Lime green eyes opened slowly. They took in the vaulted stone ceiling and the soft blanket that covered aching skin. They looked around more and saw a man with blue hair passed out on a wicker seat not far from her. He snored softly and the owner of said green eyes smiled softly. He was actually kind of cute when he was sleeping. Just kind of though.

"Sleeping on the job, Lord Ass-Kiss?"

A groggy voice tore into Azalus's consciousness and he woke with a start. He looked at the red haired girl before him. She blinked and smirked up at him. He smiled down at her widely. "Glad to know you're alive, Kurei. I was scared I lost you. After all, no one has as small a chest as you do. Who else would I make fun of?" The two laughed lightly and the injured girl tried to sit up.

"I missed you too, jerk face."

They both smiled at one another as he attempted to help Kurei up in her bed. She leaned heavily against the pillows and panted in her effort. "Good grief, Kurei," Azalus mused, "You need to lay off the sweets. I think you're getting pudgy." A vein popped up in her forehead.

"You jerk! We were having a happy moment and you have to go and ruin it by calling me fat! I'll have you know that I don't have an inch of fat on me! And besides, how many cookies or slices of plum pudding I eat is absolutely none of your concern!"

Azalus laughed heartily and patted Kurei on the head. "Well, since you've woken up and are feeling so spunky I'll go and get your doctor. Sit tight, chubby." Steam came out of Kurei's ears but she merely crossed her arms over her chest and huffed angrily. Azalus laughed again and closed the door behind him softly. Kurei dropped her façade and unfurled her arms. She lifted her covers and looked down at her wound. It was lightly bandaged, but her experienced eyes could see the angry bleeding gash beneath her gauze. Thankfully that bastard's sword hadn't gone all the way through, or else she really would have been in trouble. He could have severed her spine and if he had done that, well, even if she did survive there would have been no point in living. You can't fight on the frontline in a wheelchair.

She lay back on her pillows and sighed. This day absolutely sucked. She could feel the pain despite the drugs her doctor had given her and she felt weak as well. It had been a miracle that her stomach acid hadn't eaten through too much of her system. She thanked Alice for that. Kurei sighed dramatically, however. She wouldn't be allowed to eat sweets for a very long time. Kurei pulled the blanket back onto her and pat her lower stomach with her hands.

She really was getting pudgy.

Azalus knocked on the door he knew Usagi would be in.

"Come in."

He opened the door and walked in. Kazuki was curled up in the middle of his bed. He was hugging his knees to his chest. When he noticed Azalus walked in his eyes grew hopeful. "Kurei's awake. She should see you, Usagi, so you can check on her wound." Usagi nodded and looked from him to Kazuki. She was obviously worried about the boy. He hadn't been acting the same since the attack two days ago.

He had brought her into Azalus's room unannounced and in his arms. Little trickles of blood and acid trickled onto his hands and arms. Five strange men followed closely behind him and Kazuki put her on the bed. "You have to save her, Azalus," Kazuki's voice was strained with emotion and he looked up at the man with dark pleading eyes. "I know you don't like her," He continued, "But please, for me, save her." Azalus had nodded and used his magic to levitate her into Usagi's private room, where he had often been treated after a bad scouting mission.

Kazuki had stayed at her side the entire night and most of the next day. He refused food and drink and he hadn't slept at all. Finally Usagi herself had lost her patience and told him to leave or she would let Kurei die. Unsure as to whether she was serious or not he had left and holed himself up in his room, waiting for good news.

The black haired boy stood unsteadily and wobbled over to the door. "I need to see her." He explained to no one. Usagi looked at him with pity and stood as well. She walked over to the door and Azalus stood aside. Before leaving she sent him a look and he understood perfectly what that meant. Someone had to straighten this boy out. Usagi left and Azalus locked the door behind her. Confusion painted over Kazuki's normally whimsical features. "What're you doing? I need to go see Kurei and make sure she's okay."

"And you will." Azalus replied. "But first, I need to make sure you're okay. You killed your first person a few days ago."

"That bastard deserved it."
"Strong words coming from such a weak little man."
"Shut up, Azalus! You don't even know what you're talking about! Get out of my way or—"
"Or what, pipsqueak?"
"Or I'll kill you too!"

Kazuki summoned his weapons, once again a blue and red short sword. He looked down at his hands in sleep deprived confusion. "What's happening? Where's my sword and shield? Are you doing this? I'll make you regret it!" Kazuki whipped his sword in Azalus's direction and stopped. His wrist had stopped of its own accord as it reached his opponent's face. Azalus lifted his hand and Kazuki's arm dropped to his side. He shook his hand and the swords dropped to the ground. The swords became light and returned to his heart. Azalus glared angrily at the raven haired boy. He shook his wrist and the boy flew into his own headboard. He slumped over in pain and Azalus released his grip on the boy's body.

Tears fell out of his eyes and stained his blood spattered shirt. "It's my fault, Azalus. It's all my fault! Because of me Kurei got hurt. She c-could have died because of me and my cowardice! It's disgusting. I should have been stabbed like that. Not her! She's such a good mentor and I just… I—

"Put her life in mortal danger. I know. We all know. And we forgive you for it. It happens, Kazuki. Not all of us are born fighters. Very few of us are, and those that are are usually sick people who love to hurt people for fun. You're not one of them, Kazuki. You're a kind, sensitive kid who got dealt a bad hand of cards. You just have to make the best combination out of it and bluff you're way to the top. You're not going to win every deal, and no one does. It's about winning the hands that count."

