Louise quickly pulled her shoulder from the girl's grasp. She pursed her lips and clenched her fists tightly. "I don't like it, not one bit. You're my familiar, yet you're telling me to leave you alone?" She looked up to me with angry eyes, but she released a sudden breath. "Don't get killed, okay?"

I snorted, "I've danced with death enough to know how it works." I stabbed my sword into the ground and pounded my chest. "You're not getting rid of me that easily, just trust me, okay."

Louise regarded me with a steady glare, but quickly turned and raced towards the dragon. Within a few moments, the three girls and the artifact were well on their way back to the academy.

I turned my head to look back to the trees. Shaking my head, I turned and strode towards the fallen cabin. Stepping through the wreckage, I wrenched my sword from the former golem, now dust, and sheathed it. Walking back out into the clearing, I sheathed Derflinger and picked up the sheath for my mithral sword. Adjusting my belt lightly, I fitted the sheath against it, frowning at the strange feeling. I've never liked having sword sheathed at my hips, it restricts the maneuverability of my lower body.

Releasing a breath, I cleared my throat and spoke, "You can come out now! The others are gone!" I crossed my arms and waited.

Derf popped out of his sheath, "Partner, what are you doing? Fouquet is the enemy, isn't she?"

"I wouldn't call her an 'enemy' really. Just someone who wants to do good without waiting for the bureaucratic bullshit to be sort out. I just want to talk with her; try to negotiate." There's also the fact that she reminds me of myself when I was a child: stealing in order to survive or to help another who was less fortunate.

Derf was silent for a moment, before replying with, "Whatever you say, partner. You seem to know what you're doing." He then dropped back into his sheath.

It wasn't for a few more moments that the subject of my thoughts strode out of the forest. She had none of her golems in view, but she's a mage. Mages are never unarmed, simply concealing their true power. Fouquet strode forward and stopped a few feet away from me. Though her face was concealed, I could see her pursed lips, confusion at my current action.

"What do you want?" She tried to put up a front.

I held my hands out and away from my body as show of peace. "To talk. I just want to speak with you, to see if we could come to an understanding."

She paused and crossed her arms. "What sort of understanding?"

"I want you to work with me. I'm not going to ask you to do anything you don't want to do; I just want to extend a hand of friendship." I spoke softly and strongly, working my diplomatic skills as well as I could.

"A friendship?" Fouquet repeated, a little surprised. "Your a soldier for good from another land and you want to befriend a thief?" She scoffed and shook her head. "Ridiculous. Shouldn't you reevaluate your beliefs?"

I snorted lightly and shook my head, "Yeah, I'm a soldier, but I follow only my personal code. If there's something that I feel must be done, then I'll do, regardless of any set of laws. If there's something that I see as wrong, then I won't hesitate to put a stop to it." I paused and lifted my hand, looking at my palm. "I grew up, alone, with nothing to my name but the clothes on my back. I stole to survive and evaded everyone who tried to punish me. I know what it's like to be looked down upon for lacking 'class' or 'power'." Looking to Fouquet, I felt a small smile come to my face, "I guess what I'm trying to say is this: you don't have to be alone. If you'll let me, I'll have your back and help you with whatever you're going through."

Fouquet continued to regard me with a critical eye, not making a move to accept or deny my request. "Why?" She asked me softly.

I cocked my head to the side, trying to think of why I wanted to help. "I... I guess it's because that it's who I am. I never had any help growing up, so whenever I've seen someone in need, I try to help. It's gotten me in all sorts of trouble, in my childhood and my military career." I paused and let out a small laugh. "Plus, I've always had a weakness for a woman in need." Before she could retort, I lifted a finger, "However, I do not consider you a damsel in distress. You're clearly too badass for that to even come to mind. Just someone who needs a little help."

Fouquet regarded me for a moment, then let out a small laugh. Her lips curved into a smile as she began to laugh to herself. After a moment, she stopped and said, "Fine. I'll work with you." I was about to speak, but she cut me off. "But, I can't stop stealing. I still need to gather up the money for my...friend."

I released a small frustrated breath, tapping my foot. "That...that really sucks." I looked over to her with a critical eye of my own, "So you're only stealing because you need the money, and not because of the thrills, right?"

The thief crossed her arms and glared at me from under her hood.

I let out a small laugh. "Fine. Fine. But I know how to make it so you won't have to steal." I reached under my cloak and fished around my chain shirt, reaching for something. When my hand grasped it, I let out a small cheer and pulled it off from around my neck. Lobbing it to her, I said, "Sell that; it should hold you aloft until I can set a good financial base."

