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CHAPTER 284

THE HUNT BEGINS

Lino was currently sitting on the edge of the wall, his legs heaved over, back slumped slightly, eyes peering into the sandy horizon. Occasional gust of wind howled past him, blowing the strands of hair covering his face and a pair of slightly dulled eyes away. Seeming lost in thought for most of the time, he’d occasionally shift his gaze toward the sky with faint expectation before resuming his dulled stare into the distant horizon.

Hours swiftly passed by, yet he hadn’t moved an inch from his spot; behind him, on occasion, dull roars would bellow out like a war-cry of an army. On occasion he would glance back, too, and seemingly peer beyond the terraced earth and beautiful buildings to the other end, where he knew Lucky and her division were practicing.

It wasn’t until nearly midnight that he craned his neck wholly back and looked up. Moon hung solemn, surrounded by glimmering stars, before suddenly being seemingly distorted within his sight. Just a moment later, two figures appeared, blocking his view; he quickly recognized them, even though they were merely silhouettes that far up.

He leapt off the wall and stood up in front of it as the two figures in the sky parted, one going inside the walls, and the other landing right in front of Lino. Hannah landed squarely, both her dress and crimson hair fluttering in waves. Lino felt a pang in his heart as he met her gaze; the emerald-eyes he remembered shining all the time now bore hurt and hollow pain. Her lips quivered like leafs in the wind as she ran over and threw herself into his embrace.

Silently accepting her, he wrapped his arms around her back and dragged her in closer, holding her tightly. He felt her body shiver underneath his hold, faint sobs reaching his ears quickly. He said nothing, well aware of why she behaved so, merely sighing inwardly over the limited capacity human hearts seemed to hold for acceptance and forgiveness. If even family, the very children beholden of the future were not exempt, who was, he mused.

It didn’t take her long to recover, but she still remained leaning against his chest as the two sat down and leaned against the wall. He caressed her silken hair gently, eyes veered upward, while she played with his shirt’s buttons. It was a queer moment of silence and acceptance she longed.

“... I don’t think they listened to me.” she mumbled faintly.

“It’s alright,” Lino replied softly. “It’s hard to cure idiocy.”

“... ha ha, I suppose.”

“... hey,” he suddenly lifted her head up and met her gaze. “Don’t worry. I won’t touch them.”

“They’ll come after you, though, regardless.” Hannah said, smiling bitterly.

“Let ‘em,” he chuckled in return. “Won’t be the first time. I’ve already got enough to-be-dead on my plate. Adding family of this strange creature I’ve fallen in love for some reason... I don’t think my well-layered and delicate heart could take it. That doesn’t mean I won’t beat them, though. Gotta teach them a lesson somehow.”

“Ha ha ha, well-layered and delicate my ass,” she laughed freely, punching him softly. “I promised them you’d come to them, though. Are you planning on making me a liar?”

“Oh, hardly,” Lino said, stroking his beard. “I still intend to visit your Father and inform him I’ll be marrying you eventually.”

“Oh? There’s a lot to unpack there, don’t you think?” Hannah chuckled.

“Eh, not really.”

“So just inform? Not ask?”

“As if I’d give anyone an option to say no,” Lino shrugged. “You’re marrying me and it’s final.”

“And what if I say no?”

“Heh, you saying no... to me.” Lino grinned wryly, glancing at her. “That would be a first.”

“Hey!!” her cheeks suddenly flushed red, lips turning pouty. “I only did it because you begged me for like three days!”

“Say what you will, but for someone who can so easily say no to everyone and everything else, you’re having difficulties with me young lady.”

“Young? Heh. You know, in mortal years, I’d almost be considered a middle-aged washout by now.” she said.

“And I’d be considered a jobless drunkard who can’t put food on his family’s table,” Lino said. “Good thing we aren’t mortals, eh?”

“... you should have seen Ally’s face,” she suddenly said, hiding her face in his chest. “She... really hates me, Lino. I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me.”

