Hello Passing Days
There exists not a day too dull for the king, no matter how things seem peaceful or fleeting.

i. I've been here

"Don't you ever get tired of brushing that hair?" Leaning back on his chair, Laharl loosens the grip around his fountain pen and stares at Flonne. Behind the fallen angel sits Etna, hairbrush and ribbon in hand. The king shakes his head, a sigh of disapproval escaping his lips. While it is fortunate that the two are not doing anything worse, such as setting the kitchen on fire, they have decided to loiter in his office, of all places. There should be some kind of rule about that, really. "More importantly," he adds, "why are you brushing it here? You'll leave strands all over the place!"

At least Flonne has the decency to give him a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry, Sir Laharl," she says. A beat later, her smile turns into a cheerful one. "Please don't worry! I'll sweep it all away when we're done!"

Laharl massages the bridge of his nose as he slumps further in his seat. "That's not the point, you idiot. Who says you have to sweep anything? That's the Prinnies' job."

Putting the brush down, Etna rests her chin on Flonne's shoulder, causing the fallen angel to giggle. With a raise of an eyebrow, she says, "Say, Prince. What's Flonne's job, exactly?"

At Etna's teasing tone, Laharl narrows his eyes. "Flonne's job, and yours, is to do whatever I want you to do, without asking any stupid questions."

Etna grins. "Really?"

"Yes," Laharl hisses, "really. Now, stop changing the subject. What I'm trying to tell you is that my office is no salon. If you want to play with Flonne's hair, go do it in either of your rooms. That way I can actually concentrate and get things done."

Etna withdraws her head from Flonne's shoulder. Ignoring Laharl's words, she attempts to divide the blonde's hair into three equal parts and begins to braid it. "You're going to call us sooner or later to do your bidding anyway, so what's the point of leaving? It's better to just do it here. Besides, it won't take long. Give me a minute or two." She pauses and wrinkles her nose at the stacks of paper on the king's desk. "Also, if you're really having a hard time with those, I guess we would try to help. Won't we, Flonne?" She leans to the side and looks at Flonne, prompting an enthusiastic nod.

"Of course! Just say the word, Sir Laharl," Flonne says, beaming.

"I don't need help," Laharl mutters, looking down at the stack to his left. With a sigh, he takes a stapled batch of papers from the top and begins to read it, tapping his index finger on his pen while doing so. Not able to muster enough willpower to resist the temptation, he glances at the two once more. "Hey…"

"What now?"

Making a sound of discomfort, he looks down again and furrows his brow, as if doing so helps in masking the fact that he had just been staring too much. "You missed a few."

ii. to be loved, to love

She should not be surprised, really, seeing Flonne peruse a really old-looking tome. Naïve she may seem when it comes to most matters, Etna knows very well that the fallen angel has a penchant for learning new spells whenever she has the free time, and Flonne's interest in magic certainly did not just start after her fall.

Etna would like to think, however, that her astonishment in seeing her king sitting next to the fallen angel, and doing the same thing as her, is very much justified. Maybe she should have prepared herself before entering the castle's library, since the Prinnies had informed her that this is where her king is. Still, to actually see him with this level of concentration...

"Stop gawking," Laharl mutters, his cheek resting against a clenched hand and his gaze not leaving the book in front of him. "I'm not an idiot."

Shaking her awe aside, Etna grins as she lets her tail twist and turn behind her. "I didn't say anything like that just now, did I?"

Finally, Laharl looks up. With a scoff, he says, "Fine. You didn't say it, but you were definitely thinking it, weren't you?" He intends to say more, but he closes his mouth when Flonne rests a hand on his arm.

The familiar gleam in Flonne's eyes can only mean she has found something interesting. Curious, Etna sits opposite the fallen angel and leans forward, while Laharl himself peers down at Flonne's book.

"Invigorate? Haven't heard of that before." Laharl quickly reads the spell's description and wrinkles his nose. "So it makes someone more alert. That's it? No wonder I haven't heard of it. No one probably has a need for it anymore."