Fouquet threw out a hand and caught the item. After a moment of looking at it, she gasped lightly, "W-what is this?" She allowed the amulet to dangle from the chain she grasped tightly in her fingers. It was a circular sapphire that was framed by a platinum base. Several inscriptions framed the outer edges in an ancient language that I didn't know. The gem twinkled and flashed as it swayed ever so lightly in her grasp. "Where did you get this?"

"Stole it." I said bluntly. She threw a look at me, to which I lifted my hands, palms out. "Hey! It belonged to a colossal jackass who transported slaves. My squad was to liberate the slaves and stop his operation. When we reached his quarters, I saw it sitting on a dresser and...nicked it." I shrugged and allowed my hands to fall. "I kept it on my person and hidden from my allies. After all, my stipend wasn't what you would call prosperous."

Fouquet lifted it and examined the amulet, "This...this will be enough for months, if not years..."

"So? Will you still have to steal if you have that?" I prodded gently.

Fouquet looked to me, then back to the gem. Her fingers entwined with the chain as she slid it into her pocket. "No, not for a long time."

I grinned at that, "Good. Then we can move onto phase two!"

Fouquet took a surprised step back, shocked at my declaration. "'Phase two'?"

"Yeah, we fake a death." I explained with a smirk.

She remained silent at my declaration, clearly taken aback at my words. "You want to fake my death? How on earth do you plan on doing that?"

"Well, it's not my first time." That garnered an obviously shocked look from the mage before me. "Though the circumstances are radically different, I have faked a few deaths before. Some were mine, others were people I helped make disappear. It's rather straightforward if you know which strings to pull." I clapped my hands together and felt a grin appear on my face. "Now, let's fake Fouquet's death."

Said mage took a hesitant step back. "I'm having second thoughts about this alliance..."

I released a small laugh, "Oh, c'mon, can't you take a little dark humor. I'm saying that 'Fouquet' has to 'die', Miss Longueville can keep on breathing... If that is your real name." I said the last statement with a knowing smirk.

She regarded me for a moment, then clicked her tongue. Lifting her hand, she removed her hood and crossed her arms, glaring at me softly with her soft amber eyes. "I thought I was doing such a good job. How'd you figure it out?" She almost sounded a little pouty.

I gave her a tired glare of my own. "Lady, infiltration is my specialty, above all else. I know how to sneak behind enemy lines and make someone think I'm their best friend from childhood without anyone the wiser. While you were pretty good, under my watchful eye, it was like you had the words 'I don't belong' written on your forehead." I shrugged lightly, "Regardless, I don't out people on my suspicion alone; I needed to know why." I grabbed the hilt of the sword at my waist. "Sadly, you tried to steal my sword and an exceedingly dangerous magical artifact, so I had to try harder to stop you."

Miss Longueville arched an eyebrow and gestured to the sword. "That is your sword? I doubt that. It's belonged to Tristain for over several centuries. You may be mysterious, but living a century is clearly out of the reach of a human."

I pulled the sword from my belt and said, "I don't know about that, but I know this sword inside and out. The weight, the feel, the enchantments and the engraved marking; all of those facts are items I've made myself intricately familiar with because it was made specifically for me." Sliding the sword back into my belt, I released a breath. "Enough of this, I'll prove it to you later. Right now, I need to fake a death. Are you ready? We need to get our stories straight."

Miss Longueville crossed her arms and nodded, "What do you have in mind?"

"Listen closely, if a single fact we share differs, then everything will come crashing down." I grinned, "I'll show you how true deception works..."


-Louise-

We did it. We managed to recover the artifacts. I honestly didn't know what to expect when Lyall forced us to go on ahead. Though he is my Familiar, Lyall is a soldier and knows how to take care of himself. But...regardless of that, I couldn't help but to be nervous when we left.

"Vallière, stop worrying over the little things. Darling has proven he can take care of himself." Zerbst said without reservation, puffing out her chest.

I glared at her, "This isn't a 'little' thing. I just left my Familiar alone to fight. Whether or not he can defend himself isn't the point, I left him." I couldn't help but pout lightly as I crossed my arms. "A noble doesn't leave their Familiar behind, no matter the reason."

"He'll be fine." My head jerked to the side upon hearing Tabitha's words. "Lyall is strong." The normally quiet classmate went back to her book.

The three of us landed on the academy's ground, Tabitha's Familiar, Sylphid descending quickly and safely. She buffeted her wings three more times before she finally reached the ground.

I grabbed the box holding the Staff of Destruction and jumped onto the ground. Looking around, I noticed that our sudden arrival had caused quite a stir, as several of my fellow classmates were approaching. Reaffirming my grip on the case, I called out to Tabitha and Zerbst. "I'm heading up to the Headmaster's office. We have to get this back to safety." Without waiting for a response, I turned and raced for the center tower.

