Gifting This Final Empire With Blessings!

by Shadow Crystal Mage

Chapter K03: There Was No Secret Thieves Guild Organization (srsly?!), Let's Have A Montage?!

Disclaimer: Brandon Sanderson has an army of over 20,000 clones all linked in a writing hive mind. That's the only explanation that makes sense! Also, he owns the Mistborn series. Konosuba is owned by Akatsuki Natsume and is godly. Carlo Zen made Tanya.

Kazuma was walking down the street after he'd gotten Vin to go to sleep, minding his own business and ignoring inner Megumin challenging him to a fight for calling the Crimson Demon Clan weird when some guys came out of an alley ahead of him and blocked his way. His Enemy Detection started going off as he paid attention to it and them, and he realized there were people behind him as well, giving off an enemy signal as they positioned themselves to cut off his retreat. Instinctively, he checked them for missing fingers, but no, that wasn't how they did things around here. They weren't even that old. Some of them were shorter than he wasn't, and he really couldn't tell if they had any girls among them.

He expected banter. He was getting ready to demand they get out of his way. What he got was someone coming up behind him as one of the bigger kids came up to him. The punch to his stomach was ridiculously obviously coming and the guy hadn't even raised a fist yet as Kazuma felt the guy behind him suddenly grab his shoulder–


Kazuma's body suddenly moved by itself, as if some heroic instinct had risen up inside him to take control of his actions and convince All Might he was worthy of being the next Symbol of Peace! He avoided the grab that would let the guy behind him pin him, the other grab at his other side that was supposed to be simultaneous, and the punch from the guy in front of him that would have knocked the wind out of him if the guy behind Kazuma had managed to hold him in place for it.

The next few minutes were a struggle. A lot of them couldn't punch worth a damn and they were little kids, but so was he. They tried to crowd him and outnumber him and kick and beat him with no finesse or technique but throwing sheer numbers at the problem.

Thank goodness for Heal and Drain Touch. It was easy to just grab them and drain them of their energy as they crowded him, and the sudden hole it opened when one of them suddenly collapsed at his touch let him use Heal on himself to deal with the aches and pains he got while he was draining his current victim.

Kazuma was small, Kazuma was weak, but unless you were a beast from the royal family ore one of those overpowered Crimson Demon nutjobs, there was a reason why civilians never made trouble for Adventurers, even Kazuma. Pound for poind, inch for inch, Adventurers could kick more ass. Even Kazuma.

Even if just barely.

As such, even though Kazuma was bruised and aching all over, his shirt torn, all those who had ambushed him were drained and groaning in the street as he pushed the last and biggest one down onto their back on the street and pushed down on their neck with his forearm, even as he subtly used Drain Touch to take away his ability to fight. Even so, the boy still tried to fight, still tried to though him off even as he got too weak to move his arms. Lots of fighting spirit, that sort of shit.

"Okay," Kazuma said cheerfully. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

The boy tried to spit at him, but he was so weakened he couldn't even do that and just ended up with spit on his own chin.

"-to you too."

Kazuma spat right back. His aim was better and landed between the eyes. The hand he wasn't using to press down on a throat was holding a knife. He wasn't sure which one of his attackers had been carrying it– it would have been this guy, for all he knew- but it hadn't done them any good. It was a shit knife anyway, looking like a piece of scrap metal that had been painstakingly sharpened. What where those called again? Shivs?

"What were you going to do, anyway? Kill and eat me?"

From the angry look Kazuma got back, there might actually have been a good chance that was the plan.

He looked at the knife in his other hand, then slammed the pommel down on the guy's crotch, which elicited a pained sound.

"Is this your people-eating knife? Ugh, gross. Do you at least wash it afterwards?"

"Yer not.. gonna get away… wiff 'dis…" the little thug tried to bravado. "The boss'll get you…."

"Ugh, there's a boss? Even here, there's stupid clichés like that?"

Kazuma sighed. He'd never had to deal with things like this back in Belzerg, no matter how hard Aqua tried to screw things up. The closest was when they'd run into bandits, that near-mythical, almost extinct existence.

"Ok, I'll bite. Where is this boss of yours?"