"Oh, but it does seems useful, doesn't it?" Flonne frowns and tilts her head. "It would help you focus more, and it also refreshes the mind. I can use it when you're too tired, I think, since you won't drink tea or coffee."

"That so-called tea that you're forcing me to drink is horrible," Laharl says, unimpressed. "And coffee is too bitter. I'll drink it if I have to, but I never had to before, okay?"

Etna raises an eyebrow. "So you're trying to find a spell to help him concentrate, Flonne?"

"I can concentrate just fine!" Laharl snaps, only to earn him a frown from Flonne, who places a finger on her lips. A cheek twitches, but Laharl lowers the volume of his voice all the same. "Flonne's looking for new spells she can use. That's it."

Etna nods, humming mockingly. "What about this, Flonne?" She points at the spell written on the bottom of the next page. "Repose, is it?"

Flonne brightens up. "It cures fatigue. Yes, it will do nicely."

"Side effect includes putting the patient to sleep," Laharl reads with a frown. "Why in the world would it do that? Why would you even need a spell to cure someone's fatigue, anyway?"

"Well, if the person's too stubborn to listen when someone tells him to rest," Flonne says, and Etna starts to grin, "then this spell would help a lot, don't you think so, Sir Laharl?"

For nearly a full minute, no one speaks as the king stares at the fallen angel.

Unable to stay quiet any longer, Etna rests the back of her hand on her lips to muffle her mirth, fast enough for it to go unnoticed.

"I don't—"

"I wouldn't be looking for a spell to help you if you would just listen, Sir Laharl."

"I know my own body better than anyone," Laharl protests, flushing. "I'll rest when I know that I need rest, not when someone tells me to. I'm the king, aren't I?"

Flonne sighs, and she looks at Etna desperately. "You know, Prince," Etna says, leaning back on her chair, "Flonne knows this kind of stuff. You may think you know—"

"I don't just think I know. I know I know!" He pauses. "Now, you just made me say something weird."

Etna shrugs. "Not the first time, is it? Besides, it's not like you don't say weird things on your own sometimes." Seeing her king open his mouth to protest, she quickly interrupts him. "Anyway, as I was saying, you may think you know how much energy you have left, but I won't be surprised if she knows better. Sure, you may not have outright collapsed from exhaustion yet, but that doesn't mean you don't need to rest already."

The king scowls. "I have duties."

"But that doesn't mean you should overwork yourself," Flonne insists.

"But I don't," Laharl counters. "This is perfectly normal."

"It's not though," Etna says. Her lips forming a disapproving frown, she drums her fingers against the wooden table. "Hey, it's nice that you're taking this seriously, but you're starting to become a little too serious, and that's no fun at all. It's no laughing matter when you suddenly keel over, Prince." It would be amusing if the cause would be another thing altogether, presumably, but this is something else.

This time, the king stares at her, and Etna holds his gaze. Finally, finally, he sighs. "Must you really?"

Flonne smiles. "I won't randomly cast them, Sir Laharl. I'm sure they can really help."

"Just... Invigorate," he mutters, and his tone indicates that they are not to take that as a plea. "Invigorate would do."

Winking, Flonne's smile turns mischievous, and Etna cannot help feeling a little proud. "I think I'd like to learn both." Resting a hand against her cheek, she nods. "Yes, I would definitely learn both."


Etna tilts her chair backwards and laughs.

iii. it is necessary

"It's a tonic!"

From the reactions of the king and his closest vassal, one would think Flonne is offering them poison in the form of a sweet red liquid, not quite different from the ones she sees humans take to help them get better during an episode of a cold or a fever. She herself does not see anything wrong with it, so she cannot understand why her friends are looking so grim.

"I'm not taking that," Laharl manages, and Flonne would not be surprised if he would take a step back away from her, although she would definitely be upset if he really would.

Etna lips twitch up to a nervous smile. "Really, Flonne. Do we truly need to take that? Because I'm pretty sure you can always heal us when something does go wrong and we end up getting sick. Honestly, I don't think I've been infected with a disease for decades now!"

Flonne pouts. "Not even a cold?"

Etna opens her mouth with the intention to speak, only to clamp it shut without saying a single word.

