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BOOK III

ORDER AND CHAOS

VOLUME IX

FROM ASHES

CHAPTER 201

YESTERYEAR (VI)

The silver moon hung seemingly loose on the high sky, surrounded tenderly by the swath of burning stars, some of which were hidden by a scarce cloud or two. The world was doused in silence in the hours of deep night, only occasional barks of the local dogs and local drunkards to be heard. Alleys spun around the small town in their narrow make, connecting the main streets often, and connecting one another even more so.

Slithering about the various alleyways was a short figure clad in tattered clothes, half his face hidden beneath a smudged piece of sheep’s wool, his feet bare, eyes glistening in strange light. He was quick and nimble, occasionally even scaling walls and rooftops where possible to cross the main street undetected.

Lino landed silently into one of numerous alleyways, peeking behind the corner onto the main street beyond which lay a terribly fenced-off courtyard of to him a rather familiar building. Even now a single light flickered from one of the rooms causing his heart to contort viciously. Just as he was about to bolt out and forth, he felt a strong grip on his shoulder.

“... shit.” he groaned lowly and in defeat, sitting down as he looked back. There, standing above, was a girl slightly older than him, smirking while striking a victorious pose. Even in the deepest reaches of night her emerald-green eyes shone and her vibrant crimson hair streaked through glowing edges defiantly.

“That’s... what? Fifty-sixth consecutive victory for me?” Hannah grinned.

“Fifty-fifth!!” Lino growled at her as he got up, retracing back his steps through the alleyways with Hannah quickly following.

“Oh, wow, I thought you said you weren’t keeping the count...” Hannah said sheepishly.

“...” Lino suppressed the blush as his steps quickened, though he knew he couldn’t lose her either way.

“Ha ha ha, come on, don’t be like that,” she heaved her arm around his shoulder and forced him to slow down, a few strands of her hair hitting his eyes. “It’s just a friendly competition... in that you’re trying to kill someone and me trying to keep you sane. You know, standard stuff.”

“... aren’t you getting tired?” Lino rolled his eyes at her. “You’ve barely had a whiff of sleep in the past few months.”

“Eh, sleep’s for the pussies,” Hannah replied casually. “I’d much rather see just how many exasperated expressions you’ve got.”

“Aaah... you’re so goddamned tiring...”

“Aww, don’t say that. Usually lads like it when a cute girl like me stalks them.”

“... there’s so much wrong with that I’m not even gonna...”

“Anyway... what do you want for breakfast?” she asked.

“... can I instead ask for an early birthday gift?” Lino asked in return.

“Oh? What is it? You’ve never asked me for one before?”

“... I’d like you to leave.” Lino said, hiding his face.

“And miss out on your puberty?” Hannah joked. “No way!”

“I’m serious Hannah,” Lino suddenly came to a halt, glancing at her. “Do you really think I’m that much of an idiot?”

“...” Hannah stopped as well, letting go of him and facing him directly. “Hah, I suppose you’re not... but...” she added after a short pause. “Do you think I’m one too?”

“... I suppose you’re not.” Lino said begrudgingly, beginning to walk again with Hannah following quickly. “Though, I can assuredly say your problems are much bigger than mine.”

“How come?” she asked.

“Well, for starters,” he glanced at her, grinning. “I’ve seen you do some weird magic-thing, which I’ve never seen done before by anyone.”

“T-that wasn’t magic, it was just, uh, you know, light acting and--”

“Hey, I don’t really care,” Lino shrugged. “It just means that whatever your problems are... they are actual problems.”

“Unlike yours, so to say?”

“... yeah.” Lino nodded faintly.

“... and I’d argue your problem is far more important than mine,” Hannah said, sighing faintly. “At the very least, mine are external and limited in scope.”

“...”

“The more you close your self off Lino,” she said. “The worst it’ll be when you inevitably find yourself opening up to someone.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that.” he shot her a snide comment.

“Why? Because you’ll stay like this forever? Distrusting, cold, and whatever else you are? Just the fact that you believe that’s even possible tells me that you really are still just a kid...”

“... why can’t I?” he glanced at her, his gaze startling her for a moment. “Yeah, I’m a kid. And, yeah, you’re even probably right. But... so what? Besides, what is your plan here Hannah? To make me care for you, to ‘open myself up’, so that once you inevitably leave I can still at least keep the memory of the ‘good times’?”

