A month later...


Forte was barely off of his horse when Rooro [Roll] flung herself at him, laughing joyfully at his return. Forte never dared to hold back a smile for his youngest sister and returned the embrace, ignoring the smug, yet all-in-good-fun smiles his guards gave them.

"How was your trip to Ukyoto?"

Forte chuckled and took his attention off the young girl for a moment to hand the horse's reigns to a waited stable boy. "Pleasent," he said, nodding his thanks to the young boy and lead Rooro inside, "and if you must know, Rei [Zero] is doing just fine out there."

Rooro smiled ruefully. "I miss him."

"And he misses you and Aria [Alia] just as much. But don't worry, Imotochan." Forte motioned one of the wagon drivers over. "He sends compensation to tide you over until he's able to return for a visit."

A squeakish yip comes from somewhere inside the wagon and Forte reached inside, only to pull out a brownish red puppy from its carrier box. Rooro's blue eyes lit up. "For me??"

The Emperor nodded and handed the pup over to outstretched arms. "Jyuso gave birth to a litter of three some months ago. But with everything going on, Rei had to rush them out to homes so they wouldn't be neglected."

Rooro giggled. "Well, maybe that's what we'll call him. Rush." The small dog licked at the blonde's face in agreement to the name.

Forte smiled at the affection passing between the two continued to the doors. "How's Galen?"

"Oh! He's great! He sang us a new song three nights ago."


"Really! And..." She quieted down. "He missed you. He told me himself."

Forte stopped and looked down at his sister, bewildered. He never thought... "Galen missed me?"

"Oh yes, he did." Rooro's empty hand filled his as the young girl pulled him along. "He moped and stared out every window that faced the main gates every chance he got. And he said to me after the first night that it was uncomfortable sleeping without someone else in the room."

Forte's cheeks flushed warm at the thought of Galen in the spacious bed, himself right beside the songbird. It was a thought that kept rearing up from time to time, ever since he saw the nightingale change... But he didn't muse over the possibility for long and asked instead. "And he was like that the entire week?"

Rooro nodded and smiled brightly. "He's with the baby right now... I sort of didn't tell him you were home because I wanted you to surprise him."

"I'm sure he'll be thrilled," Forte said, then gestured to Rush. "I think our new family member wouldn't mind if you went to the kitchen and found him some scraps or something of the sort?"