So, it turns out the boss of the kids was an older kid, who seemed physically ten and spiritually about 45 after a bad divorce. He was armed with a wooden club studded with nails.

His boss was a girl who looked thirteen, with a wide mouth, a proper knife and her own gang of four people, all of whom had the inborn criminal cynicism of a non-musical American high school movie. Each.

Her boss was… ok, let's make a long story short and say that apparently the skaa criminal underworld was one big elaborate pyramid scheme.

Kazuma decided to stop when he got to a 'generic fat bastard' boss. He figured a fat skaa probably knew how to get the things you needed to get that fat.

"Look, it's been a long day and I'm getting bored beating people up, so you better have a good answer to my question. How do I sell stuff that I steal from nobles?"

Kazuma demanded as he sat down on the guy's stomach and kept him weak with Drain Touch.

The guy scowled up at him. It was hard to do with Kazuma's bare, dirty foot in his face, but he worked on it. "What, you mean a fence?"

"Why are you talking about fences? I'm not some noble, I don't have a fancy house I need to keep skaa away from."

The guy growled. "A fence is what you call someone who buys stolen goods from thieves," he said slowly and patiently as if he was talking to an idiot he was going to kill slowly and painfully.

"Hmm… what about stolen goods that aren't from thieves?"

The idiot he was talking to would die slower, over several days. "They buy that too," he snarled.

"Oh! Well, that's convenient. Where is this guy?"

The guy the fatass sent him to turned out to be more bosslike than Kazuma expected. In fact, he seemed, like, five, maybe ten whole badass levels stronger than fatass. Kazuma felt he'd skipped from a starter boss to a mid-game boss.

He was also rich. Like, really rich, not just skaa rich. Which Kazuma supposed made sense, if he was a fence. He'd need money to pay for the things he was buying. He had good clothes; his shop, while in the skaa parts of town, looked pretty decent; the guy manning the door looked less 'random thug #23' and more 'elite named thug who might as well be a miniboss'; and the guy reminded Kazuma of Luna-san. Not that he had huge bouncy tits and was desperate to get married, but more like he was judging whether to make your life suck, and could, while seeming completely professional.

Damn it Luna-san, that had been a complete accident! It had probably been Vanir's fault!

Having had that day's adventure, Kazuma returned home to his sister. Fortunately his luck was in, as he arrived just as she was rousing from her sleep and needed to be fed. He had the milk-soaked bread ready to feed to her in the small, wooden spoon he'd made. He'd made it with care so it would fit in her mouth and had all the edges sanded to within an inch of its life so his cute little imouto wouldn't hurt herself. from the sounds, his mom was passed out, and most likely naked in her room. He didn't want to traumatize himself, no matter what his inner party of useless clowns said, so he figured he'd just wait until she needed to be milked. Honestly it made Kazuma feel like he was taking care of a cow. Or Aqua.

Well, no, not Aqua, his mom didn't 'accidentally' keep turning drinks to water.

Time passed. If the studio animating this wanted to cheap out, they'd have a few frames of animation with some generic idle music. If they wanted to REALLY cheap out, it would be a still from slowly scrolling from one side to another with character voices speaking like it was some audio drama that will never see an oversees release even though it's presenting absolutely crucial setting lore.

Since this is an even cheaper medium, you don't even get the voices, just the text of what they'd be saying and descriptions of the scenes.

Kazuma, a wooden clothes pin he'd laboriously carved keeping his nose shut, changing Vin's soiled diapers. He used Create Water to wash her off, then used Create Earth and Create Earth Golem to make a little dirt doll to wipe off the area. He'd stick the used linen back to Keep Tekiel later. How was she making all this? She was fed a diet of soggy bread, where does all this stuff come from?!

"O-nii-chan," Kazuma enunciated slowly. "Say it with me, 'o-nii-chan'."

Vin giggled. "Wo! Wo!" She laughed, hands reaching out toward his face. Making a sappy smile as he ignored inner Aqua teasing him (even though no man should ever be teased for doting on the world's cutest little sister) he held out his finger, and Vin flailed around for it before her moved it closer and her little fingers, so small and so cute wrapped around it.

