Chapter 2: Saito and Louise


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Saito got down on one knee and used the hilt of the blade to prop himself up. He needed to rest, if only for a few seconds.

This wasn't his world, he wasn't born here. He had no obligation to the Queen, or the fate of Tristania. Yet he was here, fighting a battle that wasn't his own.

"Why do I have to deal with this?"

"It's for the woman you love, is it not?" Delfringer replied.

"Right."

He was doing this because he was in love, even though he wasn't entirely sure that she loved him back, even though she was cruel, even though she was hot-tempered, even though she was ill-mannered and even though she was spoiled.

Louise had summoned Saito to this world as her familiar, her personal servant, her slave. She made him do her laundry, dress her, and clean her dorm. Both to his delight and chagrin, Louise didn't seem to mind him seeing her naked, but only because she didn't view him as a man. He was nothing more than a dog in her eyes, and she made sure he knew that on a regular basis.

How did he end up falling in love with such a girl? She was sadistic; she often beat him and seemed to enjoy it. Most of time time it was because of his interactions with other women. Saito once accused her of being jealous, but a foot planted on his face had reassured him that he was wrong. From then on, he was assured that she simply wanted to monopolize him, to dominate him.

"Intruder!"

The squad leaders had managed to get a hold of the situation and of their men. The mages were now making a precise, organized effort to stop Saito. Battle-mages rained fire along his path. Their attacks were quick, but he was quicker. The stream of fire missed Saito completely and tore a path of destruction behind him.

Being a familiar had it's usefulness. As Gandalfr, Saito was afforded superhuman speed and strength any time he picked up a weapon. Battle-mages fell in quick succession before they could draw their wands.

Fatigue was starting to overcome Saito, he had been fighting for a quite a while and over a hundred men lay at his feet. He'd fared far better than any man could hope to for, but the whole of the army was rumored to number around seventy-thousand. Even with his familiar powers, Saito wouldn't be coming out of this alive.

The sky grew bright and the air instantly heated up as a massive fireball seemed to come at Saito out of nowhere. He didn't have time to dodge the attack, Saito held out his blade and tried to block it.

A wave of intense heat swept over him. Saito could smell his own flesh burning as the raging inferno enveloped him. The force of the blast had knocked him on his back. His lips and cheeks were singed, and he suffered severe burns to his shoulders and legs, but he was alive. Derflinger had absorbed most of the blast.

Saito lept to his feet and hurled himself into the nearest battlemage. He was careful not to use the sharp edge of his blade. It was stupid, but these were human beings. Colbert had taught him not to get used to war, to not lose his humanity in fighting, and the teacher's words had stuck with him. Saito never planned on dying in battle, and he didn't plan on killing anyone either. At the very least, he might get through this without having done the latter.

He couldn't help but think of all the times he had spent with Louise. A lot of it had been annoying and degrading, but it wasn't all bad. Rather, she was his only reason for wanting to stay in this world.

As they went through trials and tribulations, the walls between them seemed to break down. Saito had a strong feeling that they were getting closer, and that her feelings for him were much stronger than she would like to let on.

Saito had come to respect her for her stubborn nature, and she could even be kind at times. As Saito had gotten to know her, it was evident that behind her pride and arrogance, she hid a fragile, insecure self. It was this side of Louise that compelled Saito to protect her. The Louise that had been made fun, humiliated, and had been called "Louise the Zero" by her peers. Saito not only wanted to protect her life, but the honor and dignity that she held so dear.

Standing there amidst Albion banners and staff-wielding battlemages, a well-adorned officer sat upon a horse. Saito was sure that this was their general; this was the commander of the army. If Saito could take him out, he might have a chance of disrupting the chain of command, robbing the whole army of it's ability to mount a coherent response to his assault.

Saito charged forward, knocking mage after mage out of his way. Despite numerous efforts to subdue him, Saito pressed forward. He managed to make it all the way to the general's post, but two staffs blocked him and threw him to the ground. The twin mages began chanting as Saito tried to get to his feet. Before he could stop their attacks, a volley of ice daggers sailed at him.

Saito rolled out of the way and watched as the projectiles stabbed the ground where he had just been. He brought the sword down hard, first on one, then on another. Having taken care of the two mages guarding the general, Saito made a run for it.

"Partner, behind you!" Derflinger warned.

