Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Page 1722 -- CLXXXIV.

Regardless, this was still an enormous problem. Hector couldn’t very well accept Leo’s proposal, because that would mean bringing the guy back to Warrenhold with him. And Hector could immediately think of about a dozen ways that could blow up in his and everyone’s faces.

But he couldn’t just outright refuse him, either. That wouldn’t project much power, and it would also completely go against what Hector had said earlier, asking if Leo was alright.

He had to strike a delicate balance here, Hector decided.

“...I’m afraid I don’t grant my protection quite that easily,” said Hector. He had to keep himself steady. Leo’s strategy had nearly thrown him off, just now.

“That so?” said Leo. “Why do the Rainlords qualify, while I don’t?”

“...Because they have my trust,” said Hector.

“Ah. And I don’t.”

“That’s right.”

Leo scratched his brow with his free hand. “Well, how do I gain your trust, then?”

Oh, geez. “Well... you could start by giving Roman back to me.”

Leo snorted. “Isn’t that the same deal I just offered you?”

“...No,” said Hector. “Give me Roman, and I’ll give you a chance to earn my trust.”

Leo pursed his lips together briefly. “Just a chance? Seems like kind of a raw deal from where I’m sittin’, daddy-o.”

Daddy-o? Who the hell says--? Whatever. “...It’s the best you’re gonna to get,” said Hector. “I’m not gonna trust you until you prove yourself trustworthy.”

“Dude, you’re askin’ me to give up my only bargaining chip for just a promise. Less than a promise, even.”

“...Roman isn’t a bargaining chip,” said Hector. “I already told you... I can just wait this out and get Roman back from Sai-hee. You don’t actually have anything I want.”

Leo stared again, though his black eyes were much more hollow this time, as if he were looking past Hector instead of at him.

Slowly, Hector unfolded his arms. He held out a gauntleted hand, palm upward. “...Give me my friend back,” he said.

Leo took a breath through gritted teeth. He shut his eyes, rubbed his forehead hard enough to leave a fleeting red mark, and finally exhaled a long sigh. He lifted Roman’s head and placed it in Hector’s waiting hand.

It required all of Hector’s composure not to go wide-eyed and stare at what had just happened.

“Okay, now what?” said Leo.

That was a very good question, Hector thought.

Chapter One Hundred Eighty-Four: ‘Submit unto thee or begone...’
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“...Earning my trust won’t be easy,” said Hector. He paused to let Leo say something, but the man just waited. “...Firstly, I will need assurance that... you won’t harm anyone else who is under my protection.”

Leo held out his fist and extended the little finger. “I pinky promise that I will not hurt anyone unless you say it’s okay.”

Hector couldn’t quite tell if the man was joking, but he exhaled half a laugh, anyway, and said, “That’s not enough.”

Leo smacked his lips. “Never is.”

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