The world seemed to stop, reality seemed to shift, the universe suddenly tilted, the heavens opened up, choirs of angels and goddesses began to sing proclaiming that the world was wide and wonderful and NOTHING WOULD EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN and he would never be the same person from now on, but he was getting used to that feeling every time they played this game.

"O-nii-chan," Kazuma repeated.


The world broke, spinning around and bouncing over all the walls and corners of the room.

"Close enough," Kazuma said, the biggest smiled in three lives threatening to break his face.

Even his inner problem children were silent except for the cooing.

Argh! Why didn't he have a camera?! He wanted a camera!

"Come on Vin-chan," Kazuma said as he moved backwards on his knees, his arms almost but not quite holding Vin under her amrs as she took hesitant steps. "You can do it. Come to onii-chan."

Vin moved with hesitant steps, and he needed to catch her on her third step, but he was so proud of her! Argh, why had he been fucking around, stealing stuff when he should have been inventing smartphones for video recording!? Or even just cameras! How has he supposed to take pictures of all these things?!

Someone tried to kill him on the street again. He vaguely recognized her as that wide-mouthed girl with the gang he'd beaten up for being in charge of the gang of kids that tried to mug him.

He stabbed her in the hand with her own knife, then walked away as she lay on the street, too weak to move because of Drain Touch. A part of him knew it was a death sentence. The wound was almost certainly going to get infected if she tried to wrap it up, if she wasn't put out of her misery by a passing noble. That's what she got for try to hurt a baby's only caregiver. Wat would have happened to Vin if she'd managed to get him, huh? Did she ever think of that?

Auto-dodge kicked in, and moved to the side to avoid the badly-thrown knife he'd left next to her, which was already tumbling badly as it passed him. He kept on walking. Vin needed to get fed, after all.

Kazuma keeping a count of how old Vin was not creepy no matter what inner Aqua said. After all, future generations would need a record to refer to how Vin is the world's most awesome little sister. Besides, given how hard he had to work every day– A LITTLE KID SHOULDN'T HAVE TO WORK THIS HARD, DAMN IT! – he'd lose track of time, and if he did, he wouldn't be able to properly celebrate the most important day of the year!

"Happy Birthday to you," Kazuma sang quietly over the sounds of his mom and her sugar daddy getting it on. "Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday… "

Getting a candle small enough had been a challenge, as had find something to frost the little birthday cake in. And finding a cake in the first place. Fortunately, the Tekiel kitchen had provided, and he'd been able to snag a bunch of little pastries, some cream and a jar of jam. Vin was unlikely to be able to take more than a bite of two, but that wasn't the point! A little sister should have a nice birthday cake for their first birthday after all!

Kazuma worked patiently using needle (stolen) and thread (stolen) as he worked on his most important project yet. While the shirts and small dresses he'd been stealing from Keep Tekiel fit Vin well enough, he knew in his onii-chan heart they weren't good enough for his little sister.

He'd one repairs to his clothes before, but he'd never actually bothered to acquire the Tailoring skill. Even if she was just going to grow out of it in a few months, he'd make his cute little sister a cute little baby dress! He'd make her as many cute little baby dresses as he needed to!

Man, he really wished he could find someplace to steal baby clothes from!

Still no progress on the camera. Damn this stupid world and its lack of incentivizing photographic developments among the lower class! Or just having official lower classes at all!

"Come on Vin-chan, come on," Kazuma called from across his admittedly small room as he sat on his knees, gently coaxing his little sister across the room. "Come to onii-chan, that's it."

Vin sat on the floor across from him, wearing one of the dresses he's sown before he'd finally found where Tekiel kept their baby clothes to steal. Slowly, the toddler supported herself on her arms, then shakily got to her feet. Kazuma leaned forward as she swayed before slowly, awkwardly started to toddle towards him.

