Well, it's been quite a while since I lasted update. Life, work, and an overestimation of my ability to write in a timely fashion. I hope to improve the speed at which I write, if for nothing else, for the fact that this story will take an awfully long time to tell otherwise. XD


Chapter 3: The Familiar's Zero


Louise wore a dark, purple dress. It was shoulder-less with an open back. The bodice, a corset, was laced together by strings in the front and the top formed a heart shape over her chest, disguising the fact that there wasn't much there. The bodice ended in a frilly skirt that hung just above her knees; a small hint of her thighs could be seen in-between the skirt and her usual black stockings. Saito had told her she was overdressed, but he scarcely took his eyes off of her.

The last time she had put so much effort into getting his attention, she was working as a waitress in a tavern in Tristania, a task she, the daughter of a Duke would not have been doing if the Princess hadn't asked her to keep an eye on the locals. She had won a contest for tips, and the right to wear an enchanted dress. Even though the dress was enchanted, it had not caused Saito to pay her much more attention than he would normally. She thought it might have been broken, or maybe, it didn't work if the person she was trying to attract, was already in love with her to begin with. That was a long time ago, closer to when they first met. Was it possible, that he had feelings for her even then?

The both of them had just left the subway station, and were now in a part of the city full of tall buildings and storefronts. It was Tokyo's business district, and the same place Saito had taken Louise just before they showed up at his parents' house. Louise had been walking faster than Saito, she stopped, crossed her arms, and waited impatiently for him to catch up. He hurried over to her, and took her by the hands. Louise's hands stung a bit as she allowed Saito to gently lift them by the palms. He was examining her long, black gloves, which stretched to around the middle of her upper arm. They were eloquent, and matched the dress, however, she wasn't wearing them for fashion, but to cover up the bandages on her hands. "How the heck did you manage to burn yourself on a ham anyway, and what did you do with it?" Saito asked.

Louise had told him a lie in haste, she didn't want him to know that she had baked a belated birthday cake, or that his parents planned on throwing a surprise party with just the four of them latter that evening. "I told you, I threw it away. Are you doubting your master? Never mind that, have you nothing to say about the way I look? You should be grateful that I bothered to dress up for you at all!"

Louise was simply trying to change the subject, but she really had put a lot of effort into her appearance for this date. In stark contrast, Saito hadn't really worn anything of value. The Lord of De Ornielle wore a blue, buttoned-up shirt tucked into a pair of jeans. She thought he looked unusually handsome, but also rather ordinary. She was at least grateful for the fact that she managed to get him to comb his usually messy hair. To her recollection, it had been her first time seeing his hair combed back like that. She made a mental note to remind herself to force him to do this more often during social occasions. Saito scratched his head as he spoke. "Um, you look really good in that dress.," he said.

"Of course I do!" She put her hands on her hips as she said this with an arrogant huff. She was trying to act cold and apathetic, but she liked being complimented, even if she had to remind him to do so. She locked arms with Saito and allowed him to lead her across the street. Louise noticed a sign near the doorway of the building up ahead, but she couldn't read what it said. A young woman in a maid's uniform smiled at Saito and Louise as they approached.

"Welcome home master, welcome home mistress." The maid greeted them both as if they were the lords of whatever manor they had come upon. Louise was confused, she thought Saito was taking her to a restaurant, but this was clearly a house servant. The building didn't look like a mansion, or any sort of household at all, being as it was sandwiched between other buildings. It looked to her, very similar to the store fronts in Tristainia. She peered into the large window behind the maid. Sure enough, she could see people dining at several wooden tables. It was indeed a restaurant, but all the waitresses were dressed up to look like maids. Louise turned to ask Saito what this was about, but he had a big, stupid grin on his face as he stared at the maid. Something was definitely strange about this situation. Louise grimaced in frustration as they walked into the restaurant.

It wasn't large, or particularly luxurious compared to some of the , but it was at least nicer than Scarron's tavern in Tristainia. A clean, checkered tiles on the floor reflected the light from the room. The left wall was line with several booths, and in the right corner was a bar. The cafe' gave off a very casual, inviting atmosphere. Louise walked in, sat down, and took a menu she couldn't read. There were a few pictures to go with some of the unfamiliar words, but not much else. "I'll just have what your having." Louise looked around the establishment, more maids were attending to the other customers. They were all pretty young girls. Louise thought for sure, that Saito had brought her to this maid cafe because he had a maid fetish. It made sense to her, he was always paying so much attention to Siesta. This was proof in her eyes that he liked that maid more than her. After all the effort she had put into making that cake for him, he brought her here on this date just so he could ogle the other girls. "Unforgivable!" she muttered.

Louise thought about kicking Saito underneath the table, but then she thought better of it. She might as well give him the benefit of the doubt, if not just this once. Besides that, she really didn't want to make a scene. Just as Louise was thinking about letting Saito off the hook, a tall, busty maid with long hair put up into twin-tails, came to take their order. "Welcome master, what can I get for you toda-hey! It's you guys!" the maid looked cheerfully at Saito, and then at Louise.

"Makato!" Saito shouted enthusiastically. "What are you doing here?"

Louise looked up at the waitress. It was indeed the same girl that they both met yesterday. It seemed rather peculiar, that this same girl happened to work at the restaurant that Saito had chosen, full of girls that were dressed up as maids.

"I start college this month, so I've been trying to save up enough cash to pay my own way through. The pay here is decent for a waitressing gig, but the tips are out of this world!"

"I see. So how's Takashi doing?"

