Malevolence

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Chapter 2

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Shandra could only smile as she watched the Master work. To her he was still a child, but an attractive child at that. His cloaked form was bent over a lab table, and today she was in a favorable mood.

"Hey baby," she said, "Why don't you take a break?"

"I need to finish the blood work of Test Subject A," he replied, "I must be done before the cells coagulate."

"Can't that brat wait a second?" she pouted, utilizing her dewy pink, dark-lashed eyes.

She could get almost anything she wanted in life except for attention. The Master didn't even give her a second glance, and instead, continued on with his work. Even if she played her most seductive card, he'd act as if she were just another member of the organization. That's what made him attractive; he was the only challenge. Well, the only challenge she was willing to pursue.

Shandra sauntered to the Master and wrapped her arms around his waist, nestling her face in the crook of his neck. She breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of the green fabric. Her delicate hands traveled up to his hood, close enough to feel the steady pulse of his heart. Even with the standard mask concealing the lower half of his face, no one had seen the Master without his hood.

"Curiosity can kill," he mumbled, "Even one of the Seven Great Powers."

"You know threatening my life only turns me on," she murmured, but her hands had abandoned their mission.

"Hn."

"Why can't you see my lust for you as a gift?" she questioned.

"We agreed from the beginning that you would receive what you desired after I reach DeSade's goal."

"What I want," Shandra sighed, "Is for you to be a bad boy for a moment. It's enlightening."

The Master casually moved out of her grasp to place his finished slides and test tubes in various vats and cases. He scribbled furiously in a notebook before moving to another table and mixing liquids into a steaming bowl using processes only he could understand. Insane manipulative women… another topic he and Smyth had never agreed on…

"A team should be returning from a retrieval mission soon and I need to catalog-"

"You don't have to tell me to leave," Shandra sneered, "I was already on my way out."

The Master never glanced at her slender, generously exposed form. He didn't need it. All he required her for now was to do absolutely nothing, and hopefully she would stay his ally. Let her have her way with the recruits, they certainly didn't mind. As long as she didn't know he needed her on his side, there should be minimal conflict.

Shandra was scowling, angry beauty plastered on her face. Sandy brown hair swung across her cheeks as she walked to the door. As she was blinded by the light of the hall, the woman had another reason to be displeased.

"What an unpleasant surprise."

"I am only returning to give the mission report," Neron replied, "Nothing to be surprised about."

He was taller than she, icy green eyes starting down at her. Seeing how his young ward was right behind, Shandra wanted to utilize this chance to embarrass him even more.

"Don't be so disagreeable," she cooed, leaning forward, "Besides, the Master isn't expecting you for a while."

Using her power of persuasion, he held unmoving as she pulled back his hood, revealing shoulder-length deep brown hair and tan gypsy skin.

Neron was finding it harder and harder to look her straight in the eye. He wanted to touch her, bring her in close. He felt heat rising in his face. Damn it Xenos, do something already…

Shandra gave him a soft smile. Neron wasn't nearly as repulsive as his personality and heritage made him out to be. Her elegant fingernail traced a line up to his mask, slowly peeling it down. Neron knew that if he moved, he would be committed to whatever actions she wanted.

"What the Hell Neron?" Xenos asked, "You're just going to let her do whatever she wants? DeSade and only DeSade. Sure…"

In an instant, Shandra's progress was halted. She wrenched her hand free of his grip, glaring.

"Never question my loyalties," Neron deadpanned.

Whenever Neron wasn't angry, something was going to explode. Xenos had been on that end of the stick many times before… Either that or he just became the new leader of DeSade.

She had been so close, and he had slipped through her fingers. And if it weren't enough, two sacks were producing incessant crying and yelling, adding to her dropping mood.

"Shut up already," Xenos sighed, "Or he's going to kick you again."

Shandra walked over to the boy, and put an unassuming arm around his shoulder.

"I can make them more… cooperative," she offered.

As with Neron, height came into play. He was short. Short enough so that he was chest height. If he had the ability to produce any skin coloration, Xenos would have turned a dangerous shade of red, despite the mask. But before any more manipulation could occur, the Master's favorite experiment was yanked out of her grasp.

"We've wasted enough time here," Neron said.