Kazuma did not squee, no matter what the inner party said. And it was no one's business if he did! "Come on Vin, come on," he cheered as his inner Aqua, not able to sense the mood, compared his sister to a chicken she thought was a dragon. He nearly dove like he was making a game-winning save in a baseball manga as Vin stumbled, but she was able to right herself with a smile. "Yay, good going Vin! Now come on, come to onii-chan…"

Kazuma was tense, happy and pretty much strung on a wire as he watched his adorable little sister walk towards him, her pure cuteness making the world better with every step. When she finally reached his arms, he laughed, lifting her up holding her against him. "Yay, you did it Vin-chan! You walked! You walked across the room! Ah, why haven't I invented a camera yet? "

He twirled around like a bad ballerina, smiling like a riaju idiot as his little sister laughed with him, and for once his inner party had nothing to say. He was too happy to care about thinking what they would have said.

"Woniichan," Vin suddenly managed to say one day. "Woniichan! Woniichan!"

To his dying day, Kazuma would swear up and down that was her first word.

Kazuma lay on his bed, his sister next to him, both bundled up with stolen blankets against the cold, listening to her breathe. He smirked a little as he wondered if his mom had enough blankets. Maybe he'd check tomorrow.

He just lay there, making one side of a barrier to keep vin from falling off the bed. Pillows surrounded the bed all over the floor in case that wasn't enough, and he'd long since scoured the floor to within an inch of its life to get rid of splinters. He watched as Vin took her cute baby breaths, all swaddled up in blankets against the cold of night.

He wondered if this was what it would have been like, if he and Megumin had little Crimson Demons together…

Kazuma closed his eyes, held his sister close, and pretended his inner Aqua would have called him a lolicon pervert for thinking about it…

"Oh, you again. Hey, it's been a while!"

Kazuma cheerfully greeted the fat bastard as they met one morning while he walked down the street, some cheap and crappy skaa bread in his hands.

"Wow, you've really put on weight. How much are you eating? Are you secretly a noble or something? Oh, Big-Mouth girl! You're here too! How's the hand? Oh, you had to lose it? Man, sucks to be you then."

The now one-handed girl snarled at him like, her long, tangled, dirty hair making her look like a trash-heap yurei as she held a new knife in her left hand.

"Wow, everyone's here. Hey, thanks for telling me about that fence guy, it's really helped me out. I need to get home, but how about later tonight I take you all out for drinks? My treat."

"You think a couple of drinks is going to stop us from killing you?" the fat bastard said.

"Eh, you're going to kill me? What for? I mean, I'm even being nice and offering to buy you all drinks. Why are we talking about killing me? After all, I kicked your asses once already. Doesn't just going out for drinks sound better? I'm a nice guy after all, so I'll even forget all this killing me business."

"Shut up!" Big-mouth girl said. "I lost my rusting hand because of you! We're going to kill you, we're going to kill everyone you know, we're going to kill your entire family, when we're done everyone's is going to think you'd been hit by the Inquisitors! We'll kill your mother, we'll kill the whelp–"


Cries rang out as Kazuma sent the spell through the girl's head, making it explode as the electricity went out the other side of her skull. In this world, no one had magic resistance of any sort, no equipment that was strong against elemental spells. Here, his spells were actually badass.

"You're all dying now."

There were screams, blood, the crack of lightning, the small reverberations of thunder, and the smell of ozone, and at least one skull caved in by crappy skaa bread.

"No one threatens my imouto and lives."

"Woniichan!" Vin cried as he came into the apartment. "Wonnichan."

Kazuma's smile was a sickly thing. "Hey, Vin-chan. Sorry, I didn't manage to get any food. We'll have to cook some eggs. I'll find something for lunch though."

Vin let out a little happy cry, running toward his leg and putting her arms around it. Ah, she was growing up so fast! He'd be able to start feeding her proper meat soon, instead of just the cut up bits and boiled vegetables. Then she'd be able to grow bigger and cuter!

Kneeling down, he picked Vin up and held her close. He never wanted to let her go.

"Woniichan daisuki!"

Kazuma put his face down and took a deep breath, taking in the smell from the top of her head, trying to cover up the smell of char and ozone.

Kazuma once said that he was a proponent of True Gender Equality. That if a girl hit him, he'd knock her lights out right back.

He hadn't had time to tell his mother this, what with her neglecting him and him staying away from her, but when he came back with food one day to find two year-old Vin crying with a handprint on her face and the bitch demanding where the food was, she really shouldn't have been surprised when he punched her hard enough to make her to make her bounce when she hit the ground. Granted, he was still a short kid, so he couldn't really punch her in the face like he wanted, but a gut shot done right can do wonders. So did the follow-up kick for good measure.