As reached the steps, I saw Professor Colbert just stepping off of the first one. "Miss Vallière?" His expression was confused for a moment, but when he saw the object in my hand, his eyes widened. "Is that one of the artifacts?" When I nodded, my professor turned and beckoned me to follow him back up the stairs. "Is it the Staff or the Blade?"

"It's the Staff. Lyall has the Blade." I followed him quickly, making sure to keep a firm hold on the priceless artifact in my hands.

"Where is Lyall, by the way? I always figured he would stay near you."

I grimaced, not liking my response to his question. "He told us to come back with the Staff. He stayed behind to capture Fouquet, while using the Blade of Ruin."

Professor stumbled forward slightly, surprised to the point that he had to tightly grasp the railing and plant his staff. Looking over his shoulder, he gave me an incredulous gaze. "You not only left your Familiar, but also let him fight with a century old artifact?"

I flinched lightly, looking down in shame. "H-he told me to g-go on ahead, to trust him. I-I didn't want to leave him, b-but..." I stopped, both of my feet on a single step.

Professor Colbert was silent for a few moments before releasing a breath. "What's done is done. All that's left is to wait for Lyall to return with the Blade of Ruin." He paused and cleared his breath. "C'mon, we should wait in the Headmaster's office. I'm sure he'd want to see them first."

I nodded softly, "Yes, of course..."


"So, you recovered both artifacts and your Familiar is taking care of Fouquet the Crumbling Dirt?" The Headmaster asked me as Zerbst, Tabitha and I stood in front of his desk. He had opened the case and had taken a few moments to examine the Staff. He'd asked his question after finishing the examination.

"Yes, Headmaster, we did, and he did. I didn't want to leave him to do something so dangerous, but he insisted." I replied and tried to explain myself in the same instance.

The Headmaster laughed lightly, "I understand, Miss Vallière. It is plainly seen that Mr. Lyall is an eccentric individual who's best when he's on his own." He cleared his throat and leaned back, running his fingers through his beard. "Though I am curious about the Blade of Ruin. It is said that all of them are locked in their sheathes by magic spell."

Colbert stepped into the conversation, "What sort of spell, Old Osmond?"

"Hmm, legend says that only the destined Knight of Ruin can pull the swords from their sheaths. All others who try are met with disappointment as the swords will not relinquish their blades to someone who isn't chosen." The Headmaster explained slowly. "For your Familiar, Miss Vallière, to draw the Blade of Ruin must mean that he is the destined Knight of Ruin."

"So, I not only summoned a mage hunter, but a Knight of Ruin too?" I released a tired breath, "What did I do to deserve this?"

"I don't know whether I should insulted or proud. Whatever, I guess I'll go with smug. After all, it's not everyday I'm reference in a legend, as indirect as it sounds..."

I turned at the sound of his voice, facing the entrance to the office. Lyall held the door open and allowed Miss Longueville to enter first, then walked inside himself. He didn't at all worse for the wear, but he did look a little brighter. "Lyall!" I said as felt my body rush towards him. I crashed into his waist, wrapping my arms around him.

"Hey. I told you, I'd be fine, Shorty." He placed a hand on my head and laughed lightly.

I held him tightly for a moment, but froze when I finally realized what I was doing. Quickly breaking away from him, I straightened out my skirt. My face hot, I threw him a glare. "Next time you fight, Lyall, I am going to be with you. A noble never leaves her Familiar."

I expected him to correct me, to tell me not to call him 'Familiar', but he simply smiled. "I'd expect no less from you; we're gonna take this world by storm, just you and I." Lyall grinned widely, causing my eyes to widen lightly in surprise.

"Oh, Darling! I knew you would come back unharmed. Did you manage to capture that old hag?" Zerbst jumped into our moment.

When I looked to Lyall, I saw him smirk, "Capture? Unfortunately, no. She proved to be a bit stronger than I thought. I couldn't afford to hold back, so I had to kill her." He shrugged flippantly and tapped the hilt of the white sword that I finally noticed resting at his waist. He seemed to have noticed that I was looking at it, because I heard him laugh lightly. "I can assure, this sword is unlike my black blade."

He grabbed my hand and placed it on the hilt. I jumped lightly at the contact, but couldn't help but relax when the oppressive aura from his other sword wasn't present with this one. "How is this sword different from the other?"

Lyall rubbed his chin lightly, humming softly. "Hmm, I'll explain later. Right now, Miss Longueville and I have to inform Old Osmond what happened." He placed a hand on my head and smirked softly.

"Speaking of which, now that the three of you managed to return safely, I believe it's time for you to go. After what's happened today, I'm sure Lyall has a question or two for the Headmaster and I." Mr. Colbert gestured to the door.

"'A question or two'? Teach, I have way more than two questions for you and the old man. Aside from the random half a million I only want to ask to annoy and prod people for the hell of it." He grinned softly and patted me on the shoulder.