And without another word, the two and the sacks went to the Master. Although Neron never associated himself with either of his two races, he was still a filthy gypsy to her, and he'd never amount to anything more.

She had given the Master so much, helped him get where he was. Had it not been for her, he never would have been able to smoothly befriend the former Power of Wisdom. But he ignored her for his nightmarish followers and that brat… She would have gladly exterminated the smug imp had it not been for DeSade's protection. Even Chogan of Charmaine, possibly even more talented in science than the Master himself, had orders to overlook his brother.

Apparently, one of the goals of the organization was to cure Malevolence, the basis of all disease, unleashed by the Power of Death himself to control the gypsies who "just weren't dying quick enough". The original strand of the disease had mutated from the original source which caused a variety of symptoms from heart failure to the sniffles. The pure strain, however, was irrevocable and more common than desired, for now.

For some reason, Xenos had a minor immunity, seeing how he didn't die or sprout a new arm. But because of the Master's reluctance to allow her to twist his will, advances were slower than they could be. Shandra wanted her end of the deal now damn it! And she was going to get it before yet another decade passed.

"Excuse me, Lady Shandra," a voice began.

The woman turned to the bowing Clarman girl. Many, many years ago, when she had come into her powers, the gypsies were unhappy with the way she treated the living her abilities presided over. As was such, there were no celebrations in her name as there were for the others. Only the Clarmans paid her respect, for they enjoyed seeing those who isolated them tormented.

"Would you know if the team on a retrieval mission is back?"

"I may," Shandra returned, "Why is it you ask?"

"Ah, no reason."

"Aeryn," Shandra asked, "Where is the base's science officer?"

"He's in the med-wing," Aeryn replied, "He's treating a Clarman who drank a whole woman."

"Thank you," she replied, suppressing a repulsed expression, before walking away.

While the officer was treating a beastly bloodsucker, many of the storage chambers would be open for her perusal.

-

Xenos sat in the sun thinking, again. He had the mind to take yet another shot of medicine to calm him down, but he had the urge to do that lately. Jade was in Charmaine with her 'Mistress in Training' (and he meant that in more than one way) and he hadn't needed to unwind more than he did now. Xenos drew a cigarette out of his sleeve. It was hard to keep them out of Zevo's sight. The freak would always take them away, stating it was bad for his health.

"Want to play with me?"

The absolutely random comment came from boy, at least four years younger than he, standing over Xenos. Green eyes, tan skin; telltale signs of a gypsy. The kid had shockingly bright orange hair. At least he wasn't blonde. Xenos was surrounded by blonde people and he didn't particularly like any of them. If any race should have the same hair color it would be the gypsies as the former leader supported (if not encouraged) polygamy. Why any man would want to be bound with one, let alone several, female was beyond him.

"I'm Ture," the kid smiled.

"Go away."

"But you're the only person who isn't working or my superior."

Xenos scowled. Gypsies always knew just how to cheer him up… An official walked by, his right shoulder plate red. A third rank soldier wandering the castle? Usually they were working or looking like they would serve Kyros to the end.

"Kid," the dark-skinned official began, "Get back to your job. There is much work to do."

Ture looked up at him with innocent green eyes.

"But I was told I could play today."

"Who?" the official asked, "There are rules and regulations that need to be followed."

Ture didn't reply. If he told, he was afraid there'd be trouble, and Ture disliked trouble. But not answering would take his last statement as a lie.

"I did," Xenos said, "He's not much help anyway."

The official narrowed his eyes as, in the confines of his helmet, it was the only expression he could make.

"You don't have the authority."

In fact, Kyros' fourth son didn't possess enough power to even override a maid's directions.

"I think I do," Xenos replied, "Or would you rather discuss this with my father? Last I remember, the last person who had the gall to rebel was of Tikannian decent. Perhaps a headless relation to you? What was it? Salad? Something like that. "

The official went stiff, reminded of his clan's past history. His grandfather had become a bigwig for fighting fellow desert nomads and leading a division to capture the southern highlands. But as most families serving the military, his had spiraled downward after his father, Salah, defied Chogan, a nine-year-old general. He couldn't believe that the imp could remember something like that. And whether or not the kid was bluffing was something he'd rather not leave to chance.

