Chapter 15:

Volume 1, Chapter 11: Back in Sarkansas

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Hi! Jio Kurenai here!

This chapter was meant to be longer than what it contains now, but I decided to split it into a two-parter because of my lack of time. It's been over a month since I published my last chapter and while I am thankful for those of you who were patient, I'm afraid I will have to ask for more of that patience again because as of this writing, I will be going on a short hiatus.

Here's why:

Sometime after publishing the latest chapter, I had to prepare for my Japanese midterm exams and that required a lot of my time. Now, my exam is over, but I'm not free yet. In a few hours right after this chapter gets published, I will be traveling to San Francisco, California, to spend a few weeks with my relatives. That means I won't get to work on the next chapter for awhile. After all, it's not every day that I get to travel to another country so far from home.

To all of you who are always looking forward to the next chapter of "Parable of the Renegades," I apologize for going on this short hiatus. I hope that despite the chopped off content of this chapter, it can still keep you guys entertained, and I hope you will continue to show your support for me until I return home to continue.

Oh, and just because I can't write while I'm on vacation, it doesn't mean I can't read your works. I will continue to check out the latest in every story I added to my library and I'll continue to show my support for you guys too. Honeyfeed really needs more active users like last year. ;)

As usual free to leave a comment below. It can be anything like a random question, a comment for fun or any constructive criticism to help me improve! A "Like" would definitely be appreciated too!

Recent Edit: I decided to rename this chapter from "Monday (Part 1) because it turns out a two-parter isn't enough for the content and massive word count I've written for the next chapter. I also realized Monday is a really simple, but big word when it comes to events taking place. My apologies.
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The first sounds he heard was the chorus of birds chirping from outside. His eyes opening slowly, Lucas awoke a little dizzy with a slight headache hammering at his cranium. His arms extended behind his shoulders, supporting him as he sat up and took a deep breath.

He brushed aside some of his hair bangs as they had irritated a small part of his forehead just above his left eyebrow. This allowed one of his eyes, still unnaturally white as a pearl, to peek out. Although he was still sleepy, it wasn't difficult for him to determine his current location.

The walls were colored a calming beige, and a stack of notebooks and a laptop were the most prominent objects to be perched on an L-shaped desk. The bed he sat on had a mattress made of comforting memory foam and the aroma wafting in the room reminded him of white ginger. Lucas didn't have to look around himself, he was in a safe place - his room. Seconds later, the filtered rays of the sun through the window kissed him good morning on the right side of his face. Lucas had been brought back from the eastern nation of Nihan to his home in Sarkansas and the sun had just begun to rise.

After a yawn and some quick arm stretching to get the blood in his veins flowing, Lucas turned to his left and sat on the edge of the bed, only to jolt when he found out he wasn't the only person in the room

"Good morning," a soothing voice with a bit of slyness greeted him.

"Ri-"

Lucas was very close to saying that person's given name again but managed to stop himself at the last second. After making that mistake three times, the fact that she considered it bad manners to be called by her given name had finally drilled itself into his head... Almost.

"Um, hey, you're still here?" Lucas said, re-wording himself.

Rio Kiyodera, the young female [Renegade] assassin from Nihan, sat on the floor in a seiza posture, where she had her knees folded beneath her while keeping her back straight and pointed up. Opened in her hand was one of the books she had taken off the shelf. It wasn't just any book that she chose at random. She was reading an English version of a light novel, a form of literature originating from Nihan that made a cultural impact around the world for its appeal to those who were fond of the weird and the wonderful. Her azure eye was half-closed and the look on her face conveyed that she wasn't having the time of her life as she flipped through the pages.

"Tell me. Is this how you see Nihan?" Rio said as she closed the book and wiggled it side to side in front of herself.

"I… often hear the quote 'only in Nihan' when something is just plain weird," Lucas admitted.

A disappointed sigh came from Rio as she returned the book to its gap on the shelf. "I am happy to know that some of my nation's culture has reached out to the world, but when it comes to something popular, why did it have to be these?"

Lucas could tell why she was disappointed. While he couldn't say he knew everything about light novels, all the ones he had in his room, recommended and loaned to him by Davis apparently, had something to do with targeting male teenagers and young adults. All the light novels and manga that Rio skimmed on the shelf varied in genres such as action, adventure, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. But despite the variations, they all had one thing in common: ecchi. Those kinds of storylines were peppered with plenty of stimulating moments like shots of a girl's underwear, ridiculously seductive outfits and characters getting into accidents that leave them in suggestive positions. While chastity was not something Rio was all about, the aspects of most light novels left her questioning the creative minds of her nation along with the fans who adored them.