He took Vin to his room, throwing a piece of skaa bread at the bitch for good measure (it probably dented her skull and did more damage than the other two combined), barricaded the door behind them, then set about making his little sister stop crying. Thank goodness for Heal. He was no priest, but he shut his eyes, swallowed his pride, and prayed to Aqua to do him a solid. It wasn't as powerful as Aqua's but it was still good, and it seemed to work really well on a little kid. And if his prayer helped or not, well, Aqua wasn't here for him to listen to her smugging, so he figured it was worth a shot.

Slowly, agonizingly, the mark on her face faded, even as her crying quieted to sniffles. Kazuma gently wiped her face, giving her a little wooden cup full of non-alcoholic juice he'd stolen from Tekiel (the cup, he'd carved himself so Vin would have something that was hers). She still clutched him like she never wanted to let go.

Kazuma sat on his bed, holding his little sister and telling him he loved her and that everything was going to be all right, until she fell asleep in his arms. Then he wiped her face and tucked her into bed. Finally, he took a deep breath, and reached for his wooden sword and rope…

"Hello, 'mom'. We don't talk much. We don't talk at all, really. But I think we should talk now about how you're going to treat my little sister from now on… or I'm going to break all your arms and legs, then just have this talk all over again."

Tied to a chair in a way even his inner Darkness couldn't call erotic, the bitch's eyes looked around in panic as Kazuma slapped his wooden sword against his hand like a little yakuza. If he'd had an inner Vanir, he'd have been chortling and congratulating Kazuma on how evil and nasty he was being. He hoped the real Vanir would have been getting a nice snack from the negative emotions being let out.

"In case you've forgotten who I am, it's me, your son. Now, I've given you a break because you fucking that guy gets us this nice place, so I've been taking care of the food, the clothes, the cleaning, Vin's everything and milking you. I think I've been pretty patient. But today, you hurt Vin. So I think it's time we had a talk about how things are going to be around here… "

Kazuma was really careful with Vin's first outing. He put her in a dress that looked dirtier and more ragged then it actually was and made sure to hold her hand tight as she stepped out of the building. It was a good thing he kept a firm grip on her, because the little three-year old nearly ran out of his grip entirely, excited at all the open space, more than she'd ever seen before, ever! Forced to choose between letting go or running after her, he sucked it up and ran, not wanting to spoil her fun. Surely she'd get tired soon, right?

Kazuma was absolutely exhausted as he carried a sleeping Vin home at the end of her first outing. They'd had to dodge sullen skaa, sullen skaa that seemed offended that a little girl was being loud and happy, guards who were offended a skaa was being loud and happy, nobles that were offended that a skaa child was being loud and happy, and Vin just running around in general. He'd had to run around like a maniac Drain Touching when he could so he could keep Vin and himself hidden with the Concealment skill.

Still, it was worth it to see his little sister having fun. She couldn't stay home being a hikkineet, after all. For one, they had no internet. Plus if she stayed at home, she'd get chubby. AND that woman might do something to her despite their little 'talk'.

His body aced from all the running around, and he was so tired. AND he still had things to do tonight. Still, it was all for his imouto…

Getting home, he tucked Vin into bed– he should really see about getting a slightly wider bed, then reached for his hooded mantle, wooden mask and wooden sword. After all, some idiots had tried to hurt his little sister. They'd have to pay…

Fence-san was a lot less annoying than Vanir. For one, he wasn't Vanir, which already made him many times more pleasant. For another, after Kazuma had robbed him blind one night, including the clothes he'd been sleeping in, he'd learned never to low-ball Kazuma ever again, lest Kazuma decide to not make this an exchange of goods and just… well, rob him blind. Kazuma had given everything back, of course, and even given him a nice bottle of wine he'd stolen from Tekiel as an apology. At least, Kazuma assumed it was nice. It looked old and rare and shit, so either Fence-san drank it or sold it. either way, he learned to take Kazuma seriously.

And no, his name wasn't actually Fence-san.