"Heard her sniffling last week," Laharl mutters, earning him a vindictive glare that no king should be receiving from his right-hand vassal.

Flonne closes her eyes and nods authoritatively. "Right? That's why you have to take it, because it's good for you and it will make me worry less. There's an epidemic that is in need of immediate attention, and I can't have you two catching a flu."

"It's not like you can't heal it," Laharl points out.

"But not with the snap of a finger," Flonne counters.

"Use a spell then!"

"It's not that simple." It should be. She wants it to be. Still. "I will require you to stay in bed for some time as you heal." With a tilt of her head, she adds, "Your work will pile up if that happens, won't it?"

Laharl grimaces. "I'll still take care of it," he declares, although he does not sound so sure. "I can... manage. Definitely."

"Oh, no, you don't," Etna says with narrowed eyes, although a hint of a smirk is on her lips. "What if you went delirious and made all kinds of mistakes?"

"I won't," Laharl snaps, his tone suggesting that there will be consequences if she says anything more.

"Instead of worrying what would happen if that happens," Flonne interrupts, "wouldn't it be better if you take this now, Sir Laharl? Just one teaspoon everyday."

"Everyday," Laharl echoes, staring at the fallen angel.

Flonne nods. "Yes, everyday. That way, it'll be effective."

"Everyday," Etna says weakly as she glances at her king.

"Everyday," is Laharl's hoarse whisper.

Flonne's brow creases in worry, her expression once again reflecting the concern they both know too well. "Are you worried that it will do something weird? Oh, I don't think it would. Miss Serra made the recipe for this tonic, after all, so I don't think she would make a mistake. It's been effective so far, she assured me, so there's definitely no need to worry!"

Both the king and his right-hand vassal blink.

"Serra? That Serra?"

Fingers curled over his lips, Laharl mutters, "If it's her, it should be fine, right?"

Etna leans closer to him. "It should be. She's pretty famous for this sort of thing, after all, so she wouldn't make any careless mistakes."

A confident smile makes its way to the king's lips, and Flonne cannot help feeling pleased. It seems that she has finally managed to convince them, so there is no helping the gleam in her eyes. "Will you finally take the tonic then?"

"Since Flonne doesn't seem to have any chance of backing down, then we'd best get this over with," Etna says with a shrug, no trace of her earlier hesitation in sight.

Taking the king's firm nod as a sign, Flonne twists the cap of the glass bottle and pours some of the liquid onto one of the two teaspoons she has been holding. "Shall you go first, Sir Laharl?"

The king shrugs and takes the teaspoon from Flonne, who begins to pour the tonic for Etna as well. Without wasting a moment, he brings the teaspoon to his mouth and swallows the sweet red liquid. And without wasting another moment, he gags, causing the two girls to widen their eyes at his reaction.

"Sweet," he manages, although that shouldn't be a problem now, is it? While not as worse as a Etna's, Laharl has quite the sweet tooth as well. "Too sweet," he then adds, his voice hoarse. "Water. Bring me some water, now!"

It does not take long for a Prinny to scurry over with a glass on a tray. Not saying a word, Laharl snatches it up and gulps down every single drop. "I thought," he snaps, "that Serra, Serra Winguard made that tonic. Where is she? I'll have a word with her! The nerve!"

Flonne blinks, and Etna stares at the teaspoon she has in her hand. "I didn't say she made the tonic, Sir Laharl," Flonne says. "I said she made the recipe for it. The one who concocted it was me." She says the last line proudly, although the horrified stares she received from Laharl and Etna are enough to tone her enthusiasm down.

"You," Laharl says. He pauses, taking a deep breath before folding his arms and shaking his head. "I should have known," he mutters, as though the fact that Flonne made the tonic herself is a matter as grave as a calamity that has robbed his Netherworld of one of his villages. "I should have known. I, the king, should have known."

Worried about Laharl's muttering, Flonne looks at Etna. "Is there something wrong?"