I crossed my arms, "Lyall is my Familiar. Shouldn't I be allowed to stay here?"

He smiled lightly, "Go on ahead, Louise. We'll talk later." Lyall gave me a small push towards the door.

Kirche strode over to the door, "C'mon, Vallière, Darling has to tell the Headmaster and Mr. Colbert about his incredibly brave deeds."

Reluctantly, I followed after her Tabitha. As the door shut, Lyall looked over to me, grinned and winked at me.


-Lyall-

I stood at the entrance to the balcony, leaning against the edge of the doorway. I smile played at my lips as I looked over the banquet playing before me in the hall.

"You know Derf, in all my years as a soldier, I've never understood the need for large banquets after every successful military op."

The sword poked out its sheath and replied, "Well, I can't really add my two cents. This would have to be my first banquet, ever."

"This would have to be my..." I lifted a hand and began to bend them one by one, counting to myself. "Fiftieth, I think. Or something like that. They start to tumble all together after the seventh."

I was told that a banquet would be held for the reacquiring of the artifacts, the finding of the Knight of Ruin (me), and the removal of Fouquet. Though the second part is still secret, the fact that they threw a banquet of all things is still kind of over done in my opinion. Regardless, I still had my pride when it came to things like this. So as soon as I was told this was happening, I asked Colbert to see if he had anything close to my size.

So, here I was now, clad in a set of decorative noble clothing. This was apparently what knights wore when they weren't clad in their armor for battle. I carried only two of my swords, Derf and the mithral sword, because even I have to admit that carrying three sword makes you look like an overly paranoid moron.

"Derf, why didn't you tell me I was this 'Gandalfr'? Knowing that I was the next master of all weapons of war would've alleviated a lot of my stress. You know, that I may have been cursed with a potential mind-altering spell."

"Really? I thought you knew. You seemed like you were already a good swordsman."

"Yeah, I was. That's why I was a little concerned. I was good before, but these runes made me better. At the same time, I was worried about the side effects. Although I didn't think about them..." I rubbed my chin lightly in thought and shrugged. "Oh, well, I never worried about this type of stuff back home. It's a wonder I've lived this long."

At that, I began to simply observe the happenings around me. Like I said before, I've been to quite a few banquets before, however most of them haven't been to take part. They were to actually serve as a guard and protect a special individual or begin an assault. This time, on the other hand, I was actually able to see the goings on of an 'illustrious' event that allows a bunch of well-to-do people actually have their version of 'fun'.

Boys and girls were speaking loudly and animatedly with one another, with a few of the former attempting to court the latter. I have to say, it was a slightly laughable to watch them stumble over the smallest word and gesture. I was able to see those who weren't able to spin their words effectively stand near the food table, watching their fellows in envy. At the same time, I couldn't help but notice the students who didn't particularly care to interact with their peers.

Though the biggest surprise of the evening was seeing Tabitha, the tiny, slight of a girl, carving a large piece of meat free. It was positively shocking to see such a small girl taking a steak that was about the size of my torso, if a little bigger. Shaking my head, I pushed a hand through my hair and sighed heavily.

Smiling lightly, I resumed adjusting my line of sight to overlook the party. As I did, though, I couldn't help but get the feeling that I myself was being watched. Turning my head to the side, I noticed a small group of girls, obviously around Louise's age, whispering to one another while pointing towards me. Upon realizing that I had caught them, they quickly turned and scampered away like mice.

I released a sigh and muttered, "I'll never understand the mind of a teenage girl..."

"Why would you ever want to?" A familiar, feminine voice broke into my personal silence. Turning to the side, I realized that the woman I had corroborated a fake death with had decided to join the festivities. "A teenage girl's mind is always full of unimportant issues that they blow out of proportion." Miss Longueville stood at my side, clad in a modest dark green dress. Her hands were covered up to the upper arm in one of those long gloves and her hair simply flowed freely over her shoulders and down her back.

I was also pleasantly surprised by her mature figure. One she wasn't flaunting needlessly, which was a pleasant change from a certain peer of Louise's.

"Well, I'm sure you'd know. After all, you weren't a 'normal' teenage girl, were you?" I asked softly.

She arched an eyebrow at me before smiling lightly.

"Do you have the night off? Or are they making you chaperone?" I asked playfully.

Longueville scoffed and flicked the hair off her shoulder and onto her back. "The Headmaster was so impressed with my superb assistance in recovering the artifacts, he let me take the night off to enjoy myself."

"And you chose to come to a 'banquet' populated by pubescent teenagers who are spoiled at birth?" I scoffed with a smile, "It seems you and I really need to get out find a better place to relax."