Saito turned around to see a cascade of arrows hurtling towards him. His swings were so quick that if one were to see him, they may not realize his arms were moving at all. Hundreds of arrows were deflected, but he couldn't stop them all.

An arrow grazed past Saito's cheek, a few more bit at his leg. He could feel the flesh around his arm begin to tear and the warmth of his blood as it soaked his parka. When the torrent of arrows had subsided, Saito stood there, struggling to catch his breath. An intense pain in his side caused him to wince every time he breathed. Saito looked down and saw the arrow that had pierced his ribcage.

He had lost too much blood. His vision became blurry, and he could no longer stand. Saito stared up the night sky at two unfamiliar moons. One was a strange blue color, the other one had an almost pink hue. It reminded him of her hair.

She was cute, that much Saito was sure of. She didn't have the seductive allure of Kirche and she wasn't as kind as Siesta, but defying all rationality, he loved her. Saito knew he shouldn't have feelings for someone who had been so cruel to him, someone who probably didn't love him back.

He loved her for her frailty. He loved her for her strength. He loved her for being stubborn. He loved her for those rare moments of compassion. And he loved her for her willingness to put her own life on the line. The latter of these, was precisely why he was here, dying in land far from his home. He knew nobles looked at death as if it were a game, that they threw words like "honor" and "dignity" around as if these words had meaning on their own merit. He thought he knew her.

But she hadn't chosen to risk her life for any of those things. When Saito found out she had taken on this stupid, suicidal mission, he was sure she was merely acting out an 'aristocrat's duty'. The tears in her eyes, however, had told Saito that she didn't want to die.

She hadn't taken the mission for her stupid nobility, she had taken the mission for the same reason Saito would have. She'd accepted the mission because she cared about her friends, the Queen, and perhaps even Saito. She cared about all the people that would be killed if they weren't given a chance to escape. And so, Saito had taken on the task himself. He knew she would never agree with it, so he drugged her and had Julio take her out of Albion, along with all the other evacuees. If he hadn't done this, he could never claim that he loved her.

Orange lights began to glow all around him. It was a serene, peaceful visage, but Saito realized that these were actually wands, and that this was the prelude to a massive barrage of fire. The entire field had lit up, every single mage within the army's ranks were geared up and ready to put Saito out of his misery.

"Louise . . ."

He would never see her again, never get to hold her in his arms or find out how she really felt about him. Saito wondered if she would cry once she found out, if she would weep for him.

Saito could hear an order being given, and then a multitude of fireballs rose to the sky. He could feel the intense flames heating up the air as they started to hurtle down towards him. Saito knew this was it, he would die right here on this foreign battlefield. He braced himself for a brutal impact. In fear, despair, and desperation, Saito screamed out Louise's name for the last time before his life ended.

Void, nothing, just blackness. Saito wondered if this was the afterlife. In his groggy, delirious mind, he had died for a second time, relived the time when his body went cold and his heart had stopped beating. He remembered that Delfringer had told him about transporting his body to a nearby forest, where he had been resurrected and nursed back to health by a beautiful half-elf.

However, when Saito opened his eyes, it wasn't the golden-haired Tiffania that he saw before him, but an strawberry-haired angel, well, she wasn't quite an angel, but she looked the part. An overwhelming feeling of relief washed over him. All the fear and despair from his nightmares was gone. It was all in the past, he'd really gone through it all and was safe at his parent's home in Japan. What Saito was most grateful for, however, was that this girl was at his side, at this very moment.

Saito's mind began to untangle itself as he remembered everything that had happened the night before. Eiji had walked in on Saito and Louise during an initmate moment; Louise blamed Saito for the awkward situation and had made him sleep on the floor. She must have gotten lonely and had forgotten her pride, because she was no longer alone in his bed, but curled up on the floor beside him.

Saito brought his face closer to hers and watched her as she slept. He could feel her breath blowing against his lips. Her long eyelashes fluttered as her eyes moved behind the lids. Saito brushed a lock of hair away from her face and ran his hand through it.

His thoughts during his dream were still with him. It wasn't the feelings of death or physical pain that had haunted him, but the despair of thinking that his feelings were unrequited. Louise, not truthful to even herself, had at one time fooled Saito, and perhaps even herself, into thinking that she hated him. A lot had happened since then, a lot had changed. Saito knew better, he knew Louise better. Her personality was still twisted, but he didn't mind that at all, not anymore.

