Notes: Sorry about how long this took, I've been trying to balance too much on my plate lately and it's starting to show in my updates. Again, really sorry about that. D:
Title: Paper Lanterns
Pairing: Delic/Hibiya
Part: III. Introductions
Words: 3173 words
Disclaimer: It's not mine. It all belongs to others who I am in no way associated with and I make nothing from writing this, got it?

III. Introductions

So there were a few things in his life that Delic was complete sure of, the most prominent being that he had the shittiest luck ever. He had no idea if it was karma – and whatever the hell he'd done to deserve this, he really had no idea about – or there was some almighty being out there that really just wanted him dead. Or just really wanted to screw with him, it was one of the two.

One thing was for sure, he just seemed to attract trouble.

Maybe he should've stopped hanging around in such seedy locales, but really there wasn't anywhere else that he could go. It was probably that undeserved reputation of his – not to mention the, ahem, rather nice wanted poster of him that was floating around – which was, okay, partly his own fault, but mostly it was just life enjoying screwing him over.

That was his only rational explanation for why the hell he was running away from the palace guards for the third time in less than a month. Really, didn't they other people to chase down? Like, murderers or other dangerous criminals?

Seriously, it was not his fault that those idiots had decided that it was a brilliant idea to try and pawn off stolen goods on him just because he happened to be standing there. He really hadn't wanted to get mixed up in this crap; it wasn't his sort of thing.

Really, the only reason he was running was because he was pretty sure that the guards were kind of getting tired of his shitty karma too and figured that the best way to solve that issue was with a short drop and a sudden stop. He hadn't done something to warrant it, really, except somehow always manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Delic had long since stopped complaining about it since that always seemed to make it worse – if something could happen to him, it would. That was how simple his life was now.

And maybe stealing the captain of the guard's horse to facilitate said getaway was not helping his case either.

Though, the horse was rather moody – he only managed to go a short distance before it decided that it was a brilliant idea to throw him off.

Right off the fucking cliff, that is.

Plucking leaves out of his hair, Delic glared up at the horse which was on the cliff above him, neighing wildly and looking like it was trying to figure out how to get him. Well fuck, how was he supposed to know that the horse was just that intelligent?

"Figures, I get stuck with this..." Delic grumbled. Really, though, he'd gotten lucky with that tree and those branches breaking his fall. Well that and the fact that he was made of tougher stuff than the usual person – it was too bad that he had no idea where he got it from.

Given that his only options were to either head back into town and deliver himself on a silver platter to the guards or trek further into the woods and hope that he was headed in the right direction, Delic settled on the latter. He'd rather take his chances with the local wildlife and great outdoors than with his fellow man right then. Besides, it was a several day trip back into town and he didn't want to have to deal with that right at that moment.

At least everything in the forest wasn't trying to kill him.

Setting off, he felt marginally cheerful about the entire thing. At least he'd gotten away easily enough, although maybe running away wasn't doing much to help his reputation – but what did they expect? There were wanted posters of him and they didn't even bother to list any crimes, just that he was associated with some pretty nasty individuals. Since when was poor company a crime? It wasn't like he chose to be around them... more like he was forced to.

Damn it, he really hated his life. It sucked. Plain and simple.

Delic knew that his luck probably wouldn't hold and he was right. He wound up stumbling right into another group of guards out to pursue him and his erstwhile partners in crime – what the hell had they done to piss them off this much?

"Damn!" A dead end.

Well, not exactly. Delic spotted some vines still clinging to the face of the cliff. They were better than taking his chances with the guards at least.

Hauling himself up the cliff, several of the vines snapped under his weight, making him curse. But he managed to scramble over the top just as the guards skidded into view, accompanied by his new friend Mr. Horse. Ugh, this just sucked. Couldn't he have one normal day? Just for once?

"Get back here Delic!"

"Why should I bother? You're just gonna arrest me..." Delic grumbled, turning tail and booking it further into the forest.

A little ways ahead he could make out what looked like a depression in the stone covered by foliage – it was his best bet. He made a beeline towards it, ducking behind it just as he heard the guards making their way over the cliff.

What he'd thought was a depression was actually a small cave. It took tripping over a rock that he hadn't seen for him to figure that out. That and the fact that there was light shining in from the other end. Curiosity got the better of him, he glanced back the way he'd come. He could hear the guards loudly talking to themselves, the captain issuing orders for them to split up to cover more ground to find him.

Delic let out a sigh of relief. For the time being at least, he was safe. For once, his luck didn't seem to be too bad.

Curiosity eventually got the better of him, though, and he wound up making his way out of the cave. As it turned out, it wasn't actually a cave but a tunnel. He emerged on the other side into bright sunlight in a small meadow. There were wildflowers of every color imaginable growing in the clearing and he could see a small brook running through the far side. The entire area was surrounded on all sides by tall cliffs.