"I remember who you are now!" Xenos exclaimed, "Serin, the guy who usually is asleep in the right turret when on night shift."

"I'm sorry," Serin quickly replied, "I won't bother you again."

"Yeah, yeah. If you want something to do, go find Princess Topras. Last I saw her, she was crying in some alleyway…"

Serin wasn't very educated, and one couldn't call him a gentleman, but he knew that it took real talent to make a girl cry and feel good about it. He had only joined the army after his father's execution to serve Lady Terra, but that plan had shattered when the leader of Lesopho had been assassinated and she had died by Malevolence.

So the servant boy got a few hours off; good, that's how it should be. But the fact of the matter still remained that even through all the training he had gone through, Serin wasn't as privileged as a monster that lived next to death.

There was hope as Arsen and Zevo, the only true sons of Lady Terra, were doing everything they could to return Charmaine to the state it had been less than a century ago. They were to finish what their mother had started. Serin knew this to be true; the true ruler of Dakarai had told him so. The all powerful Sa'Quid.

-

"Thanks," Ture smiled.

"Feh."

Xenos didn't commit random acts of kindness, like a normal person would. It was something he preferred not to do anymore. How the kid didn't know Charmaine's general opinion of him was beyond him. And worst of all, he didn't have a light. The cherub-faced boy extended a hand to him, matches in hand. The older of the two gladly took it.

Of all the places in Dakarai, the neighboring lands, excluding the Capital of course, had the best drugs. Even the North Base Science Whatever-he-was agreed. The only booze one could get was from Makroft, the only place where it snowed and could grow the fruit used to make the drink. It was one of Neron's preferred drinks that wasn't made up of human materials, but it tasted like bitter rotting 'stuff', probably the exact reason why vampires liked the liquid so much. And although Charmaine's southern border was once part of Tikanno not long ago, the desert dwellers still were the only one who grew whatever it was that he was inhaling.

"Can I have some?" the carrot-top asked, "It looks cool."

"No. I don't share."

The two sat there in silence. Ture tried not to keep adverting his attention to the dark-haired brooder next to him. Clearly, this perfect example of indifferent coolness was ignoring him, as acting interested was dorky. He was a smooth operator, this one, the way he handled the official, and Ture was going to show those older people up by mimicking such behavior.

Yes, he was given time to play, but seeing how he was alone on that campaign, it was best to spend time doing something else. But it was becoming more and more apparent that Ture wasn't used to doing nothing, and it was getting to him. Getting up would be rude and ruin his chances of becoming what they ostracized (not that Ture wasn't already), but staying still was killing him, figuratively of course. No, he'd be bleeding if that was the case. Even a child would know that.

He looked around, mint green orbs swiveling around to find something to occupy his interest. Trees, grass, some pebbles… The sky was grey, not much sunlight. The actually decent person they hated was still ignoring him, and his clothes were all bloody. Wait, what?

"Um," he said, unable to contain his curiosity, "Were you in a fight?"

A lazy eye did less than even glance at him.

"I'd rather not say."

Xenos had never been one about details, and it was no wonder that he forgot about his clothes. His shirt was ripped and torn in several places and practically dyed with blood, both from himself and the fish he killed. His right arm was bandaged and tinged with a similar color, and it was a wonder that Topras hadn't taken notice. Perhaps the princess was just bred to be so polite that she wouldn't question sketchy strangers who purposely dressed in bandages stained with blood. And if so, Xenos almost pitied the sap who would be forced to marry her.

"Did you win?"

Xenos took an exaggerated pause before saying, "Yes, I'd think so. The guy walked away, and I won by default."

"So you lost."

"No."

"I'm pretty sure the winner is the guy that can walk away," Ture said.

"So could I," Xenos retorted, "It's just that it looked like I might have lost more than he did."

Ture nodded slowly, in the way one would nod to show agreement but not actually mean it. And upon this sorry excuse to show sincere confidence in the statement, Xenos casually stood and walked away, a trail of smoke following, in a scene that could only be described as sheer cliché. This guy was good, probably better than Chesney would ever admit, and it made the situation all the better.

-

The Clarman party arrived at the Charmaine fortress. The seven members of the ruling family waited at the gate to be let in. As was common among the species, the members were as pale as flour, black-rimmed irises blazing with bloodlust, paralyzing for the unprepared. Their slight frames were hidden by dark fabric, layered to hide the fact they had little food that did not consist of human physiology.