“... if Ally has half the heart I remember her having,” Lino spoke softly. “She doesn’t hate you, Hannah. She just... doesn’t understand. One day she will, though. In the meantime, just be patient and give her time.”

“... hah, wouldn’t it be much faster if you just went over and charmed her with your wit?” she chuckled wryly.

“Oh my, no, no.” Lino shook his head. “Even I can see a trap that obvious. You’ll have to do better young lady.”

“How’s Lucky?” she asked.

“Hard at work.”

“Eh?”

“She chose to channel whatever she feels into action,” Lino said. “And apparently decided to become our shadow. Whatever the fuck that means. You know, I usually pretend to understand people when they spout nonsense, but shouldn’t it be much easier to understand others?”

“... she’s my age, right?” Hannah suddenly asked.

“Yeah, I think so.” Lino nodded faintly.

“Heh, it’s a bit painful to compare myself to her.” she said, suddenly getting up and sitting next to Lino, leaning against his side. “While I’m far, far, far stronger than she can probably even imagine... look at us. I’m crippled because my family decided to, at least for now, sever their ties with me... and then there’s her. Going strong.”

“... strength comes in myriad of ways, after all.” Lino said, smiling faintly. “She just happens to have the heart of a lion, while you’re more like a rabbit.”

“Timid?”

“Fluffy as all hell.”

“... oh fuck you...”

“Ha ha ha,” Lino laughed freely, throwing his arm around her shoulder. “It’s true that Lucky’s strong, but... in your heart of hearts, do you really want to have gone through the same things she did in order to achieve her strength?”

“...”

“Don’t be envious of others’ strength lest you’re willing to walk in their shoes,” he said, cracking a faint smile. “It goes both ways, you know?”

“Oh? Do share your wisdom, the sagacious one!”

“Eh, mock all you want,” Lino said, stroking his chin. “But I indeed am one sagacious motherfucker.”

“... oh god...”

“You’re both quite different,” he said after a short pause. “In make and perception. She’d struggled most of her life just to survive, while you’d struggled to hide who you are from the world. Those two roads enriched you with different kinds of strengths; neither is more valuable than the other... just different.”

“...”

“You both, really, should just band together and be jealous of me, actually,” he suddenly said as Hannah groaned audibly. “I posses both your strengths, but not your weaknesses. In short, I’m absolute perfection.”

“... you’re just an idiot,” she chuckled faintly. “But one so adorable it’s hard to stay mad at. ”

“I am indeed quite adorable.”

“What now?” she asked suddenly.

“... now we turn to our task at hand,” Lino replied. “To, perhaps, find you a new home.”

“... the Order?”

“Hm,” Lino nodded. “You’ll first have to meet with Val, though, to make preparations.”

“Preparations for what?” she asked curiously.

“Well, she’d decided to build us an army,” Lino said. “And, though I vehemently disagreed--”

“--sure you did. Go on.”

“--she insisted she do it. I simply had no heart to say no.”

“Of course you didn’t.”

“From the tone of your voice I’m sensing so little faith it’s literally breaking my soul.” Lino said.

“You’re imagining things.” Hannah replied.

“Even my imagination isn’t that vivid.”

“You’re selling yourself short here, of all places.”

“... ah, whatever.” Lino shrugged. “Anyway, since you claimed to be a grand ruler, I’ve appointed you to co-assist her in forming our own Chaotic Order Legion!”

“... you didn’t actually name it that, right?”

“What? I think it’s a grand name!”

“It’s a lame name is what it is.” Hannah said.

“Go suck a dick.”

“Hey!! Fuck you!” she suddenly shot up to her feet, red in cheeks. “I told you, I only did it ‘cause you begged me for three days!! Never again, you hear?! I’ll never do it again!!”

“... eh?” Lino watched in confusion as she stormed away, taking a while until he finally connected the dots, his lips cracking into a warm smile. “I suppose I should go and prepare for the hunt,” he sighed, glancing up at the moon one last time. “It’s certainly going to be a few busy months from now on...”

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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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