"You know," Lucas called for Rio's attention. "I can't say for sure if light novels or manga only go this far because I just started to read them not too long ago, but uh, even if they did, I'd still read them. Novels, comics or cartoons from the West couldn't come up with something so over the top. That actually makes this a breath of fresh air to some of us. I guess that's why works like these are popular. It's so random, but also... interesting."

"I am not sure I understand," Rio tilted her head to her right.

"I'm... just someone who's fond of the unusual, I guess." Lucas tried to make random gestures with his hands, which just resulted in erratic movements that hardly made any sense. "It always catches me off guard, and uh, after reading some of their stories, I kinda wished my life could become one as crazy as that. I guess that’s about it."

*Ufufufufu* Rio snickered, her head tilted down as if she wanted no one to see the look on her face. "You are so terrible at giving speeches." She lifted her head back up and beamed a quick grin. "But still, I feel better now. Thank you."

Lucas was left breathless as he tried to look away, a fruitless attempt to cover the redness that stained his face. He actually had no idea about what he just said. He wasn't kidding when he said he just started to read manga or light novels, but he didn't know the reason they were so appealing so he just made up an answer on the spot. It looked like he caught a lucky break because Rio appeared satisfied with his last-minute explanation. Maybe she appreciated him for trying - or maybe Rio cheered up because his poor attempt at a speech was hilarious to her. Lucas was uncertain on what side he should lean on.

His actions then came into question. Why did he try to cheer up Rio, the one who kidnapped him? He took a glance at her heart-shaped face (while she was distracted by something else), and the first thought that entered his head was seeing her smile. Even if it wasn’t a happy one, it was better than the moody expression she was wearing earlier, or the one devoid of emotion when she was doing her job as an assassin for hire. Speaking of assassins, she wasn't dressed in that outfit she wore for the job. She was still wearing her casual clothes, a wool turtleneck sweater, and silk pants. In addition to that, she had a pair of rubber sandals on for footwear. Aside from the eye-patch, maybe it was because she now looked like a normal girl that Lucas felt slightly at ease.

Shortly after that, a vibration and a sound clip came from Lucas’ right pocket. The one responsible for that was his smartphone, which had just activated its morning alarm as it was programmed to do every 7 am on weekdays. Lucas pulled the device from his pocket and began tapping on its large rectangular touch screen with his thumbs to turn off the alarm - by solving a math problem.

It was nothing complex. Just a combination of addition, subtraction, and multiplication with some parenthesis thrown into the mix. Simple, but not something that could be done so easily when half-asleep.

The sound playing on the phone caught Rio's attention. It was the voice of a girl, who spoke in a cheery voice while putting emphasis on some of her words so she could make herself sound more adorable and cute. As the alarm girl spoke, she made plenty of cute facial expressions and gestures with her hands while yellow diamond-shaped sparkles twinkled around her.

「♪ネ!ご主人ーさま。ご主人ーさま!起きてくださいませ!ご主人ーさま、もう朝だよ!起きないとご主人ーさまのこと、くすぐりますよ!コチョコチョコチョコチョ!♪」

"Do you know what she is saying?" Rio asked Lucas, who was still in the process of solving the math problem presented to him.

"Never tried to find out," he replied curtly without taking his eyes off his smartphone's touchscreen.

"Okay. Well then listen to this..." *Ahem* Rio cleared her throat then pinched a part of it with her left thumb and index finger just as the alarm girl on Lucas' phone was about to repeat herself.

"♪Hey! Master~ Master~! Won't you wake up for me, please~?♪"

"Huh?"

Lucas stopped trying to turn off the alarm as he got distracted by what seemed to be the alarm girl's voice but coming from in front of him.

"♪Master, it is already morning~!♪"

Rio mimicked the alarm girl's voice down to the right tone and pitch but spoke all her lines in English. She and the alarm were speaking in sync, but it wasn't difficult for Rio to overshadow the device with a louder volume.

Lucas shifted his eyes several times between the girl on his phone and the girl in front of him. Trying focus on two things at the same time began to throw his senses into disarray. It wasn't long before Rio and the alarm girl merged figuratively in Lucas' point of view.