Miksa, ruler of Clarma, didn't even bother to hide his feelings about this conference. Time and again, the King of Dakarai always avoided the subject in his own idiotic way, and nothing was done in the monarchal meeting. There was only one way to get things done, and it cut out the middleman; the Capital. Unfortunately, this was not a situation of practicality.

Without giving ownership of the Northern Desert away, Charmaine probably would not have donated as much grain as they did to his country. Despite this worthwhile trade, Clarma was still in famine and the 'king' did nothing about it. The imbecile enjoyed luxuries and weekly feasts while the countries he ruled over suffered. Not even when Lesopho screamed for help did he lift a finger. It was infuriating.

-

Xenos went to turn a corner, only to spin back and press close to the wall. Both the Clarman and Capital dwellers were in the same area together. Miksa and Corin were in what looked like a standoff. The blond king (Would it kill them to have a bit of variety amongst themselves?) was naively chattering away about something trivial as the vampire, bony frame deprived of nutrients probably in the flesh of king, struggled to remain pleasant. What was more disturbing was the fact that Xenos had thought human flesh nutritious.

Chogan was standing in the middle, thoroughly uninterested in the debacle and focused on the beautiful Cazel clinging to his arm. The girl was attractive; not as… alluring as Shandra, but she had an air about her that was calm and kind. Not one Xenos was well acquainted with. Topras was cleaned up, but her eyes still were slightly rimmed with red. He couldn't help but openly smirk.

And although he wanted to avoid her at the moment, the real reason he was hiding was one of Miksa's children. Xenos himself never remove his mask, even in one of DeSade's bases, but due to the need to feed every few hours or so, Clarmans did.

Aeryn had been insignificant enough in his life for him to not panic, but she would, along with Topras and Jade, be in Charmaine for the next week.

-

"Move over. You clearly have no idea how to cook," Zevo ordered.

Arsen was pushed over from the almost-disaster that was the bread he had previously been frying. Kyros obviously was trying to leave a positive impression on the king, and the kitchen was understaffed. Even more so, Zevo had let a servant off duty that day. Not that he regarded it as a bad choice of action, but Arsen had more important things to do than stay in a kitchen and be told he was a horrible cook. That he knew. What he didn't know was if the rebel leader would screw up this window of opportunity that was putting the blond at risk.

"Just leave," Zevo sighed, "I know you don't want to be here, doing a woman's job."

Arsen turned to leave as his twin expertly flipped to food to a nearby platter.

"Hey Arsen, don't make things too complicated. You can only do so much."

"Well, I need to do more."

"You don't have to do this alone," Zevo reminded.

"But I do."

Dough hit the frying pan with a sizzling crack. Idiot. For all his brains, Arsen really was an idiot.

"You're going to get killed one of these days," he muttered.

But for all he knew, Arsen could have just pretended not to hear what he already knew.

-

Miksa was barely maintaining his urge to hiss (as Clarmans were known to do when angry) as 'The Jolly King' continued to blabber on about rainbow swimmers, possibly the most lean and unsatisfying meals one could eat. The sun was heating his blue-black hair to a boil, not helping the situation at all. Mira, queen of Dakarai, was absolutely failing at silencing her husband, and all wished to stop learning of the uses for rainbow swimmer scales.

"Excuse me," Chogan interrupted, "But I believe all preparations have been made. Please follow me."

It was only moments before the king began, once again, to animatedly discuss the beauteous fish found plentiful in the capital, the inspiration of his art.

"I respect your authority," Chogan interjected with a smile, "But I have a persistent headache and the reverberation in these corridors makes it worse. It would be most courteous of you to pause in your discussion, if only for a moment, for my impairment."

The King heartily nodded, commenting on 'such perfect manners', oblivious to the sudden shift of expression, the Charmaine heir now favoring a stony empty-eyed look. Expression was usually controlled by emotions, chemical reactions, but Chogan was only allowed to see them as a hindrance in one way or another. No matter how the Master saw it, that's all they were to him.

-

"Rope, check."

"Wait, why do we need rope if I can fly?"