She laughed lightly, covering her mouth. "You sure hit the nail on the head." Miss Longueville paused and I saw her eyes go up and down, examining me where I stood. "I wouldn't say this if it wasn't warranted, but you can really hold yourself as a noble." She crossed her arms, resting her head on a hand. A part of me couldn't help but notice what that did to her...assets. "Are you sure you don't want to run off and...earn our fortune as a pair?"

I gave her a small look and a smile I couldn't help but hold in place. "That has to be the most round-about proposal for an elopement I have ever heard someone utter. You haven't fallen for my roguish demeanor and silver tongued wit, have you?" I grinned at her denial, a brusque shake of the head and a tired glare, but crossed my arms. "I'll have to refuse, Miss Longueville. While it has been my dream to team up with a beautiful woman and rob a country's noble's riches, I have a promise to keep. As a man, my word is my bond and I protect my bonds as fervently as I do my comrades. I'm staying right here, as long as she needs me."

Then, as if on cue...

"Ladies and gentlemen." A voice echoed throughout the banquet hall. "The final guest of honor has finally arrive. It is my honor to introduce Louise Françoise le Blanc de La Vallière." A light applause replied to the announcement, one in which I gladly took part. After all, this was her first success in an operation of sorts, as simple as it was.

The subject of said announcement strode confidently and demurely into the banquet hall. She wore a dress that made her out to be a combination of adorable and adorably beautiful. Then again, my opinion on these kinds of things are skewed when I prefer my women to have a more mature appearance. There's also the fact that I don't see Louise in any romantic way, probably more along the lines as a younger sibling.

She walked across the ballroom floor, ignoring an offer or two to dance, and approached me directly. Louise looked up to me without lifting her head and held out her hand. "Would you do me the honor of a dance, Lyall?"

I felt a smile appear on my lips. Turning my head to Longueville, I said, "If you would please excuse me..." She smiled lightly and gestured for me to go ahead. I let my arms fall from being folded and reached towards her hand with my own. Gently grasping her hand, I bowed down and placed a kiss on her hand. "It would be an honor."

Falling into step, I led my young master in a series of steps that followed the current song. Moving with a fluidity that took years to develop and master, I danced with Louise while several of her fellow students watched in awe and silence. The thing about the dexterity I have, when I'm in situations that require working with a partner, I'm able to adjust myself to match them. I'm able to perfectly match their personal rhythm and subtly augment it, make it appear as though I didn't do a thing.

Who says skill from the battlefield can't translate to the dance floor?

When we stepped apart, I left Louise breathless, though she was careful to compose herself. Smoothing out her dress, she gave me a small smile. "You're full of surprises, Lyall. I didn't think you were one to know how to dance."

"It's a peripheral talent. I developed it accidentally while training." I shook my head softly, "Let's not talk about that tonight, it's one of celebration. You're the heroine of this banquet; mingle with the masses." I gestured towards my previous spot at the balcony. "I'll be right over there."

I placed a hand on her head, careful not to disturb the decorative change, then turned to resume my position at the balcony. What I was not counting on, however, was Kirche cutting me off.

"Darling! You must dance with me too!" She grasped my hand with both of hers.

"Uh... why?" I asked, a little shaken by her sudden appearance and request.

The redhead smiled deviously, "The way you danced with Vallière showed me a side of you I had yet to see. It was like a preview of what you and I could do."

I sighed, letting my head fall. "So, you just want a dance?"

"That and much more, Darling." She purred as she placed my hand against her face.

"Fine, but keep her hands above the waist." I rolled my eyes as I pulled the overly flirtatious redhead to the dance floor. As I began to lead, I couldn't help but get a feeling that I could go a little farther with Kirche than I could with Louise.

We danced for a bit; once again, I was a part of the pair that drew all eyes. Normally, it's my prerogative to remain under the radar, but that plan was shot out of the water with my duel. Though, if I couldn't stay hidden, then I'd have to make myself as untouchable as possible. Awe, respect, fear, whatever made people step carefully around me would help my case the most.

When we finished, Kirche seemed to be further enamored with me.

I walked back to my little corner, seeing Longueville still standing there. "Well, aren't you full of surprises. You can fight; you can broker an alliance; and you can dance. Is there anything you can't do?"

"Give birth." I said bluntly as I took my place next to her. "Of all things, that will forever be the one thing that will remain out of my reach. Everything else, is free reign. I'm a regular renaissance man." I grinned at her tired glare, but laughed when she finally smiled.

"It's good to know you're also humble. This world doesn't need another jackass who's ego is larger than the horse he rode in on." Her voice dripped with sarcasm as she took a sip of her drink.

I chuckled lightly. "I'm proud to say that my ego is only as large as it deserves... which is pretty damn big."

Longueville turned her head, giving a sideways look. "You aren't implying anything with that statement of yours, are you?"

I grinned widely, "It's a possibility." We shared a laugh and went back to our shared silence. One which I promptly broke again when I offered her a hand, "Care for a dance, my lady?"

