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Shockingly, Eisaku had not followed them and finished what he started. Hiro's cheeks were wet with tears. "Mommy, will Daddy be okay?" he cried. Hiro had taken such a liking to him he had started to call him Daddy, it had disturbed Hitoshi at first, but he'd grown used to it. "Daddy will be all right once I heal him, do not worry Hiro." Noel answered tightly. Sometime later they landed in a clearing and Noel gently rested Hitoshi on his stomach. Most of Hitoshi's coat and shirt had been scorched into dust and his skin was a horrific sight. The ex-experiment bit her lip and started the demon healing process. Hitoshi groaned, wishing he could just be knocked out. "T-This will help you, Hitoshi. I don't believe ordinary doctors would, as well." Noel declared, her mouth unsteady. As the burns slowly were mended, Hitoshi gained more conscious. "Hiro... is he all right?" he moaned. "H-Hiro is fine, just worried about you." she replied, sniffing. "Hitoshi, you could have been killed. You know the Akatsuki is merciless, and you are not a ninja." Hitoshi half-smiled. "People do crazy things when they're in love. That's what Dad always used to say." Noel stopped her jutsu for a split second. "L-Love?" she repeated. "Yeah, love. Hiro means the world to you, and I had to prove myself to you in some way. I didn't think, but a man in love never does. What can I say?" Noel's eyes were hopeful, questioning. "I'm sorry I didn't realize it earlier, and that's what shocks me the most. Me, the guy with all the love advice!" he laughed weakly. Hitoshi then grew sober. "N-Noel, I love you. I think I did from the beginning, maybe that was why I couldn't stand to see you mistreated or unhappy." Wet, joyous streams of tears trailed down the teenage girl's face. "You... asked me before, how I could always protect you and Hiro if I lived with Malikai and the others... I think I have an answer." Most of his burns were healed and he rolled over slowly as Noel kissed him. (ended)

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