Saito had learned to love that part of her too. She could be kind, caring, and endearingly insecure. She could also be short-tempered, spoiled, and sadistically cruel. Louise was Louise, and Saito wouldn't haver her any other way.

Louise slowly opened her eyes, which quickly widened. The sight of Saito staring so closely at her was apparently more than a bit of a shock for her to wake up to.

"Wuh?! W-w-why are you staring at me?!"

"Because I love you, and you love me, right?"

"Well, of course I, uh . . . I smell food!"

That wasn't the answer Saito was looking for, but he was hungry, so he resigned himself and followed Louise downstairs.


- 0 -


Louise, had trouble making eye-contact with Saito's parents. Everyone ate breakfast quietly without saying much of anything. Everyone avoided bringing up last night's fiasco.

Eiji was the first one to try to break the silence. "So . . . erm, did everyone sleep well last night?" The question only served to intensify the awkward atmosphere. Louise just looked down into her plate of eggs and twirled them around. She was mortified, she thought for sure that everyone was thinking about what happened last night. It was entirely unbecoming of a woman of her status to have behaved in such a manner. Hanae stared at her husband, reprimanding him with her eyes.

"Erhm, well anyway . . ." Eiji grinned nervously at his wife, who was still glaring daggers at him from across the table. "Eggs are great hun, you really out-did yourself with your cooking, can't wait 'til dinner."

Hanae's eyes widened for a second, as if a light-bulb had been switched on in her head. "Almost forgot, thanks for reminding me." Hanae quickly finished eating and then stood up from the table "Hey Louise, could you help me prepare dinner?"

"C-C-Certainly." Louise got up from the table and followed her to the kitchen.

Hanae looked over her shoulder, she was acting strange. Hanae gave Eiji a nod, who responded by coaxing Saito into the living room. She turned around to look at Louise. "Hey, Louise, you know that Saito's eighteenth birthday has already passed, right?"

"Yes, last December, wasn't it?" Louise couldn't understand why Hanae was acting so secretively.

"I'd like to make him a birthday cake."

"Huh?"

"You don't celebrate birthdays on your world. Or you don't have cakes?"

"We do, but cakes really aren't specific to birthdays. In any case, why would you throw him a birthday party when it isn't his birthday?"

"Because we didn't get to."

Louise's face grew sullen. "Oh . . . I think that's a pretty good idea, actually."

"Your moping, cut it out. Haven't I already told you that you've got nothing to feel guilty over? In any case, have you ever made a cake? I think things like this are more meaningful if they are made by someone you love. "

The thought made her blush a little, but then Louise realized that she had never cooked anything before. "J-Just once, Mrs. Hiraga.," Louise lied. she didn't know how this woman would react if she told her that she was used to household servants doing all the cooking.

"Call me Hanae, hun. So tell me, how did you celebrate Saito's birthday on your world? Did you have a big party? You didn't let him drink, did you? He's still too young for that, and I know he'd probably end up doing something stupid."

"I never really got the chance to celebrate Saito's birthday.," Louise said. "Saito went off with a friend, and I hadn't seen him for that entire day, and once more, didn't tell me that it was his birthday." Louise felt a twinge of a guilt. She cared about Saito more than anyone else in the world, yet she never even threw him a birthday party. Of course, if she had thrown her familiar an extravagant celebration, it might have caused a great deal of gossip among the highest ranking nobles.

"And he left you all by yourself? Aren't you his lover?"

"Uwhah?! L-L-Lover?!" Louise had become flustered after hearing Hanae put it so frankly. Louise wasn't sure what she meant by that, or if Saito's mother was aware that they hadn't actually done anything, at least not what she seemed to be implying here.

"W-Well we, uh, that is to say, Saito never told me that it was his birthday, and I see him on a daily basis, so I didn't mind. I'm sure he had a lot to think about." In actuality, Saito was homesick and depressed on his birthday. Louise had failed to understand what was going and they got into a fight. Not long after that, Guiche had hijacked Saito and went off drinking. She, Kirche, and Montemorency found the two of them passed out and naked on a pig farm not far from the academy, but Louise wasn't about to tell that to his mother. The rest of the Odine knights claimed to not know anything about it.

Hanae picked up a book off the shelf and flipped to a page and handed it to Louise. It had a picture of a cake and a bunch of symbols she didn't recognize.

"I can't read this world's writing."