Etna resumes her staring contest with what reflection she sees on the liquid. "Flonne," she says, gaze not moving towards the other girl's position, "did you follow everything in that recipe? For someone as skilled as that Winguard healer to make the Prince act like that, such a thing is peculiar. No, she wouldn't dare. She wouldn't, right? So, that only means..."

Flonne tilts her head to one side. "I made a few adjustments," she admits, but she does not look embarrassed at all. Why should she? "I figured, since medicine is usually bitter, I should make it a little sweeter so you would take it. I don't think the reagents I used affected anything other than the taste though, so it work just fine."

The muttering ceases, and the king is as composed as ever. "You... altered it. I should have known." Wait. That observation is inaccurate. The king seems to still be in the stage of processing the predictable information.

Unnoticed, Etna rests the edge of the teaspoon against her lips before shuddering. Without preamble, she removes herself from Flonne's line of sight and grabs the Prinny, forcefully opening its beak and dumping the rest of the liquid down its throat.

"Everyday," Laharl then whispers. "I have to take that everyday."

Flonne nods, visibly pleased.

Along the king's temple, a vein swells, and it is apparent that he has returned to his senses. With clenched fists, he narrows his eyes at Flonne. "Like hell I'll take that ever again!"

iv. like it's playing a prank

"Flonne, when it says 'three cups,' it doesn't mean use three different cups. See this? This is a measuring cup. This is what you'll use, okay?"

Maybe he should have abandoned the idea of dragging them along with him. The Prinnies may have already informed him of their whereabouts, but that still requires him to fetch them himself, since their being in that place can only mean that they are not to be disturbed by messengers, unless there is something genuinely serious going on.

"W-Wait! What are you doing now?"

Still, for the king fetch his own vassals... If the nobles find out about this, it would be harmful to his reputation, wouldn't it?

"But it says 'fold,' so..."

He would definitely be the laughingstock of the entire Netherworld!

"It doesn't mean you should literally fold the mix over the egg without breaking its shell first! Give me that!"

Wait, what?

Unceremoniously, the king throws the kitchen doors open and scans the room with narrowed eyes. He finds them soon enough, in one of the farthest corners of the room, near the ovens and away from the other servants, towards whom he waves a hand of acknowledgement in return for their yelps of surprise and bows of respect. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he snaps, slamming the doors behind him before striding across the room.

Flonne is definitely wearing a lot more frills and ribbons today, courtesy of the apron she put over her clothes. Beside her, Etna, with no change in her appearance at all, is cracking an egg against the lip of a bowl.

In reply to the king's question, Flonne cheerfully replies, "Baking! The cupcakes the Prinnies made yesterday were really delicious, so I wanted to try baking them myself." Directing her gaze back at Etna, she lets out a cry of alarm. "I want to mix it myself, Miss Etna! Please, please, let me mix it!"

Unimpressed, Etna stares at the other girl. With a long-suffering sigh, she eventually hands Flonne the mixture and a rubber spatula. "Don't spill," she warns. "It says fold, so mix it gently. Gently, okay?"

Flonne nods enthusiastically, quickly immersing herself in the task at hand.

The king raises an eyebrow in slight admiration. "So you do know how this works. Learned a few tricks from your apprentice?"

With a shrug, Etna waves a hand towards an open book a few inches to her left. "It's easy if you have instructions to follow, though I guess watching Hanako do her thing has merits, too. Really, Prince, why don't you pitch in?"

A cheek twitches. "Why should I?"

Etna raises a teasing eyebrow, her tail twisting behind her. "Oh, I don't know," she says casually. "We may not share. After all, if you didn't barge in here, we would've kept the cupcakes to ourselves."

For a moment, Laharl can only make sounds of discomfort, no retort coming to his lips. "It's not like I want it," he finally manages, glancing at Flonne and shuddering at the memory of the time he first tasted her attempts at cooking.

Etna laughs dryly, as if recalling the same memory. Then, "Suit yourself, Prince. Don't blame me if you miss out though. I did offer." She peers down at the book they have been consulting and reaches for an electric hand mixer, pausing only to tap Flonne on the hand when she seems tempted to start stirring carelessly. "Anyway, what are you doing here? Done with your work already?"

