"...and that's why I'm here." I said, as a capstone to my full hour of talking. The boys had always told me I loved to tell stories, and if these two were any indication, they loved it when I did.

"My family never changes." Levant sighed. "Can't leave me in peace no matter where I am."

"Too right!" Flandre replied with a playful pout. "I can't get a moment's rest from you!"

"You don't exactly let yourself, sticking to me all the time!" The boy replied, and I smiled as I reclined on the tree to watch them in their little tussle. I smiled. It reminded me of happy times.

"Hey, don't just smile over there, help me out!" Levant said, turning to me. "She could strangle me!"

"The first thing you learn as a soldier is to stay out of danger." I replied with a grin. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

"Good man!" The little girl said from on top of her husband. "You'll make a great husband one day!"

"This old soldier? No way." A grown-up voice called from across the lawn. The couple finally sobered up, courtesy of Leopold Rosie, who had just made his entrance.

"Cousin." Levant said, with a touch of coldness that reminded everyone just what had happened.

"My business is not with you." The older man replied, just as stern. I caught a glimpse of the girl and saw that she was on tenterhooks as well, looking just the least bit tense. "I need to talk to your bodyguard." He said, looking at me. I nodded.

"He hired me, so I answer to him. I'll be back in a bit." I said, standing up and following Leopold. He had told me everything. The situation did not require further explanation.

"Your family relations are strained, to say the least." I whispered. "Not that they could be much better, mind."

"Old habits die hard." He replied. "On to business. Do you need anything from the other side before you start?"

"I'll need at least this much." I said, pulling out my phone and typing out a text. "I'll send this to you a bit later and let you get to it in your own time, as well as sending my luggage over."

"Alright." He replied. "Your payment is going into your usual account number, just so you know."

"Good." I said. "I would've killed you on the spot if it wasn't."

"Or tried to, at least." Leopold said with a grin.

"Believe what you want." I replied, turning back to the couple and extending a hand to wave him away. "I'll just get right back to doing my job so you can do yours."

By the time I got back, the two were back to normal, chatting as close friends and lovers do. They waved me over, calling me back down to the soft, green grass of the great lawn.

"Did anything happen?" Levant said. Though he was young yet, he was already almost good enough to fool me into thinking he was entirely disinterested.

Only almost.

"Nothing important." I said. "Just my salary."

"Of course." Levant said, and the girl, for once, was strangely silent. There was already a savvy mind beneath that childish personality.

They reminded me of a pair I didn't really care to remember.

"Alright. I think I'll take a perimeter walk to check out the terrain." I said. "See you two later." They nodded, and with their approval, off I went.

Leopold had told me everything that had happened. Though the sister was more understanding, it was only natural that these two would not trust a soldier.

They can't understand the mind of someone who would choose to kill. I thought, walking towards the great brick-and-iron fence that marked the edge of the territory. They haven't been there.

"Excuse me, but I believe your place is with the young mistress and her husband." The voice was coldly polite, much like a razor-sharp survival knife sheathed in leather. I turned and saw someone who was clearly the head maid of this mansion.

Silver hair framed a calm, cold face with almond-shaped brown eyes, on top of a long, slim body coated in a blue-and-white maid outfit. If I had to pick out female volunteers for an elite unit, I would pick her. Everything about her suggested that she was as much a warrior as a maid.

"I'm doing a perimeter walk." I said. "And getting some fresh air."

"Fresh air is all around, considering that there have been no internal combustion vehicles here to pollute it as of yet." The voice replied. "There is more to it than that."

"Fine. I'm not welcome there, at least not right now." I said. "Those two who know nothing of what it is like to kill cannot truly welcome one of my kind."

"Well said." The maid replied, her arms crossed. "But as a mercenary, there were certainly many times that this was so. There is clearly something deeper here."

I smiled at the maid. The glint in her brown eyes told me that she was a creature not so different from myself.

"Yes, there is." I said as I turned and began to walk. "Walk with me while I do my perimeter check and I'll tell you."

"Very well." She said, falling into stride behind me as I began to follow the fence. "I shall accompany you."

I nodded and began to swivel my head, half a mind on remembering the terrain and half a mind preparing what I would say. After about a minute of slow, leisurely walking, I found my way in.

"Tell me, do you have a brother? Siblings of any kind?"

"I do not know. I was born an orphan and adopted by the mistress."

"I see. That's good. Warriors like us should have no attachments other than those we are made to protect." I snorted, turning back to the still-impassive maid. "It would have saved me a whole lot of trouble." She said nothing, but she had said she wanted the story, and now she was going to get it.

"A year ago, I had a friend in the SAS. He was a good man, the best you could find. Like a brother to me, someone you could trust your back to and be sure it's going to be all right." I said. She nodded to me to continue.

"What happened next was just like a movie. He got engaged to a good City girl, sweet but tough as nails. We all loved her, him especially. But on his last op, it all went to hell and he was paralyzed." I said, spitting the words onto the ground. "It was just bad luck; a ricochet to the spinal cord, and then he couldn't move. The government put him in a disabled home but wouldn't pay for the treatment. Naturally, I thought that was absolute bullshit." Again, I snorted at the hilarity of it all.

"Right then and there I resigned my commission and became an assassin-for-hire, private investigator, and all-around problem solver. I wired everything past operating expenses to him for an operation. There was a fundraiser. A week ago, I got this." I said, unfolding a newspaper clipping from my pocket and handing it to her. "You can probably read English, so go ahead and read it out."

"'SAS veteran receives experimental coma treatment; total success'." She read.

"I got a letter of thanks from them, but I knew I couldn't go back. They thought I got a job in a PMC and sent them my wage. Ha! PMCs don't pay that well." I said. "It was because I had fun. I was born for murder and I'm damn good at it. I can't go back to that world."

I hadn't smiled this sadly in a long time.

"I understand. I'll leave you to your work, then." She said, and with a curtsy, she was gone. Though her voice was the same as ever, I caught the slightest hint of sympathy in her words.

She and I both know that's somewhere we don't want to go. I thought to myself as I continued my rounds. It reminds us too much of the battlefield.

"This I do for me." I said softly as I walked next to the red-brick fence. "And for loving couples everywhere." I took a deep breath and returned my mind to the task at hand.

The air was definitely fresher near the fence. It also started raining while I was on patrol.


"A 417, a G36, two MP7s, three different combat knives, ammo boxes for each, on top of all of his regular luggage? As expected of an SAS man, always packing as much as he'll need." Leopold said, closing the text he had received from his employee. "Martha, pass on the request form on your way home."

"Understood." She said, taking the form and heading home, leaving Leopold alone in his office again.

"Right, now that that's done, let's get to the paperwork." He said, slowly filing through the papers in his inbox. He shuffled through them until he saw one that made him do a double-take. It was legitimate parchment, disguised to all those who lacked magical potential. The words were written with ink and quill, as in the old days. The form was that of a formal invitation.

"They're acting like the Ivory Tower still means something." He said. "And come to think of it, so am I." Without a word, he unlocked his phone and hit speed dial.

"Remilia. I'll be needing the package earlier than expected. The enemy has already begun their move."

"Pick it up tomorrow after you drop off your employee's things." She replied before ending the call.

Leopold stood up, his teeth gritted and body tense. This would be his first and only opportunity to end the war that was to come.

He did not want his cousin to see war again.