"Oh well, never mind that.," Hanae said. "A pound cake is simple enough to make, you already have all the ingredients you need right there in that bowl. Just pour it into the pan and set it in the oven for about an hour or so. The oven is already set to the the correct temperature, so you need only to turn it on. Simple, right?"

"Of course!" Louise said with confidence.

"So, how are things going with you and my son anyways?"

"Uwah?" Louise's face turned red as her thoughts drifted to the night before. If Saito's father hadn't interrupted them that time, Louise wasn't sure how far things would have gone. Or rather, she knew, but didn't want to admit it. In her mind, three months was too soon a for a proper lady to do that.

"I ah . . . things are going well." Louise paused for a moment as she tried to think of all the highlights of their relationship, but all she could come up with was Siesta's breasts pressed up against Saito, that persistent maid was always in the way, and never gave up on trying to seduce him. Siesta wasn't the only person Louise had to worry about; There was Siesta's cousin, Jessica, who's bust was was even larger; Kirche, who was constantly teasing Louise; There was Tiffania, that ridiculously large-breasted elf; and to add insult to injury, Louise had even caught Saito hanging around Tabitha while she was nude . . . and that girl was completely flat-chested!

By now, Louise was furiously stirring the mix while muttering to herself about the Princess. Henrietta was a girl just a year older than Louise, and had been her childhood friend. She was actually the Queen of Tristania, but had asked Louise not to refer to her as such, having loathed the burden and lack of true companions. Henrietta had even made Louise a lady-in-waiting, and the second in line to the throne. In short, Louise was legally a sister to Henrietta and a princess to the kingdom of Tristania. That same young woman that Louise admired and cherished, she had caught kissing Saito. It'd been a chance occurrence, but Henrietta had apparently harbored deep feelings for Saito, and not even their friendship was going to stop her from pursuing him. The whole ordeal caused Louise to do something she thought she'd never do: slap the piss out of Henrietta.

Saito wasn't entirely innocent either, he should have pulled away, or pushed her off. He should have did something other than kissing her back and allowing Louise's heart to break. Saito had plainly rejected Henrietta, and Louise had forgiven them both . . . but the memory still made her blood boil. Louise didn't notice the tornado she was creating with the batter until Hanae held her arm and slowed her down.

"Easy there kiddo, your not trying to kill it, just mix it around a little bit." She smiled, crossed her arms, and sighed.

"He doesn't understand me at all! He pays no attention to me at all and goes off to stare at another's girl's breasts! And that maid, always hanging off of him, flirting with him . . ." Louise tightly gripped the whisk hard enough to destroy it. Her face twisted into a demonic snarl and her eye twitched as if her mind had just broken.

"Guys tend to be like that, unfortunately. They seem to think more with their . . . well, lets just say they don't think much with their brains. I find that with Eiji, a swift kick to the offending appendage usually does the trick , but . . . I don't think Saito would have been born if I had done that to often.

"The same goes for you, kid. Don't be kicking that boy in the junk, I don't care how stupid he acts. I'd like to be a Grandmother one of these days. It's in their nature to be stupid, so you have to forgive them for that, at least a little. You'd drive yourself insane if you got jealous every time they so much as looked at other women."

Hanae chuckled a bit as she held a rolling pin in her hands. "A little blunt-force trauma to the head never hurt anyone though, especially Saito. I hate to say it, but if you haven't noticed, he isn't exactly the brightest crayon in the box. He takes for too much after his father."

Louise couldn't believe it. Saito's mother was practically giving her permission to beat him. A sinister smile curled on her otherwise cute face.


-0-


Eiji set his coffee down on an end table. He turned around in his chair to face his son. "So, let's talk more about this Halkeginia."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm just curious. It's been a long time since we've seen one another; we've got a lot of catching up to do. You've been in an entirely different world for over a year now, surely you must have tons of stories to tell." Eiji chuckled, "All I really have is boring stories from work, and I don't think you want to hear about the photocopier getting trashed."

"Where have you been living all this time, are you fed well? I mean, do you live with that girl's parents or something? She seems a little on the pampered side; It's unlikely that a girl like that has a family that would approve of her being married off to a boy like you, no offense."

"Well, that is to say, her family is rich, and neither her sister or her father seem to like me. But, I've become a noble since then, so it's not like her dad has much to complain about." Saito distinctly remembered Duke De la Valliere ordering Saito to be decapitated after catching him making out with Louise on their family estate. When Saito went back to ask for Louise's hand in marriage, the Duke wasn't very pleased. Louise's father hadn't sought to separate Saito's head from his body that time, because by then Saito had not only become a chevalier, a knight to Queen Henrietta, but he had enough accomplishments under his belt that he was famous amongst the commoners.