"Eeh, we sort of broke up last spring. He got a chance to study abroad, and he took it. I can't say I blame him. Things weren't that serious between us in the first place, and it was a pretty big opportunity. So what about you? What are your plans? I mean, if you don't mind me asking, what have you been doing lately? You haven't been at school at all, are you even able to get into a university?"

"He has no need for any of that, he's a nobleman. Besides, this dog's brain isn't developed enough for high education, he's better off just wagging his tail and doing as he's told."

"I went overseas on a cargo ship. and ended up in the U.S." Saito grinned sheepishly at Louise, but she had no idea what he was talking about.

"Really? You must really be fluent in English by now then!"

"Uh no, I actually didn't stay there long. Some of the crew found me sleeping on-board, and threatened to turn me into the local authorities. They were short handed at the time and allowed me to stay as long as I worked."

"And that's how you met Louise?"

"Err . . . Yeah, thats right. Her father is rich and owns the shipping company and would come to the docks to uh, oversee things personally."

By this time, Louise realized that Saito was lying his ass off. She rested her cheek on her fist and sighed in resignation. Saito obviously couldn't tell her about Halkeginia, void powers, or about their mansion in De Orneille. It couldn't be helped, but he didn't have to lay it on so thick.

"Hey, Louise," Makato said. "Are you an American? I hope I don't sound rude, it's just that you don't really look Japanese at all."

"I uh . . ." Louise was dumbfounded, she had no idea what an 'American' was, and couldn't for sure say she was or was not.

"And that hair, it's so beautiful! Your pretty bold to be walking around with it dyed such an unusual color. I once dyed my hair blond, but all the other girls were angry and made fun of me for it. Those girls made me cry, but it's okay, we're all friends now."

Louise didn't know if she'd just been complimented or, insulted. She held a lock of her hair and looked at it, it was the same shade of pink as her mother's. She never thought there was anything unusual about it. "Died? Hair cannot die, it's not alive in the first place."

"No, I mean like, dye, you know, changing your hair color?"

"I've used no such magic, this is the same hair that I was born with."

"Eh?!"

Saito quickly spoke up before Louise could say anything else. "Ah yeah, she's actually half American on her mother's side. She's stayed with her father for most of her life, so she never learned English all that well" Saito said. Louise hoped that Makoto was as gullible as she looked, Saito was obviously terrible at lying. "Anyways, her father caught me making out with Louise on a boat-OWW!"

Louise kicked Saito in the knee before he could finish the sentence. She didn't appreciate having her entire history rewritten by Saito. Furthermore, that last part was half-way true, Louise's father really did catch them in a boat together, it had been the first time that Saito had told her that he loved her. Louise looked at Saito from across the table and thought of that night, it was an important memory to her, and it wasn't something that she wanted him casually talking about with perfect strangers. "Y-your talking her ear off, and you . . . " Louise quickly darted her glance towards Makato. "Shouldn't you be taking our order?" Louise crossed her arms and looked at Makato impatiently.

"Oh, right! I'm so sorry, what would you like me to bring you mistress?"

"I'd like some of your finest wine!"

Makoto stared at Louise with a dumbfound look on her face, then she looked over at Saito.

"Uhh, Louise," Saito said,"the legal drinking age here is twenty."

Louise scowled at Saito and then pouted.

"You know," Makoto said under her breath, "We could just pretend that you're both over the drinking limit."

"Are you sure you won't get into trouble with your boss?"

"Don't worry about it."

Saito took a look at the menu. "whatever is cheapest, I'll take the stout, and Ill have some Ramen and some sushi."

"And mistress, what would you like to eat?"

"I'll have the same as him." Louise had no idea what Saito ordered, but she didn't know anything about the food in this world anyways. Louise's eyes twitched. As Makato walked away, she could clearly see Saito checking her out in her maid uniform. Louise grabbed her fork and jabbed Saito in the arm with it.

"What was that for?!"

"You were looking at her butt!"

"I was not!"

"Don't lie to me!" Louise took her knife and threw it at Saito. He ducked just in time to miss the flying projectile. One of the maids yelled out and the sounds of dishes clattering to the ground could be heard. The knife had thankfully missed the maid, but had implanted itself in the wall behind her. While Saito and Louise were still bickering, Makato came back with their drinks.

Louise sipped her wine and glared at Saito, warning him not to turn his eyes away from her, or to look at Makato or the other maids. Louise hated to admit it, but she could see how the uniforms could mesmerize a man. Short skirts and an apron that seemed to be designed to lift and emphasize a woman's bust, rather than serving any practical purpose. The outfits resembled that which a French maid might wear, Louise could picture Siesta working in a Restaurant like this.

Thinking on it extensively, Makato reminded Louise of Siesta in many ways. Both of them were taller than Louise, and quite well-endowed. They both had dark hair, and almond-shaped eyes that while very unusual for Halkeginia, seemed quite common for the people of Saito's world. Siesta's grandfather was actually from Saito's world, and had apparently been summoned to the world just as Saito had been. Siesta's lineage was partially Japanese, and Saito had even once said that he found her appearance to be nostalgic. The only way the two girls really seemed to contrast with one another, was in their intelligence. Whereas Siesta was very intelligent, Makato was rather ditsy, stupid even.

