Hansel's Lover - Chapter SeventeenSix months had passed, and Daniel had become a Captain of the National Guard's Recon Team. With no clue on where Anna had gone, will their love continue, or will troubles from the past succeed in separating them?
Gil searched the rooms thoroughly.
There were ten rooms in each floor of the building, and each was empty like the next. He looked at every nook and cranny, and soon he turned to find Wells breathless from running around in the floor above.
"He's not up there," said Wells. "Nothing here?"
"How could he move so quickly?" Groaned Wells. "He has a meeting in an hour. He must be there."
"What are you guys doing?" Chimed a man from behind, and they turned around to see General Romero looking at them curiously.
"We were looking for Captain Han, General," said Gil. "He has a meeting with the Union Republic's representative regarding Mission Alma."
"Mission Alma?" The General repeated.
"Yes sir," replied Wells.
"Oh, you fools," laughed the General. "That matter has already been settled last week. He met with the representative by himself, and the papers have been signed. Had he not told you?"
"He did not," replied Gil. Wells groaned.
"Well, he never changes." The General began to walk away, when he stopped. "Oh, that's right. You two should probably make your way to the pier. He told me he's taking a fun trip today and if you two can catch up with him, he'll let you tag along too."
When the General finished speaking, the two began to sprint.
"Three months in recovery must have been that brutal for him," huffed Gil, "that when he was released, he never stopped moving since. At least we know his leg work perfectly now."
"His leg..." repeated Well. Gil patted him on the shoulder. "You did what you had to do, Wells. You saved their lives."
"Saved it?" he fell silent. "Ever since that day, he became almost robotic. He did every mission assigned to him like a fool, a yes man, that he was recommended for promotion twice. We had to push him to the wall, just so he would accept the position to make him our Captain." He sighed. "And God knows where she went."
"Captain Ellixon has yet to wake up," said Gil, "but it's good that he hasn't. Otherwise, he would have to hear the news that his daughter went missing while in our custody."
"With a gunshot wound to her shoulder," replied Wells.
"But if you hadn't shot his leg, Han would have shot Anna in the head. She made sure that would happen. She put her own finger in the trigger while he held the gun. You made him collapse to the ground, so his arm would fall down."
"Until now, we still don't know what happened between them."
The two men has finally stopped running. Now at the dock, their eyes searched for their Captain, and there he was, waving at them. He was standing at the deck of a large passenger ship.
"Where is he heading?" Asked Gil.
"Ezterdelle," Wells answered, pointing to a sign.
Wells shook his head. "We don't leave until tomorrow night. We have the day off today."
"Tell me, Gil. Has the Captain ever asked about her since?"
"No," he replied. "He knows nobody here would have the answer. It would be a waste of time."
"But there's a reason he tries so hard to finish any job as quickly he can," said Wells.
"'So he could look for her," replied Wells. "He's probably off to find her there now."
"Then, should we join him?"
"No. We'll only be in the way."
"Then why did we run here?"
Wells smiled. "We have to see him off. He is our Captain, after all."
Sometimes, life will deliberately put us in painful situations, only so we could prove that we are worthy enough to see the better things on the other side. Other times, it is not life, but us, who put our own selves into these painful situations. Why, you ask? So we---"
She turned the page, only to find it ripped away.
"How disappointing," she mumbled, but a smile crept her face as she closed the book. This isn't the first time she came across Tracy Elfoy's "Book of Thoughts". She knows exactly what sentence came next, so enjoying the lack of people in the library this morning, she decided to recite it.
"Other times, it is not life, but us, who put our own selves into these painful situations. Why, you ask? So we could prove not to life, but to our own selves, that we are strong. Strong enough to live even without seeing the better things on the other side. Strong enough to change the side we are currently in to something much better, without having to abandon who we are before."
"Gretel," chimed a girl with pale skin and long blonde locks. "So this is where you've been hiding." She extended her hand to Gretel, who had been crouched down to the floor with book piled up beside her. Gretel reached for her hand and got up.
"Good Morning, Sofia."
"It's a beautiful day, so don't stay cooped up in this floor. Nobody comes to the sixth floor for a reason. There is nothing but old books here."
"That's why I like being here. No one interrupts."