Duke De La Valliere's attempt to have his beloved daughter married to a suitable noble had failed miserably. The fiancé that had been chosen for her, Viscount Wardes, had turned out to be a traitor. He had been a member of Reconquista, a group of nobles that sought to overthrow the monarchy of Albion.

The fact that Louise was unwilling to marry Viscount Wardes in the first place, didn't sit well with his plans to use her void magic to strengthen the Reconquista. Wardes ended up trying to force her to marry him by resorting to mind control. In the end, Saito foiled Wardes' plot, but the whole affair still ended with the death of the last heir to the throne of Albion, Prince Wales Tudor, and a war between Tristainia and the new government of Albion.

In stark contrast to Wardes' treachery, Saito had fought or otherwise participated in battles, and had come to the aid of Tristania multiple times. He was famous for the task of holding off the army of seventy-thousand alone. He and Louise had also thwarted the King of Gallia, Joseph on multiple occasions, and they stopped an ancient dragon from potentially annihilating the whole world.

So, Duke De La Valiere was not necessarily pleased with this common-born noble taking his daughter away, but Saito was the only reasonable candidate, and the most capable of protecting her.

Eiji couldn't stop himself from spitting out his coffee. "A noble? You? Your telling me that you're now a member of that world's high society? Don't tell me tales, kid. I may not know much about that world, but don't think you can spin fantastical exaggerations of yourself based on my lack of understanding."

"I'm not exaggerating, and I'm not lying. I've actually become rather wealthy in Halkeginia."

Eiji's raised a brow and stuck out his palm in jest. "I'd like to borrow a million bucks please." Eiji laughed heartily as he mocked his son.

"I had quite a bit of cash when I came up here and I'm now the lord of a large estate. I intend to make sure both you and mom are set. Unfortunately, Louise spent just about every dime I have on clothes and jewelry before we got here."

Eiji scratched the bridge of his nose. "Your not joking, are you? First the girl, then magic, then the talking hand, now your telling me that you're rich. You do realize that what your telling me is a little hard to believe, even considering everything else. How did you come about such good fortune."

"Oh well, you know," Saito said. "Louise is close friends with the Queen, and I've run a few errands here and there." Saito wasn't about to tell his father about all the life-threatening situations he and Louise had been in, or that he took part in the war against Albion.

"I'm having a hard time believing that you would have obtained all that simply by doing a few simple errands."

Suddenly the glyphs on Saito's left hand began to glow. "Might as well as tell him everything, partner, this man is persistent, and more perceptive than a certain someone I know!"

"Shut up Delf.," Saito Said.

Saito's father looked at him impatiently. "You really aren't lying, and that world is dangerous, isn't it? I know you Saito.I know when your trying to hide things from me." Eiji finished his coffee,looking into an empty cup before his expression grew more serious. "Here's the deal, I want you to tell me everything, and keep quiet about it to your mother"

Saito scratched his head, trying to think of a way to describe what it had been like to live in Halkeginia all this time. He didn't know any reasonable way to tell his father that he'd been involved in a war and that getting himself into dangerous situations had become commonplace for him.

"Every once in a while Louise is called upon because of her magic abilities, and because she's one of the few people that the Queen trusts. I'm Louise's familiar, and it's my job to protect her at times like that."

Saito could see it on Eiji's face that this concerned him."I thought you said earlier that all nobles were mages, is there something special about this girl?"

"Louise isn't like most mages, she can't even form a decent spell half-way right, and when she tries, it usually blows up in her face, literally. She doesn't have normal mage powers, but something else, some rare magic called "void". It's powerful, but if people were to know she had it, she'd be in danger."

"Then stay here."

"I-I don't belong here anymore. Most of my friends are in that world, Louise's family is there too. I can't just up and tear her from her sisters. I know what it's like to be separated from your family, and I don't want to do the same to her."

"Even if she did it to you?"

"That wasn't her fault."

"How are you going to protect her, how are you going make sure that you are both safe?!"

Delfringer, who had been silent all this time, finally chimed up. "Because he's Gandalfr!"

"Gandalfr? What in the heck are you talking about?"