As air-headed as Makato seemed to be, she was nice enough. This girl really didn't seem to have any ulterior motives, or even the capability for any scheming. Rather than being a threat, she was rather warm and friendly. Even so, the fact that someone who looked so similar to Siesta seemed to have Saito's attention agitated Louise. She however, knew these feelings were somewhat misplaced, she shouldn't be feeling animosity towards Makato, she should be cross with Saito

By this time, Saito had apparently lost the ability to restrain himself, and was eying the girls quite boldly. the top part of the uniform drew attention to the girl's busts. The frilly skirts hung around ten inches up the knee. The skirts they wore were so short, at the right angle, a flash of their panties could be seen for a brief second. Louise found herself intently focused on the girl's attire, but for entirely different reasons. She wondered if Saito would pay Louise the same attention, or more-so, if she wore one of the same uniforms. Louise pushed those thoughts away and focused on how agitating it was to see him behave this way while they were out on a date, and while she was wearing her best dress. Louise's eyebrows twitched as Saito kept looking at each waitress that walked by. Finally, she had enough, and lodged her tiny foot firmly between his legs.

Louise's lips twisted into a sadistic smile as she watched the expression on Saito's face change. His eyes seemed to bulge out a little and every muscle in his body tensed. Louise could almost feel the agony emitting off of him. She smiled at him with an evil grin on her face. She couldn't fully understand why, but she was enjoying this. She repeatedly dug in with her heel. A normal boy would have probably protested, or fought back, but Saito had been trained well. Louise felt a strange sense of satisfaction from watching Saito's face turn red. Finally, Saito grabbed a hold of Louise's foot and forced her to stop abusing him.

"Enough!" Saito's breathed heavily as he struggled to plead with her. "Please, cut that out! Your going to make me sterile if you keep that up!"

It wasn't long until Louise had forgotten why she'd been angry, or that she'd been angry in the first place. She found inflicting pain on Saito to be distracting, but she came back to her senses, ready to lash out at his misconduct. "Well, it serves you right, you mangy dog. Sheesh, you can't even take your eyes off of them for one second. Am I not pretty enough?"

"Well, you see, it's not quite like that . . ."

Louise was over it. She remembered what Hanae had said, guys were just like that, she'd just have to pay it no mind. She was more interested now in salvaging the romantic mood. She remembered watching that thing Saito called a 'TV', a couple exchanged drinks while they'd been out to dinner, Louise thought that they might try the same thing."What did you order anyways?"

"Huh, this? It's beer."

"I would like to try it."

"I don't think you'd like it."

"I have had beer in Albion, if you remember. It is not as palatable as wine, but it's tolerable."

"Louise, this isn't quite what you had in Albion, it's got a pretty strong taste to it."

"Just hand it over." Before Saito could say anything, Louise swiped his glass and drank a mouthful. Louise didn't swallow immediately. Her cheeks, full of beer, gave her the appearance of a chimpmunk. She expected it to be bitter, but she hadn't prepared herself for how strong, or how awful the taste was. The beer tasted like it had been flavored with a generous helping of burnt sawdust. She struggled to keep herself from spitting it out across the table, finally managing to gulp the liquid down.. "Oh gross! How can you drink this garbage?!"

"I told you that you wouldn't like it."

It wasn't long before Makato was back with food. Louise's eyes lit up when she placed the large, steaming bowl of ramen in front of her. Saito wasn't sure if Louise, who's appetite was that of a bird, could finish it all in one sitting. She took her fork and stabbed one of the round tube-like objects on her plate, held it up to her face, and just stared at it.

"It's called sushi, I know it looks weird but it's not bad."

Louise stuck it in her mouth and chewed, "hey, this is pretty good." She said. What's in this anyways?"

"If I remember correctly, it's vinegar-treated rice patties wrapped in seaweed and filled with vegetables and raw fish."

Louise mediately spit the sushi out into her napkin. "Eww, gross, you actually had me eat raw fish?!"

"You didn't think it was so bad just a minute ago."

"That's before I knew what was in it!

Makato came by and filled both their glasses. "So how are you both doing?" She asked. "Can I get you anything?"

"Yeah," Louise said angrily, "I'd like to make a complaint, why is your restaurant serving raw fish?!"

Makato just smiled nervously and tried to maintain her composure. She obviously wasn't used to putting up with customers as rude as Louise. "I'm so sorry about that, can I get you anything else? Would you like an omelet? Or some onigiri?"

"No, this dog is paying for it anyways, so it's fine. Instead, I'd like another glass of wine."

"Certainly."

Saito looked at Louise disapprovingly. "Louise, I know your used to acting a certain way in public, but these people aren't used to someone quite so . . . privileged."

"Privileged? You mean to say that I'm spoiled? Your treating me to dinner, so I'll let it slide, but you were looking at that girl's breasts again." Louise's nonchalant attitude towards Saito's boldness surprised even herself.

"Huh? No, I wasn't!"

"Uh huh, I saw you.," She said playfully. Louise had suddenly become less interested in accusing him, and more interested in toying with him.

Louise brought her face closer to Saito and smiled devilishly. "Your worried that you've angered your master, aren't you? I'm afraid I'm going to have to punish you."

It was common in Halkeginia for all nobles, whatever age, to drink moderately at social events. Drunkenness, however, was highly looked down upon in aristocratic circles. Usually Louise would dilute her wine with fruit juice. This time, however, she had drank two glasses and a even tasted Saito's beer. Louise could feel the blood rushing to her face, it was obvious to even her that she was drunk, but she couldn't be bothered to care.

Louise reached over and grabbed Saito by the cheeks and giggled. Saito gently pushed her hands away as she continued to play with his mouth. "fishy-fishy-fishy!"

"Ah ha, I think that's enough of that"

Makato walked over and took their dirty dishes. "Is there anything else I can get for you guys?"

"Say, can I have another glass of wwiinnee?"

Saito looked at Makato and shook his head profusely; Louise blew raspberries at him in protest.

"I'm sorry hun, but we're all out. . ."

"Your pretty!"

Makato looked puzzled, as if she couldn't believe that this was the same girl.