Gretel stretched her legs. Though she loved her solitude, she had become accustomed to moving around so much that sitting in one place for too long was no longer comfortable to her. Stretching her neck, she grabbed the hair tie from her wrist, and she reached for the lock of black hair behind her, but it was then that she realized her hair no longer reached that long.
"Gretel..." Sofia mumbled. "You've cut your hair short two weeks ago. Did you not remember?"
"Oh." She put her hands back to her side. "A habit."
"That's alright," smiled Sofia. "You'll get used to it."
Walking towards the elevator, Gretel looked around at the magnificent collection of ancient texts, carefully curated in separate section by the territory's renowned historians. She started to get why the people of Ezterdelle looked pale in comparison with everyone else. The library is in itself a state-of-the-art structure, with walls replaced by marvelously crafted glass, making the building shine from the outside when sun rises in the early morning. Compared to Siho, Ezterdelle appeared more fragile, elegant, and in its entirety, delicate.
"How are you settling in?" asked Sofia. "Do you like it here?"
"GRETEL MILKOV, PLEASE COME TO THE LOBBY. GRETEL MILKOV, TO THE LOBBY. THANK YOU."
The two stared at each other as Gretel's name was announced in the library's PA system.
"Wow," said Sofia. "You're not late for your shift, are you?"
Gretel shook her head. "I don't start in an hour."
As they hurried down, they saw an interesting scene unfold in front of them. The library's main curator, Esteban Lee, looked frantic as he spoke in front of another man, one whose face they could not see clearly.
"I understand you want to see the Professor Milkov's daughter for her advice, Captain, but she is fairly new and would not be able to assist you with any questions you might ask," insisted Esteban to the man. "I insist to be the one to help you. I will provide all assistance for the sake of the National Guards Alliance."
"I came here for my own personal business, not of the National Guards," said Daniel. "I can just walk around then."
"Captain, let me provide you the assistance you require-"
"There's really no need to bother-"
"What's going on?" Sofia interrupted from behind them.
"Ah," Esteban sighed. "Have you seen Gretel? I saw her walk in here, this morning."
"Oh, she's right -" Sofia turned her head. "She was with me. I don't know where she went now."
"That's fine," dismissed Esteban, and he attempted to continue his talk with the Captain, but he had already darted to the door. "That's totally fine."
Anna ran the minute she saw his face. "Milkov, you fool!"
She knew she shouldn't have used this name. It was simply too obvious. Yet when she said this to Milkov before, what he said next made her reconsider.
"This name, if you think about it, calls out only to one person. Does it not?"
She stood in silence at the time. Perhaps it was because only Daniel would be the one to connect the two together. And only if he would bother looking for her.
She hadn't seen him in six months.
So many questions started to pop up in her head, but for a long time she was able to quiet it down.
"Why did he look for me?" She thought in her head, and she finally stopped running. Anna found herself sitting down a park bench, located in the quieter part of the estate. Then, she pressed her head down to her knees.
"Six months...since he pointed the gun at me."
Even without her ability, she could still vividly recall everything that happened that night in Andestris. She unbuttoned her shirt, and she looked at the small scar on her left shoulder, where Daniel's bullet had gone inside. When she gained consciousness, she found herself in a small clinic in Andestris, with Milkov standing in her side.
And he helped her.
"So he truly is a Captain now, huh."
Anna let a smile escape her lips, but it did not last long, for she knew she had no right. Shaking her head back to reality, she attempted to stand up and leave when three men appeared in front of her. Their faces were very familiar, because each one came to the library more than once. They never came together, so she never paid attention, but their black suits now reminded her of the same one that pretended to be Detective Alan Mishkov.
It's them, she realized. It's the group of men who wanted to know what Sahl wrote in his letter.
"Ms. Elixon, we want you to come with us."
"Who are you?" she asked them. "For you to kill a Union Republic detective in order to take his identity and talk to me... I will come with you. But first, tell me who you work for."
The three men in suits looked at each other. For a second, Anna believed she had made a deal, but the smirks in their faces meant such was not the case.
"Have you seen your father yet, Ms. Elixon?" One of them asked her, and her pupils dilated.