"Hmm," Fence-san said in the room he used to deal with the 'respectable' thieves. Apparently, there were ranks to this whole skaa thief thing. There were the little street rat thieves fencing stuff they pickpocketed but couldn't use like pocket watches, paper notes and small jewelry. There were gang leaders like fat bastard, who broke into houses, shops or warehouses and took stuff by the load. There were burglars and thieves who broke into houses and offices and store, stealing jewels, silverware and other small shit that were worth more than the loads fat bastard stole and shit. And then there were the bigshots, who scammed the nobles by pretending to be nobles, pulling of huge cons and making a lot of money, who fenced the little stuff they couldn't be bothered to get rid of themselves. "Quite a haul tonight, I see."

Despite his age, Kazuma was just barely one of the burglars short of the bigshots. Fance-san didn't ask how he did it, they just haggled over the price. Kazuma thought Fence-san might like him a little, had even been helpful teaching Kazuma what stuff would be easiest to sell to him, since lots of amateurs just swiped whatever and expected him to pay for it. Tonight was mostly small unset stones, pocket watches, some old bowls and vases, and lots of paper money that as a skaa Kazuma wasn't allowed to use. He'd also be taught the valuable lesson of not putting much value in jewelry with no stones, since for some reason the noble made with jewelry out of wood painted to look like gold! He'd checked himself to see if Fence-san had been messing with him, and it had been true!

"Someone pissed me off."

Kazuma nonchalantly answered the unasked question, holding a bottle of wine he'd also stolen and debated taking it for himself or passing it along. He'd really been too busy to drink, since taking care of Vin was a full-time job, and after the slapping he didn't dare stay unconscious when that woman might be awake with Vin. She'd learned from their talk, especially once she'd realized he was willing to take a little of her shit as long as she kept away from Vin entirely. It was an unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship, but he had experience with those, not that he had the words to put it that way. He was Japanese, after all. This psychology crap was just weird occidental mumbo-jumbo and superstition!

"Hmm. By the way, interesting fire they're having over at the Hotel District," Fance-san said nonchalantly, examining a slightly sooty

"Yeah, stupid nobles are really careless with their candles or whatever. Here, I got you something. My treat, uncle."

Kazuma sighed, then shoved the bottle towards Fence-san.

"Why, thank you," Fence-san said with a small smile. "I do so look forward to your little gifts. For a child, you have excellent taste in wines. I've been looking for this vintage for some time. How did you know? Has someone been talking?"

"Lucky guess. By the way, speaking of talking, do you know anyone who might be willing to teach me to read?"

Might as well learn to make out what all the wine bottles said so he'd know how to pick the good booze.

Ugh, teachers. Something was wrong with their heads! You were the one hiring them, paying them good money to work for you, so why do THEY think they're in charge? Damn it, Fence-san, were you getting back at him for something? Do you not actually like wine?

At least they hadn't tried spanking, or Kazuma would have needed to show True Gender Equality all over again.

Sighing, Kazuma headed home. That woman looked like she'd gotten pregnant again, so she was going to be even more of a pain. He hoped he at least got another cute little sister out of it.

Either way, he might need to fix his room. It was definitely time to make the bed bigger. Or make bunk beds? But Vin still cried when he tried to make her sleep alone…

"Vin-chan, what would you like for breakfast?"

"Can I have omurice, woniichan?"

Ah, the hardest dish to cook invented in Japan short of fugu. Damn you anime!

"One omurice, coming up!"

Still, his little sister wanted it, so hell, here comes Kazuma!

That woman, for once calm, sober and fully dressed, glared at them both, but spoke only to Kazuma. "Can't you stop talking in that weird street slang when you're in this house?" she snapped.

Kazuma gave her a wide smile. Well, he showed a lot of teeth.

"Now, now, mommy, you shouldn't get worked up. If you're sour all the time, your baby will have a nasty personality, and then I'd have to throw you out the window. Besides, if you have any objections to what I'm teaching her, maybe you should have done some of the teaching instead of being useless napping in the middle of the day."

Sure, he used to do that too, but he'd stopped after Vin no longer woke up at all hours of the night. What was her excuse? His tone was absolutely cheerful. After all, Vin looked to him, and he didn't want her to think he was upset.