"Well, would you like anything else, some dessert perhaps?"

"I want . . . I like pie!"

Makato came back with a peice of cherry pie and a bill for Saito. "Thank you" he said, and he handed Makato a tip.

"Thank you Saito!" Makato grabbed Saito and hugged him, inadvertently ramming his face into her chest. "It's because of people like you that I can pay my tuition, every bit counts!"

Louise pouted as she watched Makato cling to her familiar.

"So, how long are you guys going to be in town?"

"Not more than a few more days. I'f we're gone too much longer, the maid might drive herself insane."

"Eh?! A maid? Not a maid like me, but a real maid?"

Saito smiled nervously. "It's a long story."


- 0 -


The massive grand hall was void of sound, save for the echo of Siesta's heels as she walked across a marble floor that she had just finished polishing. She had been tiresly toiling at chores, trying to keep her mind off of the dead silence and how creepy the mansion was when no one else was in it. It had only been since yesterday morning that Saito and Louise had left the mansion, but it seemed like an eternity to Siesta. She thought about going back to Tarbes and visiting her family, but Saito would be back soon, surely, and Siesta wanted to be there to greet him when he arrived. She was bored and lonely, she was even starting to miss that self-centered, high-and-mighty aristo-brat.

Saito and Louise were married, and Siesta was happy for them, well, she was at least happy for Saito, but she still harbored feelings for him. As Seista walked across the hall towards the entertainment room, her mind wandered to a not-so-distant past where she had once confessed her feelings for Saito, even kissed him. He rejected Siesta that night. Saito had made his choice, but the fact that nobles undervalued their lives worried Siesta. She feared that Louise would drag Saito into another dangerous situation. Siesta gave Saito a sleeping potion, so that he may be able to run away if Louise were to ask him to do anything dangerous. That same night, Saito ran off to confront an army of seventy-thousand soldiers himself, taking on a suicide mission that had been originally been assigned to the void mage, Louise de La Vallière. Siesta took the news pretty hard, but Louise, as Siesta realized, had taken it much harder.

Siesta was used to seeing her act with overconfidence and an excess of pride, a person who annoyed her and consistently bossed her around. They had never gotten along, but on some levels, Siesta held a grudging respect for Louise. When Saito hadn't returned, Louise was reduced to a shadow of her former self, it brought Siesta no joy to see her rival fall so hard, since she too was grieving. Seista had come into Louise's dorm room several times back then to check on her. Louise wouldn't get out of bed, and wouldn't eat. She shut herself off from the world and refused to participate in the act of living.

Siesta had found her one day, standing at the top of the tower overlooking Vestri court at the academy. Louise had convinced herself that Saito was dead, and that she needed to be where he was. Siesta had hope, however slim it was, that Saito was alive. She felt that Saito was alive, and that he'd be heartbroken if he came back and found that Louise had committed suicide. It wasn't just Saito's wellbeing she was worried about. Even though she didn't want to admit it, Siesta didn't want to see Louise die. That day, Siesta had grabbed Louise's leg just as she threw herself from the tower.

The end result of that is that Louise had survived her moment of stupidity, and Siesta watched as both Saito and Louise not only continued their relationship, but even got married. Siesta didn't think it was fair. Louise was cruel and sadistic, she treats Saito no better than a dog. Siesta, on the other hand was kind, gentle, and had a nice figure-everything that Louise seemed to lack. Saito, however, had fallen in love in with Louise. Even though Siesta didn't really want to admit it, even though Louise could be pointlessly cruel to him, Siesta knew that deep down inside, Louise loved him more than she was capable of.

Siesta sighed and drooped her shoulders, she was now in the awkward position of being near the man she loved, but unable to take hold of him. Up until now, she thought she was fine with being the 'runner up'. She'd accepted Louise as a rival and continued to pursue Saito, because as a woman she was equal, if not more formidable . . . but Saito was married now. Siesta thought about the question of morality, in pursuing another woman's husband. She couldn't believe that she found herself entertaining such thoughts, it went against everything she'd been taught growing up. For months now, Siesta had been reading and re-reading a book called "A Maid's Afternoon." It was about a maid who was coerced into having an affair with her master. Siesta's employer was Saito, and she couldn't help but draw parallels between her situation and that of the book. One major difference however, was that Saito would never dream of using Siesta that way. Part of her wished that he would. She had convictions and moral standards of her own, but couldn't deny what she felt.

Siesta was dusting off a grand piano sitting in the entertainment room, when she heard the doorbell ring. She walked over and opened the door. A handsome young man with blond hair and an open shirt, and a thin young woman stood outside. The girl's blond hair was ordained in a ribbon and rows of long curls, her small nose was dotted with freckles. The young man held a rose in one hand, which Siesta knew to be a wand. Siesta would think this boy to be charming, if she didn't know him better. Guiche De Gramont was a hopeless womanizer with the brains of a turnip and a lack of bravery to match. He was arrogant, and embodied much of what Siesta hated about nobles, but he was also a loyal friend to Saito, and despite his usual cowardice had even helped them all out in some particularly dangerous situations. Despite his glaring faults, Siesta considered him a trusted ally and warranted whatever hospitality that could be offered.

"Mr. Gramont! Miss Montmorency! What brings you both to De Orinelles? Mr. Saito is still visiting his parents!"

"Oh, is that right?" Guiche said. "I was really hoping to have a talk with him."