"It's another name for a void familiar. I can use any weapon, any weapon at all so long as it was specifically built to be used as one. How do you think I was able to even fly the Zero fighter?"

"Have you . . . fought in any battles? Have you had to kill people?"

"I'm afraid so." Saito said, looking down at the floor. "Not just magical creatures, but humans have attacked us too."

Eiji walked over and put his hands on Saito's shoulders. "All the more reason you should say here, where it's safe. If this world is really like you say, then I couldn't possibly send you back into it. I-we lost you once already. I couldn't bare to go through that again, I couldn't bare to see your mother go through that!"

"I'll be fine. My speed and strength actually increase due to my powers, so there isn't much to worry about. I can manage, I'm probably the only one who can. There's a lot of people back in Halkeginia who have depended on me, and I've depended on them. I want to make sure that they are all safe.

"Besides that, what kind of future is there for us here? Louise doesn't know a thing about this world, she's not even able to function outside of her aristocratic circles. I'm not much better off; my grades were always poor, and I have no hope of getting into a good college. We can't just stick around here for the rest of our lives. I want to raise a family. I don't think I can do that in this world."

"I give up." Eiji said, putting his hands up in resignation. "But only because I can no longer tell you want to do. And besides that, you really don't have much of a future in store for you here, no offense. "

"Non taken.

"Just make sure you keep this conversation between you and me. I'd rather not shave any more years off of your mother's life." Eiji stopped talking just as Hanae walked by dressed in a pant suit. She looked like a completely different woman that when Saito first arrived.

"Well, I'm off" Hanae said cheerfully. She held on to her handbag and walked towards the door. Saito was amazed at how much better she looked. His heart ached as he came to the realization that it was because he had finally returned that she was able to look like herself again, that she was able to get a full night's sleep for once, that she was finally able to pull herself together. Saito and Louise would soon leave again for Halkegina, but this time his parents would know where he was, and this time they would know that he'd be coming back.

"Take care, hun." Eiji replied. He looked at his watch. "Speaking of which, I'm going to be late for work myself if I don't get out of here, "I'll talk to you later Saito. Not much to do around here I suppose, but there's still the TV. If you get hungry, you know your way around the kitc-" Eiji paused for a moment. "You know what, it's a great day out today, you should really take that little lady of yours out to dinner! Here, take this, Ill see you later Saito!" Eiji handed Saito a wad of cash and was quickly out the door.

Saito turned on the TV and changed it to one of the major news networks. He was curious about what had been going on in the world during his absence. Apparently an earthquake had hit the east coast. Saito remembered that there had been a massive earthquake before Saito was hurled across the cosmos. It was a big deal, it was one of the largest ever recorded, and even caused some nuclear power plants to have a meltdown.

Coverage soon shifted from local events, to things happening across the globe. Countries in the west were still caught up in pointless wars and there was a lot of talk about the global economic crisis that was still taking place. Saito had always looked at these major global events as if he were an uninvolved observer. Things that didn't happen in his immediate life never really seemed real to him. He never imagined himself as someone who would be close to world leaders, or would have anything to do with the major problems of the world, yet in Halkegenia, he was close to and had dealt with the Queen of Tristain almost on a weekly basis.

One of the things that it seemed both Earth and Halkeginia had in common, was the blood spilled for unjustified reasons. Bigger countries aimed to subjugate smaller, less powerful ones. Those in power only sought more power. The same that was true on Earth, was true in Halkeginia. After the monarchy in Albion was overthrown by a Coup d'état led by a group of nobles, the new Albion set it's sights on Tristainia. Henrietta, who's the same age as Saito, was just a young and inexperienced girl at the start of the war. This is how Louise and Saito ended up getting involved with the war against Albion, and how Saito found himself launched into the role of Tristainia's "hero".

It's a role he never really wanted. He never wanted to risk his life, nor did he want to have to kill anyone. He witnessed first hand the stupidity of mankind, people willing to risk their lives for something as simple as 'honor'. Saito didn't believe in honor the way the nobles saw it. Fighting and dying for nothing more than a name and status wasn't honor, it was stupid.

Saito got tired of watching the news and quickly changed it to the first anime he could find. It was a generic shonen where the good guy gets the girl and defeats a series of unusual and increasingly powerful enemies. The entire female cast had unrequited crushes on the protagonist, while he spent the whole story chasing after the most stuck-up, annoying girl among them. Saito thought the plot was entirely unrealistic.