"Vin love you mommy!" Vin said, one of the few non-Japanese phrases she knew. She smiled at that woman brightly, full of sincerity and cuteness and all was right with the world. Kazuma had done it to see if it would fix her rotten attitude. After all, no one could stay horrible when the universe's best little sister told you she loved you, right? Right?

Kazuma showed more teeth, daring that woman to mess with Vin.

Smiling a sickly smile, that woman managed out, "I love you too Vin," and awkwardly patted her on the head. Vin clumsily grabbed at her hand, making it pat her on the head a few more times, giggling in delight as that woman got the hint.

Released, that woman went back to her baywrap and two boiled eggs, a rare treat since it was Vin's birthday, and maybe brothers should be forgiving in this the most holy of holy days. She finished it slowly, eyeing the meats Kazuma was cooking as he used boiled barley and eggs to replicate an omurice to the best of is ability.

Piling it all on Vin's wooden plate that he'd carved himself, along with the meets and a scrambled egg mixed with barley and bacon, all in Vin-sized non-puking portions, Kazuma made a plate for himself pilled with lots of eggs, meat, bread, and jam. That woman glared enviously at him as he got ready to eat, Vin joining him in an 'Itadakimasu!'

Then he watched in bemusement as Vin cut off a good chunk of her omurice and pushed it to the edge of her plate towards that woman with a cry of 'Oishii!' That woman's eyes darted towards Kazuma, who didn't say anything, then quickly pushed her plate towards Vin. Vin slightly sloppily pushed the omurice into her plate, then a piece of meat– the biggest of the pieces on her plate. She smiled widely at that woman. "Vin love you mommy! Oishii!"

"What do you say?" Kazuma said, still showing teeth.

"T-thank you Vin," that woman said. "I love you too."

Vin smiled, then cut her omurice again and pushed the piece towards Kazuma. Solemnly, Kazuma accepted it, then put some of his meat and bread on her plate. Then, with a warning look, he moved a piece of meat– the smallest on his plate– and some bread to that woman's. She accepted it suspiciously, but food was food.

They ate in almost companionable silence, interrupted only by Vin's cheerful happy child sounds.

Kazuma went to the basin to do the dishes as Vin brought him her little plate and cup, then excited took that woman's plate too and held it out to him. He accepted both, letting them all soak.

"Watashi wa daisuki, woniichan! Vin love you mommy!" Vin said, hugging them both in the leg, that woman patting her on the head, before she ran to play with her blocks.

"Sweep the floor, then you can do whatever you want."

Kazuma handed that woman a broom.

She eyed it as if thinking to use it to beat him. Kazuma showed his teeth.

Grumbling, she stook the broom and began to sweep like the floor offended her.

Well, Kazuma supposed he'd have to start feeding that woman properly if his little sister was going to come out healthy. Ugh, would he need to remember her name too?

Kazuma was almost willing to let Vin and that… mother… be in the same room now. She had finally seen the light and was letting Vin into her heart, playing with her awkwardly and taking Vin's cries and yells with a smile. Argh, where was this motherly instinct when there had been diapers to change?!

He made it perfectly clear he still didn't trust her though, and Vin still slept with him in their room, the door barricaded and now locked with a padlock he'd gotten through Fence-san. She seemed fine with that, and he'd even given her some blankets to keep her warm. He drew the line at doing her laundry though. If she wanted clean sheets, she'd have to break into Keep Tekiel just like everyone else.

Unfortunately, he had to change his mind when she got too fat to do her own laundry– what had she done last time? Slept on filthy sheets for nine months?– but he made sure she knew this was only because Vin liked playing with laundry!

Again, they hadn't let him in when his mom had gone into labor. Like it wouldn't be anything he hadn't already seem before while raising Vin.

Still, he'd decided to take Vin out on another outing. They'd gone out on other outings since and Vin knew what to expect now, dirtying her face with ash, putting on her fake dirty, fake ragged play clothes and holding Kazuma's hand. He'd eventually taught her not to be so noisy when they were outside, though there was nothing he could do about her running. Still, when he put a finger to his lips, she knew they had to play the quiet game for a little while, which made sneaking from people who had an unreasonable dislike of fun much easier.