Guiche's eyes were noticeably drawn to Siesta's bust, prompting her to tactfully cross her arms across her chest. Montmorency hadn't failed to notice guiche's obvious staring either, she smacked him in the back of the head. Guiche's lecherous behavior didn't come as a surprise to Siesta. Most teenagers were easily excited. Saito was no exception to this, a fact Siesta often exploited. However, Guiche was on a whole different level. It was unfair to compare him to Saito. While Saito was merely weak to the visage of an attractive woman, Guiche actively flirted with them. Siesta was well aware of the fact that Louise was in a constant state of jealousy for what she perceived was infractions of fidelity on Saito's part, Siesta also knew that he was largely innocent. Nevertheless, she was guilty of occasionally getting Saito in trouble with Louise on purpose, just so she could be the hero to Louise's villainy.

Saito, despite no lack of temptation, had never sought any woman other than Louise. Guiche De Gramont was an entirely different matter, Siesta felt sorry for Montmorency, and couldn't understand why she was still with him despite all his flirting and skirt chasing.

"You've dragged me out here for nothing Guiche, what a waste of time! I have better things to do than traipsing around the country-side with you, you know!"

"B-but Montmorency! It's such a wonderful day, it'd be a shame if you didn't grace the sun with your beauty!"

Siesta didn't know what nauseated her more, the cheesy words that had come out of Guiche's mouth, or that Montmorency actually seemed swayed by them. "You know, they should be back by tomorrow. Miss Vallière is to start school soon, as you know. It'd be an honor should you stay the night here, it's a long journey and we have plenty of rooms"

Montmorency shrugged her shoulders. "Eh, might as well. Come along Guiche!" Montemorency dragged Guiche inside by his ear.

Siesta led the Through the hall, to a small, cozy sitting room, leaving them briefly, only to come back with sandwiches. "So, Mr. Gramont, Miss Montmorency," Siesta said, passing them both a sandwich. "what by chance might be the reason you've both decided to grace our humble abode?"

"Eh, humble, I see you your as humorous as you are beautiful, this is no shanty cottage my dear. Her highness is indeed most gracious. To tell you truthfully, I am envious of Saito. He was a commoner, yet has gained so much, his home even rivals that of the Gramonts! Oh, how I wish I was so favored by such beautiful queen, and to live with two such lovely young women!"

Siesta was unshaken by Guiche's flirtatious flattery, but Montmorency's eyebrow twitched, displaying her severe annoyance. "Why don't you just answer her question already, you dirty lecher!"

"How rude of me to prattle on like that. I think one needs not a reason to pay a dear friend a visit, but I must admit, I am here out of concern."

"What possibly could there to be concerned over, Mr. Gramont. I could assure you, things are quite well here, but I'm sure Mr. Saito will be pleased that you both were thinking of him."

"I overheard my father talking with some of the brass that report to the palace.," Guiche said. "It would seem there's been some talk of an emerging faction throughout Halkegina, the Sancti Servi. They aren't too fond of non-mages in positions of nobility."

"Eh? You don't think these people will try to come after Saito, do you?"

Montmorency chimed in. "They've been around for decades, but up until now, they've been a very minor presence in Halkegenia made up of a few nobles and strict followers of Brimir. I'm not really surprised that a commoner such as yourself hasn't heard of them.

"In any case, they're members have largely concerned themselves with matters of politics, and influencing policy in favor of strict adherence to the teachings of Brimir. I've heard some rumors, however, of some fairly cloak and dagger-type things going on behind the scenes. Lately they've been growing, changes within Halkeginia are giving way to dissent among the populace, even commoners are starting to join their ranks.

"Saito may very well have a target on his back, his becoming a noble was bound to anger jealous nobles, especially those who's status isn't quite as high as Saito. Even those who'd outrank him in status, would be displeased with his high reputation."

"We've always known this, Miss Montmorency.," Siesta said. "This is why her Majesty arranged that I be Saito's personal maid, rather than hiring a stranger, someone he couldn't trust."

"Besides," Guiche said. "this is Saito we speak of, the man who challenged and delayed seventy-thousand, the same man who defeated me, a noble in a duel! Who could possibly put him in danger?"

Montmorencey shook her head. "Guiche, your skills as a mage are a joke. You couldn't withstand an attack from my little sister, let alone a hardened battle mage!"

"I uh, well, I'm sure your little sister is quite formid-"

"She's ten."

"Well, never mind that, I've seen Saito and I have pulled ourselves out of some rather perilous situations in the past, and Louise is a void mage!"

"We both know that you wet your pants at the very mention of danger, besides that, Saito's nearly been killed more than once. I'm a firm believer in the power of luck, but it can only get a person so far. He can fight, that much I'll admit, but he's not invincible, and he's surely not immortal. Once more, if he doesn't hold a weapon his hand, then he's no different on the battlefield than any other commoner, perhaps even worse off!"

Yes, Louise is a void mage, that's not something you'd want the whole world to know. That girl has a heavy burden, too many people can and will exploit her power if they were to know about it. I'm afraid to think of how a group so obsessed with anything relating to Brimir, would react to find out that Louise is a descendant of Void! I'm worried, Guiche. If these people really decide to turn their attention towards Saito and Louise, they won't be the only one's in danger, but us as well."

Guiche gulped nervously.

"Well, Siesta said, for now the both of them are off in Saito's world. I'm told there are no dangers in that world, for now, they are safe."

"Well, lets forget that for now.," Guiche said. "You look quite tired, Siesta. You shouldn't worry yourself with such things, you'll get wrinkles. Have you slept?"

Now that she thought about it, Siesta was worn out herself, having been moving about since the crack of dawn. It was the middle of the day, and there were plenty of things that needed to be done, but she wouldn't be in any shape to finish anything if she was too tired to do it. "I think that would be wise."