The king folds his arms and cocks his head. "Of course, I am. Do you really think I'd slack off when it comes to that?"

Etna grins as she beats the butter she placed in a bowl. "No, not really, and that's good for you," she says after putting the mixer aside. Sifting the sugar, she adds, "After all, I'm sure you already know what consequences await you if you're not gong to do things properly."

"An accident may happen, right?" Laharl asks, a wry smile on his face. "You should know that reducing the possibility of such accidents, as you prefer to call it, is not the sole reason behind my actions, Etna."

"Of course. Because then, an accident really may happen."

Flonne pouts, waving the spatula in the other girl's direction. "That's not very nice, Miss Etna." Her frown is quickly replaced by a cheerful smile as presents the batter to the other girl. "Is this already fine?"

Etna takes the spatula and folds the batter twice. "Seems like it. Good work, Flonne."

The fallen angel claps her hands as she giggles. "Can I mix that, too?" she asks cheerfully, her eyes gleaming in excitement.

Laharl raises an eyebrow. "Wasn't the one you were mixing just now for the cakes? What's that now?"

"It's the icing!" Flonne replies, beaming. Looking straight at Etna, she cocks her head to one side, a smile still on her lips. "That's the icing, right, Miss Etna?"

"Yes," Etna says, although she does not look very enthusiastic on handing the icing over. "Wouldn't you prefer pouring the batter on the pans, Flonne?" she asks instead.

Humming, Flonne looks up at the ceiling in thought. "I guess I'll do that." Beaming, she turns her attention to Laharl. "Would you like to help, Sir Laharl?"

"I just said..." He cuts himself short as he finds himself staring at Flonne's wide eyes. "You... You expect the Overlord to help you in baking?" He means to snap, but he can only manage an incredulous look.

"You'll just help her pour it, Prince," Etna says as she continued with her self-appointed task. "And maybe we'll have you take it out of the oven later, too. Not too hard, is it?"

The king narrows his eyes. "No," he mutters, and he receives a teasing smile in return. With a sigh, he tilts his head. "Fine. I'll do it."

Flonne claps her hands in delight. She then proceeds to pour the batter into one of the pans. "Just like this, Sir Laharl. Right, Miss Etna?"

Etna hums, the smile on her face still there.

Laharl rolls his eyes as Flonne hands him the bowl. "I'll get to have some though."

"Of course, Prince. Of course."

v. among the countless meetings and partings

Laharl cringes at the sight of his desk. He has seen it in a worse state, but the height and the number of stacks are enough to encourage the rare urge to burn every single sheet, and he would have already done so if it were not for the thought of the consequences he may face in letting his vexation take over.

Letting out an exasperated sigh, he takes his seat behind the desk and takes out his fountain pen from the topmost drawer. Breathing deeply, he lazily reaches for the first set of stapled sheets and begins to read. Despite his initial lethargic movements, he soon picks up the pace and eventually breezes through his work.

"Do keep that up, Prince. You'll make a fine Overlord yet."

He does not look up. He does not need to. Just the voice and the refusal to address him as the king is all he needs to tell that the speaker is his right-hand vassal. "I'm already a fine Overlord." He means to snap at her, but his words come out as a nonchalant reminder. His knowledge that he is still no greater than his own father goes unsaid, however, and he knows that she is well aware of that fact herself.

Etna grins as she plops herself down on one of the chairs in front of the Overlord's desk. "Of course, of course. You can do better though, and I'll be looking forward to what else you can do."

Laharl looks up to glance Etna, who has taken the liberty of picking up a finished work of his and scanning it with a look on her face that can be only interpreted as one of approval. The question dies in his throat, and he settles for a nearly inaudible grunt.

"So, Prince," Etna says, setting aside the sheets of paper, "any news from Flonne?"

"News?" Laharl echoes, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh, you know. News on how she's doing, news on how her projects are coming along, news concerning Flonne." With a mischievous gleam in her eyes, she adds, "Whether she has a boyfriend now or something."

Her last statement almost makes Laharl break his pen. "What?" he snaps. Flonne may be an Archangel, but she is still his vassal. He insists on that, and she herself has not voiced any qualms concerning the matter. Therefore, affairs such as that are not allowed, not until he is informed and certainly not until he approves.