She regarded me with a surprised expression. "I'm sorry?"

"I've accepted requests from a pair of girls, Miss Longueville, but I've yet to dance with a woman tonight. I'd like to show these kids how adults dance together." I spoke softly.

My fellow thief regarded me with a steady look before smiling lightly. Adjusting her glasses, she placed her drink on a side table and grasped my hand. "It would be an honor to dance with the man who killed the infamous thief, Fouquet."

I grinned and led her to the dance floor.


I stood at the servant's entrance with crossed arms and waited. Leaning my head back, I closed my eyes and began to hum softly to myself. I opened my eyes and looked to the night sky, still a little surprised and intrigued at the fact that there are apparently two moons. Standing there in content silence, I waited for a certain someone to finally appear.

The sound of her footsteps softly treading the ground met my sharply trained ears as I turned ever so lightly to look through the doorway. When I saw her dark eyes widen at my appearance I felt a smile grow on my face. She looked so innocent, so naive to the true cruelty's that the world is infamous for. It should put me off, make me look the other way, but it did the opposite. It was a similar feeling that I had with Louise, but a little different. I felt the need to protect the both of them, but with Louise it just ended there. With Siesta, I wanted to stay near and shield her from the pain I went through; I wanted to stand with her and feel that peace of mind she lived. I wanted to not have to look over my shoulder and just sit back and relax.

The thing is, that feeling scared the utter hell out of me. I've never been one to feel contentment unless I'm standing with my sword drawn. I'm always restless, excited and alert. It's an unhealthy trait to have, to always feel ready to fight a war, but it was the reality with which I grew up. Settling down was never an option I thought over when I was on leave, because it was an impossibility.

I'm no stranger to this feeling, though. I'd felt it once before, but it didn't end all that well. Assassins and their corrupt employers saw to that. I never saw the world the same way after that. Loss is a pain where it hurts the most and you can't cast a spell or apply a bandage to make it lessen or go away. It's also something I don't want to ever experience again.

I could shut myself off and be cold to everyone I meet, but that's not who I am. I could give into my fear and let it rule me, preventing me from meeting anyone else; but that's not in my nature. Fear doesn't freeze me or stop me in my tracks, it drives me forward out of spite and anger. I hate being afraid more than anything else; I grew strong so that I wouldn't have to be afraid, so that I could defend the people I care for and swore to protect.

That warmth in my chest that blossomed when I saw her surprised me, but I didn't let it shake me. I simply went with what I felt was natural.

"Oh, Lyall, I didn't realize you were waiting for me. You didn't need to." Siesta said as she reached me.

"I know, but I wanted to. After all, I haven't seen you all day."

Siesta's face flushed as she took her place in front of me, keeping the Servant entrance clear. "I have to admit, I did miss talking with you today." She looked to the sky and continued, "I was so worried when I heard what happened. The golem that attacked the academy was so big! How were you not squashed?"

I shrugged lightly, "The smaller the target, the harder hit. I made to sure to zig zag really fast."

Siesta giggled at me, covering her mouth her hands. When she stopped, she continued, "What happened with Fouquet after you left?"

"We got the artifacts and I ran into the thief."

"Did you bring her in?"

I was silent for a moment. The truth was that I let her live and continue to work at the academy. However, that wasn't the plan I had set up. I verbally orchestrated a plan to ensure the tales of Fouquet to end in the unforeseeable future. I had to do something I'm so good at, it's damn near criminal: lie. "Unfortunately, she wouldn't return with me to pay for her crimes. She put up quite the fight so I had to...well, end her life." I said softly.

"Oh..." Siesta let out a small whisper. "That's not a pleasant thing, is it?"

"Not at all, Siesta, not at all." I released a breath and pushed a hand through my hair. "Well, I wanted to stop by and see you before I went to bed, Siesta. However, I don't think it will suffice."

"O-Oh?" Siesta flushed heavily, holding a hand in front of her mouth.

"Yes, I'm afraid I will not be able to fall asleep in peace unless you give me something." I smiled widely.

Siesta's face flushed an even darker red. "G-Give you s-something?"

I nodded slowly and meaningfully. "Yes, I believe it is something we should share at least once."

The maid looked like she was about to faint. "L-Lyall, I-I don't th-think I can d-do that yet..."

I let out a small laugh, "Worry not, Siesta, if you don't know what to do, I'll teach you. It's rather simple once you know the right moves."

She placed both of her hands on her even redder face. "The r-right m-moves?"

"Yep and I'm afraid will not take 'no' for answer." I felt a grin appear on my face.

"O-Oh, I-I don't think I-I'm m-mentally p-prepared, b-but i-if you t-take the l-lead..." Siesta stuttered cutely, her face flushed a very blood red.