Guiche looked at Montmorency with a devilish glint in his eye. "I think we should do the same, it has been a long journey, after all."

"Oh, well, I'll show you both to some of the extra bedrooms then." Siesta led them through the upstairs corridor in the west wing, which was entirely made up unused rooms. Siesta had kept each of the rooms clean and ready for any occasion that guests may be entertained at the mansion. Saito and Louise hadn't held any of the balls or parties that were customary of high-ranking nobles, but it was good to be prepared for it, just in case.

"Sleep Well Mr. Gramont, Mrs. Montmorency."

"Sleep well, Siesta."

Guiche tried to follow Montmorency into the same bedroom.

"What are you doing? They're are plenty of bedrooms, pick one, preferably not my own."

"But, I just thought . . ."

"Out!"

Siesta chuckled as she walked down the corridor, towards her own room. The two of them were a good pair, she thought. She, at first, felt sorry for Montmorency having to put up with Guiche's lecherous, skirt-chasing nature, but far more than other women seemed to be, Montmorency seemed to be equipped to handle it.

Siesta's thoughts suddenly shifted towards Louise, she wondered how that girl would take if, if she had to put up with someone like Guiche. Saito was prone to being easily distracted by pretty girls, Siesta had exploited this fact herself several times, but didn't display the same skirt-chasing behavior that Guiche did.

Saito had a habit of getting himself into situations that would look bad to onlookers, or being put into such situations, usually by Siesta, but was never one to seek out such attention from other girls. Siesta couldn't help but wonder how Louise, who was accustomed to throwing undeserved accusations towards Saito, would react if he really did start acting more like Guiche.

Siesta was sure she knew the answer to that, She did, after all, remember how Louise reacted to seeing Saito kiss Henrietta. It had been a mistake, If she'd caught Siesta doing that with Saito, Louise would have simply whipped them both, been pissed off for a week, and would have been done with it. Louise, however, mistook this as a sign that Henrietta and Saito had been having an affair, rather than a chance encounter.

Siesta found herself pitying Louise, but quickly dismissed the thoughts. Why should she feel empathy for the girl who kept Saito's heart? Rather than worry about the woes of that selfish noble, Siesta reminded herself that it was she who felt an unrequited love for the young man.

She was hopeless, her feelings were hopeless, but she couldn't help it. She imagined that she must look rather pathetic to others, pining over a man that was already married. Siesta, at times, thought it would be better to fall in love with someone else, to drop these hopeless feelings and move on, but she wasn't sure that this was possible. She couldn't imagine loving someone more than she loved Saito.

Instead of turning into her own room, Siesta veered to the right, towards Saito and Louise's bed chamber. The whole room was full of pink and purple, with little masculinity to speak of. It was obviously Louise who had done most, if not all the decorating, with little to no input from Saito.

Siesta plopped down on the bed and covered herself in layers of blankets. They smelled like Saito, actually they smelled like both Saito and Louise, but Siesta didn't particularly mind. She was alone, she wouldn't mind if they were both here, or even if Louise was the only person to keep her company.

Guiche's warning had her worried, but these were only potential dangers. Siesta reassured herself that Guiche was just being an over-protective friend. He himself was quite cowardly, and it wasn't hard to imagine that Guiche would blow things out of proportion, and see dangers in things of no real significance.

Saito and Louise were both in a place called, 'Tokyo', a place apparently free of war and the dangers that they often faced in this world. Furthermore, Saito was the Gandalfr, there was surely no human that could stand against him so long as Saito was armed.

It was then that Siesta looked above the fireplace, a shield hung above it, with two swords crossing over it. This was the only item in the room, that Siesta knew of, that had been placed there specifically by Saito. His former blade, the one that Derflinger was originally housed in was destroyed, so these rather cheap, mundane blades stood as Saito's only weapons.

Come to think of it, Saito had told her that it was unusual for people to walk around in his world with weapons, and that you never see anyone with a sword at all. It must have been for that reason, that Saito went into Tokyo completely unarmed.


- 0 -


Louise couldn't remember getting on the subway with Saito, she hadn't noticed when he led her to the station. The whole train was spinning, she could see the other passengers whirling around her as if it were a merry-go-round. They didn't have those in Halkeginia. Louise had only learned what a carnival or a merry-go-round was from watching the television in the Hiraga's living room. Louise would eventually persuade Saito to take her to the fair, but for now, the spinning was a problem, she was having trouble keeping her balance. She fell forward and caught Saito by the arm.

"Saito . . ."

"Yeah?"

"I want to get married!"

"We're already married, Louise."

"I knew that! Well, um . . . I want children!"

Louise smirked, as she saw Saito's eyes widen.

"Oh really, so how many kids do you want to have?" Saito scratched his head turned away from Louise. She could tell he was embarrassed.

"Uh . . two!" Louise held up two fingers as she said this. "I want a baby girl, annnd I want a baby boy!

"Hey Saito?"

"What is it?"

"I looove you!"

"Uh . . . I love you too, Louise."

Louise craned her neck and moved in closer to him."do you reeaally?" Louise's smile widened as Saito gulped nervously. She enjoyed seeing him flustered.

She slid from his grasp and wobbled towards a pole in the middle of the subway, miraculously catching her balance. She began to recklessly twirl around the pole, causing everything around her to become a blur. "Whee! hahaha!"

"Hey, watch out!" Saito ran over to her as she twirled around in circles, and caught her just as she came around.

"Hey there, heheh." Louise hung off of Saito and placed her hand on his cheek. Saito leaned in to kiss her, but she sprang out of his arms. "Hey, this is where we get off!" Louise immediately headed for the doors as they opened.