Rio continued to stand before him, but what she was wearing... was the alarm girl's outfit... A French maid's uniform.

White frilly laces and black silky fabric accented the uniform. A choker decorated with a ribbon was worn around her neck and a heart-shaped keyhole on her chest allowed some of her cleavage to be exposed.

Rio stood up, her mini-skirt swayed left and right with every step she took as she slowly approached Lucas with a mischievous smile that confused, but also enticed him. Rio raised her hands in front of her, her fingers wiggling like they had the urge to touch something as she recited the final warning of the wake-up call.

"♪If you do not wake up, I will tickle you~! Kocho Kocho Kocho Kocho~!♪"

And before Lucas realized it, the distance between him and Rio became very, very intimate.

"UWAAAHH!!! DON'T TOUCH ME!"

Lucas panicked and scrambled backward until he hit the wall, dropping his phone by accident in the process. Lucky for him, it was protected by a shock-proof case, so it just bounced a few times on the floor before it laid itself flat.

"What are you talking about? I was not trying to touch you this time," Rio assured him, her voice returning to its normal tone after her fingers released their pinch on her neck.

His mind stopped playing tricks on him. Lucas saw that in actuality, Rio still hadn't moved from her spot on the floor, unlike what his mind portrayed her to be. True to her word, her hands were resting on her lap, so it didn't look like she had any intention of touching him either, which was good because unless her [Third law: Reaper's Embrace] didn't exist, engaging her in the barest form of physical contact was not going to be the best of ideas... as tempting as it may be.

With that short illusion now broken, Lucas picked up his phone from the floor and finished solving the math problem to turn off its alarm. Thanks to that wake-up call of what he thought to be Rio trying to tickle him, not a single hint of sleepiness in him remained. The alarm had accomplished its job for the day.

"My friend was the one who downloaded it. Said it'd be motivating."

Lucas gave his excuse, only to be met with a monotone response from Rio.

"...Okay..."

The two of them stayed silent for a few seconds until Rio found a way break the ice.

"You do not want to be late for school, yes?"

"Y-yeah, school. Right," Lucas remembered, scooching off his bed and letting his bare feet hit the floor.

He approached the closet that was built into the wall and swung its doors open, revealing a full-body mirror behind one of the doors and stacks of clothes all categorized into different shelves. He picked out a new fresh batch of clothes to replace the previously sweat-drenched and bloody clothes he wore while fighting in the Underground Arena and during his stay in Nihan.

Immediately after making his selection, Lucas lifted his shirt halfway up, but then stopped when he caught Rio staring. No comment was needed. Rio just stared in surprise at how well-built his figure was. Her eye expanded to almost double its original size.

"Sorry, I um... It's a habit. I'll change in the bathroom," Lucas said, his face a bit red.

Rio nodded with jerking movements as if the joints in her neck were stiff. "Yes... You go do that."

She turned away, waiting for Lucas to leave her alone. Deep in her thoughts, Rio realized that it's been awhile since the last time she felt so stimulated; she once experienced forbidden activities first-hand despite her young age. Repeatedly, she told herself until she was convinced that it was nothing more than a release of pent-up tension that had been building up since that time. The seal was slightly undone from spending the previous night with Lucas.

When Lucas left his room to change, Rio took this short time of isolation to see what his room contained. Maybe it could tell her something about the person she had bound to her will, even if just a little.

The room had no decorations. All it contained was a closet, a bookshelf, a bed for one person, an office chair and a desk where a laptop and a stack of notebooks. With so little furniture and appliances, Rio could see almost the entirety of the beige walls, door, and ceiling. She concluded without much thought that it was like looking at a blank canvas waiting to be painted on.

Meanwhile, Lucas was enjoying his bare feet getting tickled by the long carpet that stretched across the hallway. He strolled all the way to the end of the hall, where the bathroom was located.

After locking its door and facing its mirror, Lucas started with his shirt. As soon as he took it off, he was reminded of the contract Rio forced onto him. The mark of [Broken Vow] was on display from the mirror's reflection on the upper half of his chest, just below the sternum and between the pectoral muscles. Seven arrowheads were all surrounding and pointing at a heart-like symbol in a circle formation. Until he kills the seven [Renegades] on Rio's hit-list, starting with the one that already lives in or at least nearby Cameron's Feint, that mark won't be going away anytime soon. And soon would probably mean a long time. Until then, he could probably pretend it's just a henna tattoo with the mark being jet-black in color and all.