However, what really drew his attention was the tall tower right in the middle of the meadow.

It stood out since it was obviously not abandoned despite the ivy which was crawling up the sides of it. There was a window at the top, thrown open to catch the breeze and probably to let in the sun. Delic thought it was strange.

"I've never heard of anything like this before..."

Walking over to it, he circled around the base and was a little puzzled by the fact that there wasn't a door. If there wasn't a door, how were people supposed to enter it? He hadn't seen any other remains of a castle or some other sort of fortification which meant that the tower had been constructed to stand on its own – for whatever reason.

"... so lonely."

Startled out of his reverie by the sound, Delic looked around the clearing. He was still very much alone. So where had that voice come from?

He glanced up at the tower and its open window, "Is there someone up there?"

Thinking it over, Delic made up his mind. Even if he had been hallucinating for whatever reason – and he was pretty sure that he was just imagining the voice – the tower would make a good place to hide. If he holed up there for a day or so, then the guards would probably give up their search and he'd be able to leave without worrying about being captured.

It seemed like a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?

The stone of the tower was pretty rough and the various blocks hadn't been set evenly, or had just shifted over time, providing several hand-holes and footholds that he could use to climb it. It wasn't a particularly tall tower, or at least, it didn't look too tall from where he was standing. The climb didn't look too challenging either.

Mind made up, he started climbing. Delic was pretty happy he was in good shape because it took quite a bit of effort to haul himself up the side of it. Still, when he reached the window sill he was panting as he hauled himself inside.

Of course, just as he straightened up and made to look around, his luck gave out.

The last thing he felt before lapsing into unconscious was something slamming, hard, into the back of his skull.

– –

Hibiya squeaked as he gently poked at the unconscious man with the frying pan that he'd grabbed from the kitchen. The man didn't move, didn't make a sound. He was quite clearly out cold.

Letting out a heavy sigh, Hibiya slumped his shoulders. He'd panicked, he would admit that. But what else was he supposed to do? Some strange man had climbed up into his home and in through the window! What if he was after his hair?

Hibiya froze. His mother's words flooded back to him. About thieves coming in the night, about how someone had tried to cut his hair, to take its power as their own and use it selfishly. That was why he was in this tower in the first place, to protect him from those very people – to keep him safe and away from the dark and cruel world that was outside his home.

He glanced back down at the man. What to do?

A little peek can't hurt.

That nearly made Hibiya jump. Where had that come from? Why would he want to look at someone who had come to kidnap him?

It's the first person you've seen. A little look couldn't hurt – he isn't going to be getting back up anytime soon.

Well, that was certainly true... Hibiya swallowed hard. Internally he was at war with himself; part of him wanted to freak out at the fact that someone had broken into his home while the other part was curious about who this stranger was. And it was true, he wasn't going to be waking up anytime soon – Hibiya had hit him with all his strength.

"Just one peek..."

It was easier said than done. The man was much heavier than Hibiya had originally thought and he wound up breathing heavily by the time he managed to roll him onto his back.

Once he'd done that, Hibiya's breath caught in his throat.

He's so handsome...

Now that he had a better look at it, Hibiya would definitely have to say that. His mother had often told him that he was beautiful – whether because of his hair or his delicate bone structure, as she put it – but he'd never felt that he felt he fit the definition of handsome. This man certainly did.

His skin had just the lightest touch of being sun-kissed to it, with blond locks which suited him incredibly well. And he looked so peaceful lying there unconscious despite the violent cause of it. He was also tall, much taller than Hibiya was and more broad in the chest and shoulders. The more Hibiya looked at him, the more he realized that he was like the handsome prince out of the stories that his mother used to read to him when he was small.

That made him snort, "Yeah right, like I'm ever going to get a Prince Charming..."

Biting his lip, Hibiya glanced back at the man's face and flushed. It was difficult not to want to reach out and touch him. Was his skin really as soft as it looked? What about his hair?

Very hesitantly, Hibiya reached out and lightly ran his fingers through the man's hair experimentally. It was just as soft as it looked. Hibiya couldn't help but watch as the strands caught the light from the window – his hair looked almost golden.

"It suits him a lot better than it does me..." Hibiya frowned. That just was not fair.

He nearly jumped out of his own skin when the man's lips parted in a heavy breath and he scrambled backwards, flailing with his frying pan a little bit. The man didn't move anymore, but his eyes scrunched up a little bit. From his position, Hibiya could see white teeth – straight and perfect ones, not a pointy tooth or fang in sight.