"Louise!, Louise!"

He sounded like he was worried, but Louise was in a rather playful mood and decided that she would toy with him a bit, make him chase her. Louise didn't know if it was because her body was smaller, or because people were less inclined to run over a girl, but she didn't seem to have much problem moving in and out of the crowd. She didn't actually want Saito to loose sight of her. She knew that her bright, pink hair would be easy to see in the crowd, she let it down and allowed the long locks to drape her backside.

Louise weaved in and out of the crowd, occasionally turn back and smiling at Saito, both to tease him, and to make sure he was still tailing her. She casually perched atop a stone handrail and waited for Saito to catch up to her. She smiled coyly at him with her legs crossed.

"What the hell Louise?!"

"Your yelling at me!"

"Of course I'm yelling, your acting like a child!"

"I thought you said you loved me!"

"What does that have to do with anything? You've been driving me insane!"

"Saito is stupid! I hate you!" Louise ran up the stairs. As she turned around the corner, she started to become more and more light-headed. She didn't remember what she was upset about just a minute ago, and she felt overwhelmingly tired. She couldn't tell what she had tripped over, but she hit the sidewalk before she even realized that she was falling. Her knee stung, she sat there against the wall and held her leg up so she could see how bad the wound was. Her stocking was ripped and matted with blood. It didn't look too serious, but it still hurt like hell. Looking over, she saw a slim boy with black hair and a blue shirt walking towards her. Her vision was blurry, but she could tell it was Saito.

Louise's head ached horribly and the bright sun offended her eyes as she opened them. Saito was carrying her. "What happened?" she said.

"You passed out at the end of the street, gave me quite a scare. You really shouldn't drink, you can't handle it. "

"A familiar shouldn't be lecturing his master." Louise was exhausted, and didn't feel like arguing with him. "Do you intend to carry me the whole way?"

"Your pretty light, shouldn't be a problem."

Louise was a little embarrassed about needing to be carried, but was thankful. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged her head tightly against his chest. He wasn't a particularly muscular young man, but Louise figured that he was in better shape than most. Still, it was quite a ways to Saito's parents' house. Whether she was light or not, he would probably have a difficult time walking the whole way with her in his arms. "You know of any shortcuts?" Louise said.

"We'll go through the alleyways, it's not that far, really."

"It's not like I wanted you to carry me or anything!" Louise bit her lip."Why do you have to be so kind anyway?"

"I'm only doing what a familiar should do for his master."

"Is that the only reason?"

"Would there be any other?"

"Of course not!"

Delfringer, who had been silently watching the exchange the whole time, spoke from Saito's runes. "Eh, partner, not to interrupt your lover's qaurrel, but it looks like we have trouble ahead."

"Huh?"

Two guys blocked off the ally from one end. a third guy appeared and blocked that exit as well.

"Hey, that's a cute girl you got there, is she your girlfriend?" Altogether there was as tall skinny one, a short one, and a fat one prevented them from escaping. The tall skinny one seemed to be doing all the talking. "You look like a smart guy, so I'm going to cut you some slack, you just hand over your wallet and we'll let you guys go."

"Alright, alright! just give me a second." Saito gently set Louise down and grabbed his wallet and threw it on the ground in front of him.

"Hey, Saito! What the hell do you think your doing? We can take these jerks!" Louise took out her wand, which she had hidden, strapped to her thigh by a garter. She was prepared to cast a spell, but the wand slipped from her hands. Her her hands were bandaged up and concealed under her gloves, she would have even forgot she wore them if it weren't for the fact that they hindered her dexterity. She couldn't grip such a small object with as easily as she would normally. Louise chased after her wand as it rolled away underneath a large van. She got down on her hands an knees to crawl underneath it, which caused her burned hands a great deal of pain.

"Hey, you know what? That mouthy little lady Is really cute when you look at her up close, how about you go on somewhere and let me and her get to know each other?"

Louise turned and caught the tall, skinny one leering at her as she was on all fours. It was then she realized that her short skirt left her panties exposed. That pervert was staring and her hind end. Louise was about to give him a piece of her mind, but Saito beat her to it.

"You come near her, and I'll kill you." Saito looked as if he would lunge for the guy's throat at any second. The situation was escalating, a fight would be inevitable now. Saito was pretty good in a fight on his own merits, but Louise wasn't sure of that would be enough to take on three of these guys all at once. As gandalfr, he could take on scores of skilled warriors, but without a weapon in his hands, he was just an ordinary human being. Louise had to get that wand, and fast. She quickly dove underneath the large vehicle.

The ring-leader walked up to saito and stared the raging teenager down. "Hey, I think I know you, heheh I think we need to pay you back for our wasted efforts last time!"

Louise stopped reaching for the wand, distracted in her confusion "Huh? What the heck is he talking about?" She called out, still underneath the van.

"I ran into this sorry bunch back when you stranded me here."

"I had no choice! I thought you'd be killed!" Louise remembered it clearly. They were facing a fight against an ancient dragon. The odds were stacked against him, and Saito was thinking of using life-draining powers against it, that ran the risk of taking his life. Louise forced him back to his own world to save him, yet he'd apparently had an unfortunate run-in with these guys.

"Yeah, I remember you idiots, Larry, Curly, and Moe! You guys remind me of the three stooges."

"Say boss, I think he just insulted us." The fat one spoke.

"You think? Gee, you must be the brains of the bunch!" It was obvious that Saito was trying to rile these guys up.