- 0 -


Louise took a quick look around the dividing wall in-between the kitchen and the dining room. Saito could be seen sitting on the couch in the living room, staring at some sort of object in front of him. There was light coming from it, and it cast an eerie glow across his face. Whatever he was staring at, she hoped that it would occupy him at least long enough to figure out what she was going to do with this cake.

Louise realized that she had been left alone without any help. She had never actually baked a cake before, or done any cooking at all. She began to panic.

This sort of work was entirely unbecoming of a Duke's daughter, but Hanae was counting on her, and she wanted to see Saito happy. Would Saito be happy that she made him a cake? Louise wanted to see the look on Saito's face, she wanted it to be perfect. She dipped her finger into the batter and stuck it into her mouth. It wasn't bad at all, but she thought it couldn't hurt to be a little sweeter.

Louise rummaged though the cabinet and pulled out a few containers. She couldn't read the labels, so she popped lids off of each one until she found one that was filled with tiny white crystals. "I probably shouldn't put too much in." Louise said to herself. She took one of the measuring cups that Hanae used earlier and poured the white powder in. Of course, she couldn't actually measure the sugar, so she simply eye-balled what she thought was a decent amount. She figured that there really wasn't such a thing as 'too sweet'.

"One hour." Louise put the cake in the oven and then ran off to the living room. Saito was sitting down on the couch. In front of him, a flat, rectangular device displayed images of people and various other things. It reminded Louise of a scrying mirror, except the images didn't look like they were real at all.

"What is this thing?" Louise said. ''I thought you said you didn't have magic in your world, you lied to me!"

"We don't. That's a television."

"A tell-a-what?"

"It's technology, it takes images from somewhere else, and displays it on this screen. I can't tell you exactly how it works, but I can assure you, it's not magic."

"If you don't know how it works, then how do you know it's not magic?"

"Your right, I don't really know what I'm talking about."

"I already knew that. In any case, what are you doing?"

"I'm watching TV."

"I can see that you dumb mutt!" Louise punched him in the back of the head. "I meant, what are you watching on this thing?!"

Saito rubbed the back of his head, a rather tender whelp had appeared. "They call this anime. It's basically a bunch of drawings strung together to make it look like things are moving."

Louise didn't get it, but she had lost interest. She watched as couple of large metal golems attacked each other and the protagonists shouted out cheesy lines and catchphrases. "I'm bored, I want to watch something else."

"Too bad, I have the remote."

"Well then, hand it over."

"Why?"

"Because I'm your master, and I said so!"

Louise lunged at the remote, draping herself across him as she did so. Seeing his face, she realized that climbing all over him had overexcited him. She wondered what kind of perverted thoughts might be running through his head. She thought about changing tactics.

"Saito . . ." Louise spoke to him in a seductive voice. "If you give me that remote, I'll give you an award." Louise pinned Saito to the couch and wrapped her arms around his neck, her lips were no more than an inch from his ear. "But if you don't give me what I want, I'm afraid I'm going to have to punish you."

At first Saito looked as if he was going to give in, but then smiled coyly. "Okay, how about we go upstairs right now?"

"Uwah?!"

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Nice try, Louise."

"Grr . . . you damn dog!"

Saito stood up and held the remote out of her reach and teased her as she vainly tried to grab for it. He seemed to be enjoying this too much, the fact that he had the upper-hand annoyed Louise. She planted her foot directly into Saito's crotch. He immediately dropped the remote and held his abused nether regions in pain.

"Serves you right, she said." Louise mashed around on the buttons, accidentally turning the volume up so high that the both of them couldn't hear each other speak.

Louise covered her ears. "Ahhhh! Make it stop!"

"It's your fault, you idiot!" Saito grabbed the remote out of Louise's hands and turned it down. "Here, these are the buttons for volume, this is the turn it on or off, and these flip through channels" he said. Louise took the remote back from Saito and began rapid-fire switching through channels. Finally she found a sufficiently feminine program.

"Great, you found a chick-flick." Saito didn't seem at all enthused.

They both sat and watched for a few minutes as Louise tried to figure out what it was exactly that they were watching. "I get it.," she said. "This is a play! It looks so real though. . ."

"Well, actually, it's a movie, but I suppose that's a pretty close description. These are actors."