"Boss, I don't have hideous insect wings like you."

"And I don't have a hideous scar along the side of my nose, but I don't make a point of it," Keith replied.

Chesney glared. It wasn't hideous, barely visible at that.

"What about," Keith continued, "Smoke bombs, disguises, the package, and those crackers shaped like animals."

Chesney wrote down all the items before stopping and rereading the last request.

"You know," he continued, "The crunchy bread product shaped like a caterpillar."

"Boss, those are rectangles. Crackers are in the shape of rectangles."

He paused a moment, thinking this over and pushed up the bridge of his glasses, making him seem to have more intelligence than most would credit him with.

"Yes, make fun of my eye impairment. I see where this is going… Anyway, Chesney, I think I should rethink the plan."

The blue-haired man took a random drink from a nearby table and drank. Finding it unpleasant and unlike what he had been expecting, the liquid was gracefully sprayed back into the cup and placed back in its original place.

"I had a fifty-fifty chance of either alcohol or coffee," he sighed, "And life decided to hate me."

In Chesney's opinion, the rebellion consumed too much alcohol and coffee. If it hadn't been for the constant support of the Dubhglhas family, they'd be broke. Physically, both the rebellion's leader and second in command were the same age, chronologically Keith was older, but maturity-wise… Sure, they all appreciated a lenient leader, but infiltrating the Charmaine fortress would be no simple matter.

"Actually," Keith began, "I was thinking that we should reduce the number we send to Charmaine."

Chesney groaned.

"What are the chances of successful completion with a group of one?"

The red-head shot up and pointed an accusatory finger mere inches away from the offender's face.

"You are not going alone."

"Just shut it for one second," Keith ordered, "I'm leader here, and this is risky, I know. That's why it should be me, and only me who should be put in harm's way. Besides, it's easier for one person to sneak in than say, ten."

Chesney kept his expression.

"And if you disagree," Keith continued, "I will tie you to a tree outside, pull out all of your hair, at once, and paint your bare skin with coffee mixed with several perfumes until you crack."

There was no retort or witty comment in existence that could combat that threat, and Chesney was forced to throw in the towel. The last guy who had undergone that pain had run away into the mountains and never returned…

-

Xenos turned to get as far away from the visitors as possible, only to slam right into Ture. The impact of the kid's unusually round head into his bruised ribs was not something he particularly wished for.

"Sorry," Ture whispered, "Didn't see you."

"Feh."

His smoke was in the dirt now and this kid was becoming a pest, no matter how unexpectedly complimentary he could be. Xenos coughed. The burning sensation rushed up his throat, tearing into nerves. He doubled over with hacking, metal soon finding its flavor in his mouth. The blood dripped from his mouth as he gasped for air. Bracing himself, Xenos took a deep breath and forced the garbage out of his lungs.

Closing his eyes, he muttered, "What color is it?"

"W-what?" Ture stuttered.

"Tell me how dark it is!"

"It's… almost black."

Xenos swore under his breath. This shouldn't be happening again. Especially not now. Whenever blood was in that concentration, with anyone, bad things were the cause of it.

"Know anything about medicine?" Xenos asked.

The negatory answer earned yet another curse. DeSade was too far away for him to go unnoticed, and there was no telling if the Master was even around at all. The only thing he could do was wait until his next assignment. Maybe it was from the other injections? It was doubtful, as the Master had assured him that they would not interfere. But if not that, then what? Was all that grateful crap Neron had spewed at him last night just that? Crap?

Regardless. He was in the here and now and it was actually time to take the situation into his own hands. The only problem was that one needs to have physical power over the situation to take control of it. Therefore, Xenos was screwed.

-

Aeryn was shown to a small room where she was to stay. It was not by her wish to be sent to Charmaine, but as luck were to have it, her orders were to accumulate all information possible on any and all political affairs of Clarma. Clothes were put out for her on the bed. This meeting had more importance behind it than it seemed. Aeryn looked out the window. The fields were golden with wheat, and the city stood proud, unlike her own country.

The girl let her short hair blow in her face, obscuring the beauty of the landscape. Why not Clarma? Why had Clarma not been blessed with fertile land and calm weather? She looked over the dress that had been laid out for her. Not her color, but it would do. Aeryn had things she had to do anyway.