I offered my hand. "I knew you'd come around."

"C-come around?!"

"Would you do me the honor of one dance?"

"Please be gentle, it's my first time!"

We both said our last words at the very same time. I blinked once, then twice, then felt a small laugh escape me. "I'm sorry?"

Siesta blinked in surprise as well, a little confused. "A dance?"

I nodded my head slowly, "Yeah, a dance. What did you think I was asking you for?" I grinned widely, trying to hold back my laughter.

Siesta glared lightly at me, since she seemed to know that I knew what she was talking about. "Were you teasing me?"

I shrugged, "Not on purpose; accidentally, maybe. I have to say, you did it to yourself." I let out a small laugh and shook my head.

The maid continued to glare at me, but smiled softly.

"You never answered my question. Would you do me the honor of one dance?" I asked her once again.

Siesta flushed lightly, "I...don't know how..."

"Just let me lead. I'll take care of you." The look on her face caused my smile to widen. Her eyes widened and cheeks reddened. She looked down suddenly and shuffled her feet lightly.

"Ah, okay." She lifted her hand and placed it into mine. "Please do so..."


The next day, I stood across from Guiche, my sword stabbed into the ground and arms crossed. "Are you ready?"

The young man looked from me to my swords, then nodded resolutely. "Yes, I'm ready for whatever you throw at me."

"I sincerely doubt that." I released a breath and grabbed Derf by the hilt. "First thing we're going to do is swordsmanship. Since it's our first session, I'll go easy on you and use one sword." I smirked, adjusting my grip on Derf.

Guiche scoffed, lifting his wand. "I will show you that the son of General Gramont is not to be underestimated." With a wave of his wand, he sent a single flower petal to fall the ground. On contact, a long sword grew upwards from the dirt. The moment he wrapped his hand around the hilt, I acted.

Taking Derf in my left hand, I raced forward and crushed the back of the blade into the boy's stomach. Guiche gasped out in surprise and sudden pain and stumbled back, falling to a knee. "First thing you need to learn from me is this: reflexes are key. You have to be able to react almost instantly at any moment. However, you have to know the right time to act. Find the opponent's weak spot and hit it for all you're worth." I extended my right hand out to him, offering him some leverage to stand.

Off to the side, I noticed Montmorency smiling softly, no doubt taking joy in Guiche's pain.

She, along with Louise, Kirche, Tabitha and Siesta, were all sitting around a table, drinking the tea that the maid was serving. The main reason that everyone was here at the same time was due to the fact that I was planning on training everyone I promised to train back to back, to give everyone a taste of what they would be doing and what I actually knew.

Well, Kirche was there to fawn all over me; while Tabitha was dragged here, is what I'm assuming. Regardless of that, I was going to tutor quite a few of young minds today: in swordsmanship and diplomacy, stealth and acrobatics, magic and endurance. Auren would have a field day if he learned I was teaching.

Guiche took my hand and stood, swaying on his feet. I placed a hand on his shoulder to steady him, then turned and strode away from him. "The second thing you need to know is to pace yourself. Move at a rate in which you're most comfortable. There's very little more dangerous than running out of steam in the middle of a battle." I threw a sidelong glance towards Louise.

The young girl pouted and crossed her arms, glaring lightly at me.

I hefted my sword and slid my right arm behind, hooking my hand into my belt. "Now I want you to come at me this time; attack as if your life depended on it. I will counter, but only with one sword." I grinned, "You kind of have to survive this after all."

Guiche huffed and puffed, trying to regain his breath. "Why aren't you going to use both? Shouldn't you be trying your hardest to train me?"

I shook my head, "I was trained to kill, Guiche. If I tried my hardest, you'd be a bleeding, broken heap." I rolled my shoulder and grinned, "Now, hurry up and get beat."

Guiche stumbled forward lightly, then broke out into a run towards me. He swung his sword downwards, clearly putting all of his weight behind it.

I stepped to the side, evading his wild attack, and smacked Derf on the back of Guiche's leg. The boy fell to a knee, to which I responded by placing the back of the blade against his throat. "Dead." I pulled the sword from his throat and offered my right hand to help him up. "Try not to throw your weight around. Always try to stay on your feet and swing with just your arms for now."

The young noble took my hand and I practically lifted him up all on my own. He swayed lightly and nodded, "Yeah, I got it. You just surprised me, is all."

I snorted, "Yeah, sure, Guiche. Just attack me." I slid my right hand back behind me and hefted Derf, partially preparing for him.

Guiche swung his sword again, to which I responded by smacking it to the side. Stepping into the boy's guard, I lifted my leg and kicked him square in the gut. "A real sword fight has no honor, no code of conduct. Despite what others may say, there are no rules other than what you set for yourself. If you set none, then your chances of winning will increase." I pushed him away with a flex of my leg, sending him staggering back.