Louise wasn't really used to going into town back in Tristainia. Henrietta had sent them both into Tristainy, the capital city, a few times on an errand or to gather information, and Saito had taken Louise to the market a few times, but she hadn't gotten many chances to go to a theater. Her parents always discouraged her from going to the 'rougher' parts of town by herself.

Louise's eyes lit up as the main protagonist, Romario uttered some fairly cheesy lines and told the woman that he was in love with her. The women, who's name was Jullieta, acted coldly towards the young man, yet he persisted and practically begged her to marry him. Louise looked over and noticed that Saito was staring at her with a look of utter disbelief.

"It's not like I want you to say something like that or anything!" Louise tilted her nose up and quickly faced the other direction, as if trying to avoid his gaze. She continued to ignore Saito and watched as the love drama began to unfold on screen. Romario treated Julieta as if she was a queen. The more he attended to this women's every whim, the more jealous and aggravated Louise was about the fact that Saito had gotten more defiant lately.

"Just because your also my h-husband, does not excuse you from the duty as a familiar. It's a master's duty to keep their familiar in check!"

"Huh, where'd that come from?"

Louise imagined herself standing before a kneeling, apologetic Saito. She recalled the whip tucked firmly in place in her dresser back at the mansion. Saito would not get away with embracing Makoto and her breasts, for those dirty magazines under his bed, and for the embarrassment she had to endure the night before. She began to lose herself in her rationalizations and sadistic fantasies.

Louise and Saito sat and watched the movie, not saying much of anything. Louise was starting to loose interest in the plot, but pretended to be absorbed in it anyway, she pretended that she hadn't noticed Saito edging closer to her. He tried the lame maneuver of yawning and putting his arm on the back of the couch behind her. Just as the characters on screen were about to kiss, Saito drew his lips closer to Louise's.

Louise was startled by Saito suddenly leaning in to kiss her. Her initial reaction was to push him away in annoyance, but something about his body hanging over hers, she began to allow herself to recede into the soft cushions. Finally she gave in and clenched Saito tightly. She had been annoyed with him earlier, but now she had forgotten why.

Louise made out with Saito on the couch until she lost track of her surroundings. She held onto him as if he would run away if she let go. It was a rare occasion that it was just the two of them, without anyone else around to intervene. Saito's parents were at work, and that troublesome maid was still back home in Tristainia. Louise finally had Saito all to herself. Saito's scent flooded Louise's senses, but becoming increasingly unfamiliar. He started to smell as if something were burning.

Louise shook her had as if jolting herself awake. That burning smell was actually coming from the kitchen. She had forgotten about the cake, she'd left it in the oven too long. Saito looked dazed and confused as Louise pushed him off of her and jumped up. Wasting no time, Louise used Saito's face as a launching pad and jumped off the couch and into the kitchen.

Louise opened the oven door and reached for the cake. She pulled out a partially-burnt mass from the oven and screamed at the top of her lungs. She had forgotten to use oven mitts.

"Are you okay in there?!" Saito hollered from the living room with a worried tremor in his voice."

Louise didn't want Saito coming into the kitchen to investigate. She was just about to tell him that everything was fine, but she could hear him jumping off the couch. "Don't come in here!" she yelled.

"Why not?

"Uh . . . Because your just a dumb familiar and you'd be in my way. Now shut up and let me think!"

"Do I smell something burning in there?"

Louise had to come up with something to tell him, other than the fact that there was a half-way burnt cake on the table that was supposed to be a surprise. She blew on her throbbing hands and yelled back at him, "Ah, yes, I just ah, Your mother left some sort of meat in the oven, I think it' was ham."

"If it's half-way edible, I'll eat it! I'm starving!"

Louise couldn't understand how he could already be hungry again. It was around two hours ago that everyone was gathered at the dining table, eating breakfast. In any case, Louise had to think of something fast, she couldn't let Saito into the kitchen, and she didn't know where anything was, or how to cook. "It's completely burnt, I'm not eating this!"

"Then don't, I will." Saito started to walk towards the kitchen. Louise peaked around the corner just as he entered the dining room. She ran over to cut him off, then pointed a kitchen knife at him.

"Stop right there!"

"Huh, your acting kinda funny. Where's this ham at?"

"It was burnt, of course, so I threw it away." Louise darted back into the kitchen and grabbed the cake, completely disregarding how hot the pan was, and shoved it into the fridge. Just as she closed the door, Saito walked up behind her.

"Say, Louise, this might be as good a time as any. what do you say we go out on a date?"

"Whah . . .?!"