Louise winced as she heard a loud thump as he skinny one caught Saito square in the jaw. Louise grabbed her wand and started to make her way out from under the van. Someone any bigger than Louise would find it impossible to move around much under there, Louise was having a hard time of it herself. Saito had no powers, he was going to be beaten to death if she didn't hurry. He ducked before the second one landed and swung upward with both arms interlocked. His opponent didn't see it coming and was immediately knocked to the ground.

Just as Louise rose to her feet, the fat guy smashed a two-by-four into Saito's back. He fell to his knees. . Just as he was trying to get up, the short guy ran up and kicked him in the face.

"Hey, what do you think your doing to my familiar!" Louise quickly waved her wand and caused a small explosion and knocked back their assailants. It was a simple spell, or non-spell. It was the result of what happened anytime Louise tried to use one of the ordinary elements; she blew stuff up.

"This chick's a witch!"

"Don't just stand there, go after her!"

The three stooges ignored Saito and suddenly Rushed Louise. She managed to knock two of the guys out with a second explosion, this time rendering them unconscious, but she missed their leader. He quickly held her down and restrained her hands. "That'll be enough of that little Missy!" he said.

An evil grin spread across the thug's face as he leered closer at Louise. His hot, steamy breath smelled horrible, it reminded Louise of the smell of rotten flesh. She turned her head away in disgust. Louise could see Saito laying on the ground, he wasn't moving.

"Saito, help me!"

"Your boyfriend can't save you, little Missy. I think he may be dead."

"No . . ."

Louise tried to wriggle out of the creep's grip, but her body was small, and he bore his weight down on her. She looked over at Saito, he still wasn't moving. She couldn't tell whether or not he was breathing.

"Saito!"

"You don't got a very large chest, but your cute enough, how about we get to know each other?"

"Wait, wha-"

The creep started to pull at the strings of Louise's corset.

"Stop it! Let go of me you bastard!" Louise wriggled her hands free and started beating the man in the face with her fists.

"Cut it out you little brat!" The grabbed both of Louise's arms and threw her against the pavement. He held her arms with one hand, and tried to rip her bodice with the other. Louise tried to break free, but he was too strong.

Louise squirmed violently. She didn't want him to touch her, she desperately wanted Saito to save her, but she didn't even know if he was alive. Louise began to cry loudly. "Saito!" With tears flowing down her face, she cried out Saito's name again. It was hopeless. Saito couldn't save her, she couldn't control what was happening. The man's grotesque leer infuriated her, she squirmed wildly, refusing to give up.

"GET OFF ME YOU DIRTY BASTARD!"

Thwack!

The man stopped struggling with Louise, and his eyes rolled to the back of his head as he slumped over. Saito exploded into a ball of rage and began pummeling the thug. Saito's opponent was reduced to a bloodied heap, barely conscious and writhing in pain.

"Get the hell off my wife!"

"Saito! Your alive!"

"Of course I'm alive." He rubbed his back and slumped over. "Though I feel like I shouldn't be, that guy really did a number on me." He slowly made his way over to Louise, who was in far better shape than he was, and leaned his back against the wall.

"You look awful! We need to get you to a water mage!"

Saito's cheek and eye were swollen on the left side of his face, and two streams of dried blood ran down his face. "Louise, there aren't any water mages in this world. Don't worry, I'm fine."

"Well, you look gross."

"Thanks."

"So ho about that hangover, you sure your okay to be moving around so much?"

"Shut up, it's not like your able to carry me any more. I'm fine, but you . . ."

Louise' energy was drained, she still harbored a massive headache, but she managed to walk towards the end of the ally with them both leaning into one another. She felt a little guilty, aside from her bruised knee and aftereffects of drinking too much wine, she was mostly fine. She hadn't received any injuries in the fight because Saito took on all the abuse himself. Even without his gandalfr powers, he was still protecting her.

As they neared the end of the ally, Louise could hear the three stooges groaning behind them. Most normal people would run after being attacked by a mage, but these guys were a special kind of stupid, the kind that caused flies to continue running into a glass window, or to land in the same spot after repetitive swats. "Hey! You little brat! Get back here!"

Louise and Saito tried to move faster, but neither one of them was in any condition to run. She could hear their footsteps echo louder and louder through the alleyways until she was sure they had caught up to them. Finally Louise had enough, she stopped and turned towards her pursuers with a cold, determined stare.

The trio stopped. All three of them looked at each other with confounded expressions. The skinny one laughed and began casually walking towards Louise. "Who do you think you are little Missy? Aren't you scared? Your little tricks, or whatever that was, won't save you!"

"I am Louise Françoise Le Blanc de Hiraga de Ornielle, daughter to Duke de La Vallière and second in line for the throne of Tristainia, and I will have you show my familiar and I some respect!" Louise punctuated her declaration with a flash from her wand. With Saito behind her, she was able to release the full extent of her fury. A blast of energy knocked the assailants down and surged through the ally, stripping the bricks from the walls in a rolling cascade.

The effects of the blast were more than what Louise had anticipated. When the smoke and dust cleared, the three stooges were gone, buried under a massive pile of brick and dust. The sides of both buildings had been obliterated, and she could see that while one was vacant, the other was apparently a storefront of some kind that had been open for business.

Customers that had been rummaging through clothes racks and a clerk sitting behind the counter were all covered in dust and motionless, as if time had suddenly stopped.

"Eh . . . sorry about that, is anyone hurt in there?" Louise scratched her head and smiled nervously. The clerk behind the counter didn't say anything, simply shaking her head slowly.

"That's great," Louise stuttered as she spoke, "well, uh, I suppose we'll be leaving now. Bye!"


Well, that's the end of the chapter, obviously. If you have any thoughts about the chapter, the way it was written, things that could have been done better, feel free to share them.