"However..." I raced after him and placed my sword against his neck. "Always keep your opponents skill level in mind. If you outclass them, then you actually don't even need to try." I threw a foot forward and hooked it behind his, casually flipping the boy from his place in front of me, to flying behind me. Hearing him drop to the ground, I smirked lightly and said, "I'd say we're done for today. Whenever you're ready to continue, we'll start with diplomacy next." I casually flipped Derf in my grasp and sheathed him with a flourish.

There was a sigh from the spectator's group. "I guess I'll have him healed." Montmorency said dejectedly as she strode forward.

"Don't heal him all the way; just so he'll be able to move adequately. Learning this comes much easier when you connect it with a little pain." I smiled lightly, taking a moment to look back at his own training.

I turned and walked over to Guiche, helping him to stand and allowed him to walk off with Montmorency.

"Lyall, you said you'd help with my magic." Louise said as she strode up to me.

"Yeah, I guess I did." I strode forward and spoke, "From what I've hypothesized, you have power, no doubt about that, but control is an issue. It's simple in explanation, but in practice, you have to focus and funnel your magic." I lifted my hands and formed a large circle, "You must push this," I then shrunk the circle into one that took one hand. "Though this." I walked over to a tree and pulled out one of my daggers.

"One of my best friends, a man I trusted with my life, was an archmage with an unnatural ability to control magic. At his best, he could shape and tear reality apart at the seams. At his worst, he could call down meteors from beyond the stars in the sky." That drew shocked looks and dropped jaws, but I continued unobstructed. "However, he started in the same place as each of you, learning the basics and studying his annoying, stubborn ass off. If a commoner can do that, then I have no doubt that you measure up to him with time."

I lifted my dagger and gored a minute circle into the bark. "I don't know magic as well as him, so I'll explain things my way." Lifting my hands, I said, "Visualize something for me. Imagine you're holding a bow and the magic you're preparing to unleash is the arrow you've nocked." Stabbing my dagger into the tree, I mimed drawing a bow.

Louise nodded and lifted her hand, pointing her wand forward.

"The chant is you pulling back the drawstring, adding strength. You're looking down the shaft of the arrow, lining the arrowhead with your target." The young girl began to whisper to herself, no doubt parroting her words of power. "When you've reached the crescendo of your chant, you feel the tail of the arrow and the drawstring held between your two lead fingers and your thumb. The force of your spell and the drawn string are reaching their limit, you've pulled it as far back as you could without breaking it. Holding it in place, you line it up with your target."

I lifted my hand and pointed towards the circle I made earlier.

"When you feel confident that your arrow will hit the target, and only then, you let go." When she continued to chant, I lowered my voice and let out a small whisper. "Just let go..."

Louise' eyes honed in on the circle and snapped her wand forward. "Fireball!"

I grabbed my dagger and jumped back, confident of my evasion. At the same, I closed my eyes and quickly reopened them, activating my Aura vision. I watched as the spell flew to the tree, a line of nothingness twisting and writhing as it reached for its target. The beam struck the tree, a foot too high, and coalesce into a sphere, expanding outwards. Then it exploded, leaving nothing in its place.

Coming to a stop, I closed my eyes, returning my vision to normal. Looking to Louise, she seemed to breathing a little harder, but waiting for me to speak.

"Well?" She asked.

I was silent for a few moments, then asked, "Did you visualize?"

Louise nodded, "Yes. Even though I've never fired a bow."

I shrugged with a smile, "I could describe a cannon blast in excruciatingly elaborate detail and tell you to use that." The girl glared at me, to which I shook my head. "If I ever get a new bow, I'll demonstrate what I said. It's easier to see it, than having to imagine it." I was about to sheathe my dagger, but looked down to it thoughtfully. Shrugging, I slid the small sheath out of my bandolier. Sheathing the blade, I flipped it, catching it by the sheathed blade. Walking towards Louise, I held it out to her. "Take this. While helpful, your magic won't always be an option. A blade, however, always strikes true when drawn."

She reached forward, but hesitated. "I've never held a dagger before... What if I hurt myself?"

"If you treat it with respect, like you do your magic, then you won't need to be afraid." I paused, smirking lightly, "And not walk around with upwards of twenty, then you should be fine."

Louise huffed and took the weapon, holding it gingerly.

"Hide it. It's best to keep something like that out of sight, until you really need it."

The girl nodded and I could see the wheels turning in her head, clearly trying to think of a place she could conceal the weapon.


The days continued amicably with very little that really happened. I helped Louise with her magic, smacked some sense into Guiche and teaching Siesta a few my more simple skills. So far, things were going pretty well. I hadn't had to put the fear of death into anyone yet, so that's always a good thing.

However, there's a reason I said 'so far'...