She hadn't seen him for almost three years now, but she heard that he has not yet woken up despite getting the best medical care in Siho. His heart rate and pulse are normal, but he remains unconscious. Anna had decided to reside in Ezterdelle in hopes not only to hide herself away from Daniel, but to also find out about her father's condition. She had read hundreds of books in the span of six months, but nothing came close to the symptoms that Dr. Carson described to her in from a secret phone call.
"How dare you..." her knees gave out, and she fell down. "Did you really want the content of Sahl's letter that much?"
The man who led the pack bent down in front of her. "That is one of them. But now, Ms. Elixon, we are curious as to why you changed your name. We found it strange that you would move to Ezterdelle, where not one single National Guard reside." He inched his face closer to her.
"What are you hiding?"
Anna looked at him straight in the eye. "Something amazing," she said to him. "But I will never tell you unless you get my father what he needs to wake up."
"Something amazing," the man repeated, and he began to laugh along with his other companions. Then he turned his attention to Anna's open blouse. "Perhaps, I can take a look."
Anna felt disgusted by the way he looked at her, and she pushed him away. Angry, the man stood up and punched her to the stomach. Anna rolled to the bottom of the bench, her hand clutching her body in pain.
"Greyhm never mentioned she was a feisty one," said one of the man to the other.
Greyhm,, she thought. The name rings a bell.
"Let's take her with us now."
"No," said another. "We were ordered to have her come to us willingly. He would go crazy if he sees her in this condition."
"Then we just leave her like this?"
As her attackers contemplated on what to do next, Anna looked behind her, and she realized the back area was a dense forest. Slowly, she rolled her body further back, carefully so they wouldn't notice. Despite the piercing pain in her stomach, her feet were working properly.
A second later, she ran.
"After her!" She heard one yell.
"Do not shoot her," said another. "We want her alive."
Anna ran as fast as she can, because she knew damn well her life depended on it. She ran forward, unbothered by the sharp edges of the tall leaves that cut her cheeks. She was running so hard she realized that her sandals had fallen off, and that she was running barefoot now. Still, she only thought of escaping.
Even in the bright afternoon, she found nobody she could ask for help. The people of Ezterdelle only ever hanged around in the city squares, and very rarely do people in this side of town, so she was starting to lose hope.
Anna's eyes focused solely on what was up ahead that she failed to notice the rock sticking out from the ground, and she tripped. Hearing the frantic rustling of leaves, she pressed her body on the trunk of a large oak tree. She covered her mouth, and she looked down, watching as her feet bled from the impact.
Her courage began to falter, when she noticed something shining in her arm.
It was the bracelet Daniel gave her. The bracelet was shining.
Anna looked up, expecting Daniel in front of her, but it turned out to be one of her attackers. The one with lewd eyes.
"I found you," the man hissed. Anna braced herself for what would come next, and she hoped the pain would hurt less this time, but no pain came her way, as the man was forcefully shoved away from her, his spine hitting a large rock and causing him to yelp in pain.
Daniel took his jacket off and put it on top of her. "How many more?"
"Two more," she replied. "They're very close."
He nodded, and she watched as he ran back to the man to knock him out. Daniel tied him up and hid him bend the large rock, before making his way to face the other two.
Anna sat still behind the tree, but her ears listened to the agonizing sounds being made by those who met his fist.
It didn't take long before Daniel came back to her side. "I tied them up in a tree. A helicopter will be coming soon. I'll take them with me to Siho."
Anna stood up, and she gave him back his jacket. "I can never pay you back for the trouble I've caused you today."
"You can," he replied. "You can come home with me."
Daniel quickly grabbed her waist and pushed her to him in a tight embrace. He stroked her hair, and he rested her head in his chest. Anna wrapped her hands on his back, and she began to sob.
"You're finally in my arms," said Daniel.
"I'm sorry," she whimpered. "I didn't know what else to do. I didn't..."
"I love you, Anna."
Daniel pulled a ring from his pocket, and he placed it in her finger.
"I love you," he repeated, "and that's all that matters."
"Daniel..." Anna caressed his face. "Are you sure?"
He smiled, and his lips kissed the tips of her fingers.
"Let's face this world and its monsters together, hand in hand, just like this. And once that's done, let's get married."
Teardrops fell from Anna's eyes, but unlike before, they were tears of joy.
"What a wonderful dream".
Daniel leaned forward, and he pressed his lips in her forehead.
"Happy 22nd Birthday, Anna Elixon."