He had no idea how he was going to get through this when he had two little sisters. Damn it, he was only… what, nine or ten? He shouldn't have to be the responsible person in the house! Again!

When they came back, the midwife was already packing up to leave. His mother was passed out on her filthy bed, and he sighed at having to be the one who'd replace it. The midwife tried to take his new little sister away from him when he picked her up– as if he didn't know how to handle a baby!– so he kicked her out the door and locked it behind her.

"Hey… I'm your onii-chan. Mom calls me Reen, but the truth is my name is really Kazuma, and I'm a hero from another world. I promise you I'm going to be the best onii-chan ever. No one is ever going to hurt you or make you cry or make you hungry, and you and your sister are going to be the happiest, happiest little girls in the whole wide world. I promise."

Smiling, Kazuma watched his new little sister sleep…

There was a spring in his step as Kazuma came back from Fence-san's, a bottle of noble booze hidden inside some firewood in his arms, next to a bag of coins packed inside insulation so it wouldn't jingle. Of course, by now people had some clue not to mess with him. The local skaa did, anyway. Local guards probably hated his guts. Fuck 'em.

His mom had been good lately. Talking to the voices in her head, sure, but she'd been good and Vin hadn't been crying when he'd gotten home since, so he supposed she deserved a reward. That was what the booze was for, to let her get blackout drunk like she hadn't been able to since she'd gotten pregnant.

He opened the door to their apartment and the smell of blood hit him right away.

Kazuma closed the door behind him, even as he stared at the room. There was blood on the floor, Vin was crying, her ear bleeding as a small earring that hadn't been there when he'd left the house to steal shit glinted in the bloody lobe. Their mom was making baby noises and alternately cooing and crying at a small, bloody bundle that also hadn't been bloody when he had left.

Kazuma saw red.

At ten years old, he was finally tall enough to punch her in the face.

- To be continued…

A/N: Yeah… um…

Well! How about that there Volume 17, huh?

OMAKE: Lady Tekiel's Terrified Maid!

Delra knew she was a dead woman walking.

She'd heard the rumors, that one of the children in the dormitories wasn't... quite right. That one smiled with a bloodthirsty rage she seemed to think no one could see, filled with a contempt fit for the high nobility. Some of the few skaa and lesser nobles, even lesser than her, who were practically skaa themselves whispered she was a Mistwraith, a demon in the guise of a child.

None of the children liked her, yet none had the courage to bully her, either. She was just… too creepy. Her obviously false smiled showed too many teeth, as if she was contemplating leaping on you and eating you on the spot and wearing your skin as a suit.

Then the children had finally managed to gather their courage and come at her, and she had been a monster indeed. Rumor said that she'd killed all the other children in her dormitory, that the mists had descended from a noonday sky to rip her victims souls out and feed them to her. Rumor said the courtyard had run red with blood and that pewterarms had been needed to pull her from the corpses of her victims, one of whom she'd been in the midst of devouring.

Delra could believe that. Oh, how could she believe those whispers.

She served it now, a thing that could hide in an empty room and drank strange potions constantly, downing them like they were sweets. The mistwraith knew her face, her name, and its eyes seemed to bore into Delra's soul, as if contemplating its next meal. She dreaded the nights it was her turn to stay up lay in case it would wake up in the night and need something, and her sleeping hours were haunted by visions of the little monster materializing out of the night and Mist to devour her soul…

Delra tried not to start as she realized IT was here, staring at her with those soulless eyes. It raised a finger to its lips, and Delra tried not to shudder at seeing that strangely obscene, almost perverse gesture, eager teeth showing like a predator. Then froze as she saw the knife revealed by the move. Was this it? Was this when she would have her throat cut in a fit of pique? Or was she expected to fellate the weapon, as the gesture had implied? Was this when she would lose her soul so that one it its ilk could wear her face?

And then they were gone, as if they hadn't ordered her like some skaa whore. Delra shuddered, seeming to collapse upon herself. Tears ran down her eyes at the brush with death, she beant down and offered desperate prayers to the Lord Ruler to save her life and soul…

Some time later, a cry of alarm rose within the Keep…

Please review, C&C welcome.

Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.