Kazuki listened to Azalus and continued letting the tears fall.

"You know, kid, I made my first kill when I was eleven. Did you know that? Eleven years old. I grew up in a tiny village in Outerland. Didn't even have a name. But we were happy. We were all very happy. Until one day, a squire from the royal kingdom comes with a small army of soldiers. He told us that all kids fifteen to ten were going to be tested for physical and magical potential. Those of us that excelled were going to be drafted by the Majesty herself. That we owed it to the Queen to let her have us children. So we tested. My friend Edrean and I were tested at about the same time. He was a stronger kid so they chose him to be a soldier."

"I wasn't as strong, so they sent me to the next field where they tested magic. That I excelled at. They called me a protégée because where most kids could only lift a couple of rocks; I set a tree on fire. So I was drafted into the army. Edrean and I were so excited that we got in together and for months after that, we trained. I had seen what happened on the frontline and felt terrible. The Red Queen, my majesty at the time, had desired to take over the entire world, whereas the White Queen had only wanted peace and prosperity. I knew what I had to do."

"On the night of my eleventh birthday I woke my friend Edrean up and told him I was leaving. Edrean did everything he could to stop me. I wouldn't listen to him and, as I was escaping, he sent the guards after me. I got to the border of Outerland and had to stop because one of their hounds had got me by the ankle and broke it. I couldn't get up or walk away. Magic, unlike strength, is born from fear and not anger. When the guards tried to take me back but I got scared. My magic kicked in and I made them kill each other with their own weapons. They stabbed one another and fell to the ground dead. I dragged myself across the border into Borderland and waited until a patrol came and picked me up. Being eleven they figured I wasn't a threat and raised me as one of their own."

"So the moral of the story," Azalus sighed as he sat on the edge of the bed, "Is that you do what you have to do to survive. Fear can be a great inhibitor or a prohibitor until you learn to master your fear. Master your fear and you can master the world. Then the next time you go to battle, you can protect the ones you deem worthy, and you don't have to worry about them dying or injured. Think about it awhile."

Azalus ruffled Kazuki's hair and stood back up. He walked over to the door and unlocked it. "I'm going to visit Kurei. Please feel free to come when you feel calmer."

And with that Azalus left.

Kazuki sat for what seemed like hours afterwards and thought to himself. Finally he stood up and grabbed a change of clothes. He walked into his bathroom and showered, letting all the dirt, grime and blood off his body. He noticed his arms were a little cut up from his fight with the man in the red suit and Kurei's leaking stomach acids. He washed off what he could of the dried blood and acid remnants and scrubbed gently around those areas. Finally he changed into his clothes (a black dress shirt, his fedora, black slacks and black dress shoes) and walked out of his room ready to face the world.

The door to Usagi's private room opened quietly and the two occupants of the room stared at it. Kazuki sauntered in nonchalantly. His hands were in his pants pockets and he seemed far more relaxed than any of them had seen him this past week. "Hey, jerk!" Kurei shouted happily at him, "About time you came to visit me!" He knew that all had been forgiven and he took a seat in the wicker chair next to her.

"I'm sorry for being such a coward and—yes?"

Kurei indicated for him to come closer with her index finger. He came closer and closer until he was a foot away from her face. Kurei opened her mouth as if to speak and then smacked Kazuki as hard as she possibly could. Kazuki recoiled and Kurei shook her stinging hand. "Now we're even. Just make sure to get stronger so this," she gestured towards her stomach, "Doesn't happen again, okay?"

Kazuki nodded shakily and she laughed at him.

"I don't know, I mean, why—"

"You felt bad for my getting hurt. Yes? Yes. So I hit you to make it even. Blood for blood, as they say."

Kazuki nodded dumbly and sat down, confused by her words. Azalus walked into the room with a tray in his hands. He placed it in Kurei's eager lap and nearly cheered until she saw what was on it. "What the hell is this?" She asked in confusion.

"That madam," Azalus responded, "Is mashed carrots. They are very good for you. And, who knows, maybe they'll make you grow a size!"

Kurei began throwing a tantrum and Kazuki hastily got out of the line of fire. Usagi gestured for him to follow her. They left the room and shut the door softly.

"Quite a lively spirit, isn't she?" Usagi giggled. Kazuki simply nodded and held his tongue.

"Usagi, I've decided to become your champion."

Usagi's eyes lit up and a smile widened until it covered her entire face.

"Oh Kazuki that's wonderful! I can't wait to—"

"IF IT'S SO HEALTHY, WHY DON'T YOU EAT IT, ASS-KISS? I. DON'T. LIKE. CARROTS!"


Huh. I tried doing my French assignment but failed miserably. I couldn't stop thinking about how this needed a resolution and such. Sorry if this chapter is boring and such. The next one won't be as bloody as number four, but it'll be fun nevertheless! Have a great weekend and thanks again to reviewers and readers alike. You keep me going! :D Have a great week!

-Katherine