-

Chogan looked attentive, politely smiling at everything the king said. It was a bore, but it was for Cazel, and that in itself was reward enough. The girl loved her father, and talking about rainbow swimmers gave him such pleasure (so much as Chogan wondered how he had two children) and seeing other people happy made Cazel happy. Such compassion had been irrelevant in his life since rejection by his own mother. Could he not help it if he wasn't a bundle of smiling joy like Zevo, or even Arsen?

"I have several paintings," Corin continued, "Of rainbow swimmers in their natural habitat. Although I like to keep them under wraps until I'm ready for a presentation, I'd be more than glad to give you a sneak peak."

To his luck, before an answer was needed, three fourth-class officials and a third-class commander marched up. They stood at attention and saluted. Chogan spared them an acknowledgement only to notice reddened uniforms and shoulder-plates. He waited for them to speak, not really caring to initiate conversation.

"Sir," the commander began, "We were on patrol and a group of rowdy Tikannians, natives, attacked us and-"

"You were too weak to take charge," Chogan continued, "Such events are not great enough for my concern."

The Officials seemed to shake as he spoke, understanding their folly.

"As you can tell, I am speaking with the king of Dakarai, a title out of reach of even your dreams. If you are not proficient at your job, you may leave the force as all other deserters, and if you so choose, that can very well be today."

"N-n-not at all," the official stuttered, "I apologize for disturbing you. We will report to-"

His colleagues silenced him, quickly pardoning themselves and moving to leave, feet practically jumping across the stone floor.

"Your men respect you," Corin complemented.

"Yes, but if you'll excuse me," Chogan replied, switching back to pleasantries, "As a leader, I need to accompany these incompetent men to ensure things are done right."

"No, go right ahead."

The echoing footsteps quickened considerably. The chair scraped against the floor and Chogan lifted the single-edged sword, a Kithlenese weapon, to settle into his scabbard.

-

Xenos leaned back against a wall smoking, for the third time that day. Every time he tried to relax, some random person interrupted him. Even worse was the fact that he was hacking up blood every now and then. He had to admit, Ture had helped him out. With carrying around his matches, going as lookout, acting as if he, Xenos, was actually a decent person; yeah, Xenos could see why Topras kept one of these around. The only problem was that with Ture, one could never be so sure about the kid's gender.

The carrot-top was out in a field picking flowers, for life's sake. But due to the total lack of insult, Xenos decided to tolerate him. He looked back towards the buildings of the middle city. Average people with meaningless existence or skill scurried about with shopping and whatnot. There was an unwritten rule in Charmaine: never go into the lower city without a solid reputation or weapon. The only people who went in there were those who lived in the dangerous streets. This was as close as anyone ever got to the invisible border, anyone except for one stupid girl who was very close to the crossing.

A deep blue scarf was obscuring her face from the angle he was at, but Xenos had a feeling that she was pretty enough to get mugged by some very lonely men. The dark-haired boy decided to see what hideous thing happened to the bimbo.

But to the wonderful luck he was experiencing that day, Xenos just had to cough out more blood. Hearing the not-so-stealthy move, the girl turned around to look at him. Xenos had clasped a hand over his mouth to silence himself, but had only managed to spew blood all over his hand, arm, and face, due to pressure. Despite this, the girl seemed less than disgusted, if not the opposite.

Her snow white hand grazed his cheek and went to taste the sampling of blood before being stopped.

"You don't want to do that," Xenos said.

"I-I'm sorry," she stammered, pulling away, "Sometimes I get carried away and-"

"Whatever. I don't need excuses."

She seemed to accept this, as she regained her former confident air about her. Why Aeryn was in this area was a mystery to him, but he wasn't about to let a fellow DeSade member (one in the spy class nonetheless) walk into sure danger.

"I'll be fine," she defended, ignoring the advice.

"Yeah, if you plan to lose your virginity."

Aeryn ignored him, doing whatever she damn well felt like.

"But I guess you already passed that hurdle," he added.

Despite his running record of being able to piss off any female he came into contact with (except for Ture, whose gender was still iffy) she continued to ignore him. Ah, the trouble with helping people…

"What could she possibly want there?" he more or less asked himself.

"I'm looking for someone."