Realizing that this is probably just another one of Etna's attempts to piss him off, Laharl tries to regain his composure, an attempt which almost ends in vain. With a scoff, he says, "That idiot will never get herself a boyfriend."

Etna raises her eyebrows. "And you are so certain of this, how?"

He does not answer.

"Flonne may be somewhat of a ditz, Prince, but she has the looks, you know."

An opening. It is the king's turn to smirk. "Oh, and you don't, Etna?"

Satisfaction swells inside him as he sees Etna's cheek twitch. "What did you just say, Prince?" Her voice, soft and quiet and so full of venom, should have made him falter. It should, yet it does not.

The king puts his pen down for a moment and looks straight at his vassal, the smirk now accompanied with a teasing raise of an eyebrow. "If what you say is true and that Love Freak really does have 'the looks', as you put it," he rolls his eyes at that, "then how come you don't have a boyfriend yourself?" Not that he would allow it so casually, of course, his reasons being selfish and egomaniacal and perfectly acceptable for an Overlord.

Etna snorts. "There's no one here worth my time," she replies icily.

"Is that so?"

"Yes, it is so."

A snicker.

It should come as no surprise to her, the fact that he is getting wittier by the day, and, if it is something that aggravates her, he finds it reasonable to inform her that she should be blaming herself. She ought to be more careful with her jabs now, really, or else he will strive to have them backfire on her without a second thought.

As if letting the matter go, she slumps in her seat. "Seriously, Prince, you haven't heard a word from her lately?"

"If I have, you'd be the first one to know, wouldn't you?" He receives only silence, prompting him to raise an eyebrow. "You're the one who kept on prodding me to avoid worrying about her," he says, then hurriedly adding, "not that I did, of course."

That finally earns him a reaction, the usual mischievous smirk for which his closest vassal is famous. "Of course," she echoes, cocking her head. "It is quieter now that she's not running around though."

Laharl snorts. "Quieter? This place is never quite enough."

The smirk widens into a grin, a tail starts twisting and turning. "I would've imagined that you actually like it when things are exciting."

Leaning back on his chair, Laharl lets his head tilt to one side. "Not when I have too much on my hands already. Anything excessive is troublesome."

Etna rests a hand on her hip. "You and your excessive naps are quite troublesome, too."

Laharl looks at her incredulously. "What?" he snaps. "Oh, yes. Let's team up with Flonne when looking for spells that are supposedly for my sake, then criticize me when I actually deem myself in need of sleep. What the hell?"

"Flonne actually had a point at that time," Etna points out. "You were getting quite ridiculous. Your naps are ridiculous, too."

"You're not making any sense."

"All I'm saying is that your naps are too long for them to be called naps. Sleeping for two days! That's a nap for you?"

"It's not a ten-day nap, is it?"

At that, Etna massages her temples. "I don't get you at all, Prince. First you overwork yourself, then, after that's long over, you then decide to go back to your old habits. And here I thought you're actually improving."

"As I said, I only do that when I need it. Must I simplify things for you to understand?"

Etna's cheek twitches. "You? Simplify things for me? Are you sure it's not the other way around, Prince?"

Laharl does not reply, and the scowl that has begun to twist his features dissipates. Pulling a drawer open, he drops his pen inside before standing, prompting Etna to blink at his actions. "What in the world are you doing?" she demands.

"We have a visitor," he says simply, all traces of his irritation now gone. After setting paperweights on their places, he heads for the door.

Etna stares at his back before hurrying to his side. "Visitor?" she echoes, raising an eyebrow. That is not enough to snap them out of their bickering, is it? Most of the time, anyway. A familiar high-pitched voice reaches her ears, however, and she reminds herself that the king's ears are much more sensitive than hers, a fact that makes her twist her lips into a smirk.

Taking note of her expression, Laharl allows the same expression on his face. "Maybe you should babble more next time if you want to see her that badly. That idiot could probably spy on whatever world she wants from Celestia."