“... what’s wrong with caring for someone?” she asked. “I care for you. What? Do you think only you would be down in the dumpers when I left?”

“I... I didn’t say that...”

“You’re right,” Hannah said as the two left the paths of the alleyways and entered one of the buildings, with Lino quickly lighting up a few candles. “Objectively, my problems certainly are greater than yours.”

“Told you so.” Lino grinned.

“My Master and Elders have been repeatedly calling me, telling me to end my ‘hissy-fit’, and to go back and become ‘who I’m supposed to be’.” she continued, sitting down. “And, if I do go back, I’d have anything I could ever want. I’d have any food I’d want, any drink I’d want, a Palace to live in, and possibly a stretch of men bounding this entire Kingdom lining up to marry me.”

“...” Lino held back the comment as he realized just how serious she was.

“I’d get to live a life many can only ever dream of, and for literal thousands, tens of thousands and even possibly millions of years at that. I could not only outlive you and this Kingdom, but this entire continent and every single person currently alive on it all while bathing in whatever I want.”

“... so why don’t you?” Lino asked.

“Because... I don’t want to.” Hannah smiled bitterly, shaking her head for a moment. “But... do you think my opinion matters? Of course it doesn’t. My entire life has already been determined even before I knew what I wanted out of it. Being here with you, however tiring and boring and annoying it may be to you... is everything to me, Lino. Because, once I go back this time, they’ll never let me leave again. And I’ll never see you again or have a chance to pass days simply. Oh, and of course -- most-importantly, I wouldn’t be able to inform you about your dear Ally’s situation.”

“... heh, you really are throwing a hissy-fit.” Lino chuckled strangely. “Bo ho, I can have literally anything in the world except this one thing. And gosh darn it, I just happen to want this one thing. Do you even hear yourself?”

“...”

“You keep saying I’m a kid, but at the very least I try, for better or worse. You, on the other hand, just want to be special. Oh, look at me, I’m not like those others who do enjoy life to the fullest. I’m different because I’m babysitting a kid in the middle of fucking nowhere while trying to teach him life lessons without having figured out any myself. Ooh, aren’t I just so special? Pathetic...”

“... that hurt, you know?” Hannah said in a low tone.

“Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know.” Lino shrugged. “All I know is that both of us would be happier if you just went back... for good.”

“... do you really think that?” she asked.

“I do.”

“So you’re fine with never seeing me again?” she persisted.

“We were never meant to become anything, Hannah,” Lino said. “You’re this strange being capable of using magic or whatever, and I’m just some random orphan boy surviving by eating dirt from time to time.”

“I see...” Hannah sighed lowly as she got up. “I guess you’re right.” she suddenly smiled at him, tilting her head sideways somewhat. “Even now, I guess, we’re mostly just strangers who happen to live together, aren’t we?”

“... exactly.”

“I’ll leave, then,” she slowly walked over to Lino and crouched down as their eyes met, barely inches apart. “And go live that perfect life that’s waiting for me. And you can stay here and do whatever you want. Kill, don’t kill. It’s up to you.”

“It is...” he nodded faintly.

“Regardless,” she suddenly inched closer as their foreheads touched. “One day, Lino, someone’s gonna crawl their way into here,” she poked the center of his chest causing Lino to blush as he didn’t want her to realize how quick his heartbeat was. “And they’re gonna mess you up so hard you’ll have to go figuring out who you are all over again. And it’s gonna suck, and it’s gonna hurt, and you’ll feel as though telling them that the best choice for both would be separation,” Lino’s heart beat ever so faster, yet he was unable to move, feeling almost frozen within Hannah’s gaze. “But... don’t. You’re stronger than that. I know. You’re stronger than whatever demons you believe you’re facing. You’re better and bigger than them.”

“...”

“It’s alright,” her voice turned into a soft whisper as her face trickled ever closer to him, with the latter closing his eyes almost instinctively. “While good doesn’t always win, it always survives...” he felt a sudden warmth on his lips accompanied by a soft feeling which electrocuted his entire body. His eyes quickly opened, yet there was nothing and no one there. He looked around frantically as his finger traced his lips, a remnant of that warmth and softness still present. Yet, no matter how hard he looked, she was gone, he realized. And he knew deep in his heart that this time it was for good.

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beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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