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She cried in the middle of the stone steps.

She'd been there since that morning, sitting there on those steps. On the 16th step, more accurately. He knew because he'd counted. There were fifty-eight steps in all; actually there were alot more than that, but after reaching fifty-eight he'd grown bored of counting.

He was actually supposed to be at his lessens right now, but at the last minute had changed his mind. He was so tired of studying all the time. And anyway, he was only 10 years old!! Shouldn't he be allowed to play, too? But once he'd decided to play, once he'd ran off and skipped his lessons, he didn't know what to do next. He'd never 'played' before; not like he'd witnessed the children through his window playing together. Besides that, he didn't have anyone to play with...and his teacher told him he was too old for such childish things anyway. Still, there was some unsurpressed urge, the urge to be spontaneous and immature once in a while..even if it was odd for him...even if he didn't know how.

His attention turned back to the girl. She seemed oblivious to her surroundings, to the brustling life around her. Her head buried in her knees, thin arms thrown around them protectively. She actually didn't look much older than he did. He wondered what she was doing. Had she skipped her lessons too? But no...not everyone had to endure the lessons that he did. He sat down, watching her on the sidewalk from across the street. Around them the world zoomed past. Busy politicians rushed to their offices. Tired mothers with pensive young children tried unsuccessfully to hurry the kids along.

And all the while the girl continued to cry.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there. Hours, maybe. Hours of daylight he could have spent 'playing', or finding childen to play with. But for some reason, he couldn't leave. Fasinating, this girl. Much better than playing. She had an aura around her that seemed to call out to him. A silvery haze that he almost didn't see. Or maybe he was just tired. He took a bite from the apple he'd bought himself at one of the fruit vendors. It was getting late. The sun was hanging low, and in the distance he could make out the 6:00 chimings. The streets were beginning to clear, and by this time, most of the children had gone in. The ones who didn't were found and pulled off briskly by their parents. One didn't stay out too late these days...even his teacher had warned him of it. He himself was probably in for a flogging once he got back, but then again, he'd already decided he was going to spend the day as he wanted. Why not? He was already in trouble either way. Besides, he was intrigued.

Still the girl sat.

He wondered where her parents were. Didn't she know you couldn't be out at 7:00? Even now the sky was growing dark. Pale ribbons of sunlight still lined the horizen, but they were quickly fading. Soft sobs suddenly caught his attention, and he was surprised to notice that the girl had gotten closer. wasn't it. It was he himself who had grown closer to the girl, as if his legs had a will of their own. Right now he was on the 12th step. Close enough to see that her hair was an ugly mud brown color, done up in two odd pigtails. Though her face was hidden, he could see by the paleness of her skin that she wasn't outside very much. Besides that...her hair didn't seem to match her complextion, and though he figured it was probably the dim lighting of the setting sun, he was sure he saw strands of golden blonde hair peeping through the dirt-brown color. He leaned closer, quietly watching. She hadn't seemed to realize he was there yet. Either that or she was ignoring him. He decided to say hello.

"Hello." Nothing. No answer. He tried again.

"Hello." Still no answer, though this time there was a pause between sobs. Her shoulders stopped shaking momentarily, and her body seemed to stiffen. Between stringy strands of hair, he could make out two brilliant blue eyes, the color of...what was that stone called? He'd seen it in one of his books. A saphire! That was it. Her eyes were the color of saphires. Even tear filled, they were beautiful; eyes like that seemed wasted on such a bland, sallow complexion. She stared up at him, face red and blotched from crying. But she was silent.

"Why are you crying?," he asked softly, kneeling down before her. She only stared, and for a moment he thought she wouldn't answer at all. Or perhaps she couldn't talk. He'd met several people in the city who were mute. His teacher even said once that it was befitting to be mute in his profession. Afterall, scroll keepers didn't need to use their voices very often when all they did was read and write. But right now it didn't matter since he was still an apprentice. But then she spoke.

"...gone." Her voice sounded young. Small. He had been wrong. This girl was younger than he, by several years atleast.

"Who's gone?" he asked quietly.

"My mommy."

He frowned. "She died?" But the girl refused to say anymore, instead burying her head back into her knees and resuming her sobs. The boy watched silently. He still didn't understand anything. Whether she'd just gotten seperated from her mother, or whether the woman had somehow died, he wasn't sure. What he did know however, was that he couldn't leave this girl alone in the plaza like this. Strange things happened at night, and traders plagued the streets looking for humans to sell. No, he had to take her with him, back to the library.

Overhead, it began to rain, a gentle drizzle dampening the parched land. He stepped forward until he was on the 15th step, just one step away from her.

"What's your name?" he asked softly. Perhaps he could gently coax her into going with him, without alarming her. The way the nuns would talk to him when they came over for books. She didn't answer. She did however, seem to not be crying anymore. Atleast, her shoulders had stopped shaking as far as he could tell. Was she listening to him?

"My name is Trowa. Maybe I can help you find your mommy." At this the girl looked up solomnly, straight into his dark green eyes.

"Uh uuhh. Mommy's gone. No one can find her now." At the mention of her mother, her face seemed to crumble, but her eyes didn't fill again. Perhaps she was all cried out. Without waiting for an answer, or even for permisison, he lifted her hand, leading her down the steps, like a shepard leading it's sheep.

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