"I don't babble," Etna snaps indignantly. That so-called idiot did tell them once that angels could see what was going on in different worlds from Celestia through a special pool of water and other similar methods, so there is probably some truth to what the Prince just said. Probably. Then again, it could be a mere conincidence.

"Sir Laharl! Miss Etna!"

Before either demon could react, Flonne has already tackled them to the ground, earning the Archangel a sharp cry from the Overlord.

"Flonne! Get off me, Love Freak!"

Etna merely chuckles, as if thoroughly amused by her king's current predicament. "Hello, Flonne."

"Oh, Miss Etna, I just missed you two so much!"

Laharl snorts, ignoring the amused look of the rest of his vassals, who have all shifted their gaze towards the trio. "Of course. Now get off me, you idiot."

Flonne giggles before doing just that. "Do you suppose we could have a picnic today?" she asks with much enthusiasm.

"Picnic? Well, I don't know about the Prince but I don't really have anything to do today, so…"

Flonne claps her hands in delight before looking expectantly at Laharl, who is trying to lessen the pain of the back of his head by rubbing it with his hand. "Just make sure the food isn't poisonous," he mutters.

Etna grins. "Shall I call the Prinnies for the food and stuff?"

"Oh, there's no need," Flonne says. It is only then that the king and his closest vassal notices a large wicker basket lying a few feet away from Flonne, who presumably dropped it when she had the urge to tackle the two demons.

Laharl eyes the basket warily. "Are you the one who packed all that?"

Flonne frowns. "Sir Laharl still doesn't have trust in my cooking?"

"I'd rather stick needles into my eyes than eat those things you call food," he replies nonchalantly.

"How mean, Sir Laharl!" Flonne exclaims, grabbing the basket and threatening to hit the demon with it.

Etna watches with amusement as Laharl slowly backs away. "Well, did you make everything yourself, Flonne?"

The Archangel lowers the basket and shakes her head. "My mother did. When she found out that I'll be spending my day off here, she gave me this and told me to share it with you two," she says, beaming.

"Sounds good," Laharl remarks, opting Flonne to swing the basket his way. Dodging just in time, he exclaims, "Aren't you supposed to be an Archangel now? Stop trying to hit me with that!"

"You brought it upon yourself, Prince," Etna remarks, a smirk on her lips.

"Shut up," Laharl snaps. "And you," he glares at Flonne, "let's get on with your stupid picnic. Or have you already changed your mind?"

"Of course not, Sir Laharl."

Flonne leads the way towards the Dimensional Gatekeeper, who greets the archangel with a smile. "Where to, Lady Flonne?"

The Archangel already has an answer and has blurted it out before the Gatekeeper has finished addressing her. "The Training Grounds, please."

With a chuckle, the gatekeeper nods and waves a hand towards the Dimensional Gate. With a playful smile on her lips, she says, "Please do have fun."

Flonne beams before coaxing Laharl and Etna to follow her. It takes only a matter of seconds before they step into the grassy clearing which most of the weaker demons chose to reside in, making it an ideal place for others of their kind to warm-up. However, for the past few years, their number seems to have lessened, due to their realization of the trend.

"Where do you suppose we should lay out the picnic blanket this time?" asks Flonne, who has placed down the basket and now has a red and white blanket in her arms.

Etna shrugs. "Does it matter?"

A giggle passes Flonne's lips. "I guess it doesn't." Looking around, she settles for a spot near a small field of flowers and hurries over while humming a cheerful tune to herself. "Sir Laharl, Miss Etna, please hurry! I want to make the most out of today," she called out once she had laid out the blanket. "And please bring the basket as well, Sir Laharl!"

Laharl blinks, chuckling awkwardly. "Did she just-?"

"I'd say it was a forceful request," Etna offers cheerfully before making her way towards Flonne, who is waving happily.

"Forceful request," Laharl repeats under his breath. "Right." Shaking his head, he did as he was "forcefully requested" and followed Etna, all the while muttering complaints about vassals, picnics and stupid baskets.

Perhaps letting himself get distracted from work is a mistake.

Then again, considering it has been months since they have last done something like this, maybe not.