Aware that while she was nearby he could no longer make sarcastic remarks under his breath, Xenos replied, "Who?"

"Aren't you nosey."

"Feh, I own plenty of negative qualities, including impatience."

Aeryn let herself smile. He seemed nice enough, but not a total sugar-cake either. And for the five minutes she knew him, she guessed that he would probably help her out.

"I don't know," she admitted, "His name, I mean."

"His?"

"It's not like that," she quickly replied.

Doing what he did best, Ture intruded on a conversation that was not meant for him to be near. The carrot-top carried a dozen flowers in his arms, a large grin on his face. Xenos sighed, using this time to wipe off the spattered blood on buildings and Ture's back.

"Look what I found!" the kid beamed, waiting for approval.

"Yeah… I see," Xenos said.

Ture, moving faster than one would expect, planted the colorful blossoms in the arms of his new 'friend'. Once again, Xenos' inability to blush saved the day. Taking notice of Aeryn though, Ture took back several of the flowers and presented them to the Clarman. She accepted, almost unsure of what to do next. The kid nodded, positive that he had done a good job.

"Ture," Xenos sighed, "Men usually don't carry flowers with them."

"But we're special, right?"

"In what way do you mean?"

Before Ture could announce his confusion on the reply, Aeryn cut in.

"I think they're nice," she said, "Flowers don't grow in Clarma."

"Are you kidding?!" Ture gasped, alarmed that the possibility existed.

"There are some flowers that eat flesh-"

Aeryn now had both boys' attention. And maybe she could live another day without finding the mysterious boy who she couldn't help but love.

-

Arsen found that he, for once, had nothing to do. Sure, there was the big event with his alliance with the Rebellion, but at the moment, he actually didn't have anything better than cooking to do. He had seen Xenos slinking out of the castle grounds with Ture, the kid Zevo had let off, tagging along. How the Hell that happened, he had no clue. There was always mingling with Miksa's brood, but the blond didn't really want to. The only one anyone wanted to forcibly talk to was Chogan.

Four officials ran by. Brown shoulder-plates meant fourth-class, the lowest rank of official, plus who he supposed was their commander. What could they possibly have done this time? Sighing, Arsen decided to catch up and find out what happened.

Easily meeting their pace, he then asked, "Who're you running from?"

The official closest to him squawked and tripped, causing his friends to fall as well. Out of the jumble of men, the first to cause the domino effect straightened his helmet and glared.

"Thanks, now we're going to be killed."

"Running only adds to your punishment," Arsen replied, "Making your superiors work is oh-so stressful you know."

But in the second the officials grinned at the sarcasm, their expressions immediately dropped.

"If I weren't myself, I could find that insulting," Chogan stated.

Arsen turned to his brother, half a decade his senior. Just as lazy as ever. The man's emerald eyes were dulled with apathy, his pale hair sticking everywhere as if he never had the motivation to comb it (although, Arsen was almost positive this was the case).

"From what I hear, you're already in trouble," Chogan continued, "It certainly doesn't help your impossible dream of becoming heir."

"I can always count on you to reiterate what I know," Arsen coolly replied.

"Stop trying to be clever," he said, "It will hurt you in the end."

"Thank you. I do think I'm very clever. Now, don't you have some entertaining to do?"

The officials were torn between gasping (were it a manly thing to do) or sighing out of relief. What they did definitely wasn't punishable at the moment. Chogan, however, only turned and began walking away.

"Just remember," he stated, "Your days may be numbered."

Despite how he tried, Arsen couldn't shake the comment off. Did he know? The blond offered a hand to the fallen officials, still watching Chogan walk off. There always had been something weird about him, but what was it? The official, about to question what had happened just then, was interrupted.

"What was it you bothered him with?"

"Some Tikannians were causing some commotion."

"That was dumb," Arsen stated, "Of all people, you went to Chogan?"

Either the ground had suddenly become the most amazing thing to look at on the island, or the officials were too embarrassed to reply. The blond rolled his eyes. He needed something to do until the big event; five whole days to kill. Huzzah.

-

A/N: It's only chapter 2 and I'm already going filler-ish... Anyway, I was told I need to split up chapters a bit more. Not sure how to do that yet... Tell me what you think of the rewrite so far!