Unsure what to do or what the man's motives were, Hibiya quickly came up with a plan. Now that his curiosity was sated – for the most part at least – he could settle down to figuring out just what to do with him. Twining his hair around his wrist, he made up his mind and ignored his thoughts which were providing him with some rather distracting images. He hadn't realized just how creative his imagination was until that moment.

– –

When consciousness finally returned to Delic, he was aware of a couple of things. For one, his head was pounding; it felt as though someone had beaten him around the head with a table or something. For another, his hands were tied behind his back. Well, actually, he was pretty thoroughly tied up. That wasn't the weirdest thing, though, no that would be what he was tied up with.

His bonds were completely made up of hair.

That... was something new. Not to mention extremely strange and maybe a little disgusting. But at least he was waking up somewhere clean and not a dungeon that smelled suspiciously of feet and urine.

Experimentally, he tugged on his bonds. There wasn't any give to them, but the hair felt, well, different; it had more strength to it, Delic thought, but he was still confident that he could easily break out of his bonds if need be. He wasn't going to though, so long as whoever had caught him wasn't planning on turning him over to the guards.

"D-don't move!"

The voice was high and a little squeaky – from fear, most likely – but it was definitely male. Delic tipped his head to the side, curious.

"Does it look like I'm going anywhere?"

"Well... n-no... b-but don't move or I'll – I'll–!"

"Look, I don't know who you are–"

"You – wait, you don't?" The voice sounded surprised. Delic couldn't make out whoever it was he was talking too, all he knew was that they were male, but looking around, he could just barely make out a silhouette in the darkness of the tower. The coil of hair seemed to trace back to them, was it theirs?

Who needs this much hair?

"No, why would I?"

This day just kept getting weirder and weirder.

"You're after my hair, aren't you?"

"What? Why would I want that?" Delic frowned. Yes, this day was weird – first getting knocked out, then tied up with abnormally long hair, and then being accused of wanting to steal said hair. "Who would want to steal that? They can grow their own."

"Wait, so you're not after my hair?"

"Right now, the only thing I want is to get out of it," Delic grumbled. "Whatever you wanna believe about me is fine, but I'm not going to hurt you."

There was some hesitation before the other replied to that, "Do you promise?"

Finally! "Yes, I promise. Will you let me go now?"

"If I do..." He could just picture whoever was holding him hostage to be biting their lip almost nervously. "Will you do something for me?"

"Well, that depends. What would you want me to do?" It wasn't like he had much else to do, and maybe if he did something good for someone else than karma would stop screwing him over so badly.

The silhouette moved, darting over to where he could make out some curtains. Light poked through for a moment, revealing a thin young man with dark hair before the curtains fell back into place and plunged him back into darkness.

He didn't have to wait much longer for a better look at them. Quite suddenly he had a picture shoved in his face with the one holding him hostage standing in front of him, bending over and pressing it close to his face. Delic glanced from the picture to the young man holding it, choosing to look at him instead. He was much more interesting.

He had extremely long blond hair, which Delic thought looked a little odd on him, and he had matching eyes – seriously, they were a bright shade of gold that he'd never seen before. Delic had been right about his build though; he was slender and his face had a sort of delicate beauty to it. Honestly that combined with the hair was enough for Delic to think that he'd probably be mistaken for a girl by most people.

"These. I want to see these floating lights. Will you take me to see them if I let you go?" His tone and expression were kind of adorable... just in how he was trying to be threatening and all, with his lips turned down in a stern frown.

"Huh? You mean the floating lanterns that they release for the prince each year," Delic corrected. "What about it?"

The young man murmured something that sounded like, "So that's what they were..."

"Uh... you wanna see them? Why not go yourself?"

He'd pulled back the picture and had plopped himself down on the floor across from Delic, sitting with his legs crossed. Now that he could get a good look at him, Delic could tell that he was a good deal shorter than him. That wasn't too surprising; Delic was well aware that he was taller than most, it didn't help his reputation one bit.

"I don't know the way..."



"Look, if you want to see them so bad, then fine; I'll take you to see them." He had nothing better to do and he was awfully cute too.

"Will you bring me back too?" There was a sparkle of hope in his eyes and he leaned forward almost excitedly; he looked much younger than he probably was when he did that. Come to think of it, just how young was he anyway?


In hindsight, Delic probably should have thought that through a little more than he had at the time. Although, he was a little preoccupied with attempting to balance out his shitty luck – why not try being someone's rescuer for once?

.:-o-:. .:-o-:. .:-o-:.

There you go, a new chapter. I'm still hoping that I'll be able to muster at least one chapter a week, but I'm not going to make any promises just given how unpredictable my life can get and how that can affect my writing. So we'll just say that there'll be a new chapter soon. Hopefully.

Reviews are much loved and appreciated!