Disclaimer: I don't own Zatch Bell. Happy now?

Author Note: Please review… If you don't, my volatile other self will go crazy. We don't want that now do we? Then review.

Falling From Grace, Getting Up, and Continuing On

It became so hard. I tried so hard for so long, but it never seemed to do any good. No matter how strong he got, no matter how much I learned, and no matter how many books we burned there always seemed to be something conspiring against me.

We were walking up a very steep cliff. It had rained the previous day and the ground was slippery and treacherous. I slipped and stumbled many times. My partner of course wasn't having any trouble in the least. He never had any trouble with rough terrain. But I, being only a human, frequently fell to my knees or staggered into a tree or boulder.

Just one more example of why it was hopeless.

As I watched Brago, my self-loathing only grew. I would often tell him that I could keep up with him easily, but we both knew this was a lie. I was only human, but he was a mamodo. He was so much stronger than I! He made me feel so weak sometimes. How was I supposed to be able to keep up with someone like him?

Reaching a particularly muddy section of the almost non-existent road, I made to carefully walk through it. But just like everything in my life, my plans didn't go as intended. I slipped in the mud, knocking myself against the cliff side. I let out a gasp as my shoulder hit the rock-hard surface.

Brago looked back at me, raising an eyebrow. I looked away from his crimson eyes and righted myself. As I started walking again, he turned back to face the road. He knew I was having trouble, but thankfully, he let me be. At least he wasn't demeaning me for my weakness like he usually would.

The only reason I was in this stupid battle to decide the mamodo king was because my best and only friend, Koko, was having her heart manipulated and twisted by the mamodo Zophise. How I despised that mamodo. He was the one who turned the sweet, caring girl into a bitter, horrible woman.

I looked up from the road to watch my own mamodo's back. If it weren't for Brago, I wouldn't be here. The first time I met Zophise, the first time I had even seen a mamodo, Koko had tried to kill me because of her twisted heart. If it weren't for the fact that Brago had stepped in front of the blast, I would be dead easily. That fact often chilled me to the bone.

As I watched my partner trudge up the cliff, a question popped into my head. A question that, surprisingly, had never had popped into my head before.

Why had Brago saved me?

Was it because he knew, somehow, that I was meant to be his bookkeeper? Was it because he actually felt pity for me? Inwardly, I laughed humorlessly. Brago never felt pity. Especially not back then.

Maybe the reason was because of the black book that I carried. Maybe it called out to him, telling him that I was his partner. I looked at the book I carried in my right hand. With the black book, I could save my friend and make Brago the mamodo king.

I blinked slightly as I felt something hit my face gently. I looked up at the gray sky as more drops hit my face.

Great. It was raining again. Just one more thing to add to my ever-growing list of obstacles.

The light sprinkling soon turned into a torrential downpour. The already slick mud on the cliff seemed to turn to liquid. The wind started howling in a great cacophony, making it seem as if the earth was moaning and wailing. Although it was only around six o'clock at night, the sky was pitch black.

If I had been having trouble before, it was nothing compared to now. I was practically crawling up the slope at this point.

Brago said something in front of me, but I couldn't hear him properly over the howling wind. Instead, I just kept trying to make it up the slope.

My mind felt numb with the cold as I slowly trudged up the cliff. I knew I would never make it to the top. I was too weak, too helpless.

Maybe my mother was right.

As a child, my mother always abused me when I made a mistake. Most of the time the abuse wasn't done to my body, but it still hurt. Sometimes, the punishments were even physical. If I was playing the piano wrong or I didn't understand a 'simple' math problem, Mother would give me a sharp smack with her crop. She would even make me stay up all night if I wasn't getting something right or understanding a problem.

At one point, I just gave up. My mother had called me worthless and a failure and I thought that maybe the world would be better off without me. So, on a rainy day, I jumped off a bridge. But I didn't die as I had planned.

Then Koko jumped in the river to save me. She hadn't even known who I was and yet she had risked her life to save me. Then she told me that I should never give up hope.

That's why I was staggering through the wilderness with only a mamodo to keep me company. That's why I walked back into the darkness from which Koko had saved me. I was trying to get back the only good thing in my life. The only thing that made my life even partially worth living.

But, even though my want to save my friend was strong, my hope was running out like water cupped in my hands. My best friend had tried to kill me, I was traveling with a creature that thought I was lower than dirt, and I myself was doubting my own ability to keep fighting.

Since when was my life so important to me?

My body began to shake violently from cold and weariness. I fell to the ground when I tried to take another step. I couldn't go on. I didn't have any strength left in my body, heart, or mind.

Why shouldn't I just continue what Koko had prevented me from doing all those years ago?

I looked at the cliff edge. It had never looked so inviting as it did now.

I tried to get up, but instead ended up facedown in the mud. Tears began to slide from my eyes as I pushed myself to my knees. Somehow, I managed to turn myself around to face the cliff. I looked down over the edge and took a deep breath. In a few moments, it would all be over.

Just as I was about to fling myself to my death, a strong hand grabbed my forearm. I turned to see Brago standing over me, keeping me from my doom.

"Brago… I…"

No sooner had his name escaped my lips than he jerked me roughly up to my feet.

"Come on," was all Brago said to me.

I knew he knew what I had been about to do. Why wasn't he yelling at me? If I died he would never become king. If I died nobody would free Koko.

I gasped. What had I been thinking?! I had sworn that I would save Koko and make Brago king! I couldn't just throw away the promises I made!

"Brago," I began, but my voice cracked as a sob racked my body.

Instead of telling me to stop crying or telling me how weak I was, Brago hoisted me onto his back piggyback style.

The tears continued down my face as he carried me through the rain and up the slope. But this time, they were tears of thankfulness. Brago had reminded me of something very important. Something that I had forgotten. Something that we all need to keep in our hearts, no matter who we are.

When we fall down, we have to get right back up. Because if we don't, who will take our place in the world? We all have a purpose in life, even if we can't see it. There's no one in the entire world that can take our individual places.

When we've fallen from grace, we have to get up and continue on.