When Lucas emerged from the bathroom minutes later, his attire consisted of a navy-blue mesh shirt, a white short-sleeved hoodie, and black jeans. The mesh shirt was based on a certain type of motorcycle jacket as it was designed to have a bit of protection with the front and back being accented with thin, but durable rubber armor. The armor on his back was separated into multiple joints, making it resemble a spinal cord, while the front looked like chiseled pecs and a six-pack. Its design wasn't meant to compensate for anything. As Rio thought earlier, when it came to his actual physique, Lucas could best be described as a diamond in the rough. Lucas wore the hoodie over his shirt to keep it from being too distracting while keeping himself protected.

Returning to his room, Lucas found Rio sitting on his bed. Apparently, she was waiting for him.

She sent a perplexed look his way. "Is that what you wear as a uniform? You are going to school, right?"

"Well, so long as it doesn't get people to look at you funny, you can wear anything you want," Lucas informed her.

"Alright. Well, while you are at school, I will be staying here for a while before I return home. I need to rest a bit."

Lucas sighed and contemplated. It's a terrible idea to leave his house to someone he just met, but with Rea being away until next Sunday and no trustworthy person left to house-sit, he had no choice for now. Best he left Rio with a warning, albeit slightly fabricated.

Lucas told her that if anything in his house moved from its original spot, he'd know. Rio's simple response to that was to scowl. She was unconvinced but gave Lucas the answer he wanted as she stretched with both arms pointing up before laying herself down on his bed. Apparently, Lucas had been keeping his bed clean as it wasn't so riddled with his scent. The lack of foul distractions allowed an idea to pop into Rio's head. She sat up and moved over to the bed’s edge.

"Lucas-san~," she cooed to one who had just turned away and was about to pick up his things for school.

He turned around to face her, mildly annoyed at the honorific.

"Since you and I will be working together for a while, I suppose dropping the '-san' would be alright."

Lucas lightened up a bit from hearing the offer. "Really? That'd be great."

"But first, I want something. Come over here, will you~?"

For a moment, Lucas felt flustered with Rio's choice of words combined with her seemingly innocent demeanor. Then again, awkward sentences like this are to be expected from a person's second language, right?

Lucas scratched the back of his head as he began to realize what she meant. "Let me guess... it's number three isn't it?"

"Mm-hmm." Rio nodded then stuck her hand in front of her face down to make a pulling motion with her fingers.

"Not worth the trouble." Lucas turned away and walked to the door.

"Then stay where you are. This will not take long~" Rio braced herself and prepared to attack like a predator to its prey.

"...No... Don't!"

Rio shot herself off the bed with what little energy she had left. She reached out to get a hold of Lucas, whose attempt to open the room's door and escape ended in failure.

【法『Rio's Third Law: Reaper's Embrace』法】

The [Law] went to work immediately when Rio grasped one of Lucas' exposed arms. At the exact moment they touched, a single heartbeat echoed in Lucas' head and his vision became distorted for a second. At the same time, incredible pain surged within him as his stamina got sucked away. Although Rio's hand was very smooth and delicate, Lucas felt nothing satisfying.

Rio on the other hand, looked like she was having the time of her life.

「ハアー。。。いつもいい気持ち。。。」(Hahhh... It always feels good...)

She moaned with her head held high as she felt Lucas' life-force flowing into her. She felt like she could walk on water, her pale skin showing signs of luster while the one who paid the price fell to his knees. A few seconds of the draining touch was enough for Rio and she loosened her grip when she hit her minimum level of satisfaction. Gliding past Lucas and exiting the room, Rio left him behind saying, "A bargain is a bargain. Looking forward to working with you, Lucas~"

With his stamina drained off from a few seconds of contact, and Rio no longer clutching his arm to keep him from toppling over, Lucas fell flat on the wooden floor. His arms were too weak to help him soften the impact and the first part of him to hit the ground was his face.

"Dammit, Rio... You better not be doing something weird, or else..." he muttered.

Then again, how could he hope to stop her if she was doing something weird? Lucas' only weapon was his skill in hand-to-hand combat and Rio's third [Law] was the perfect counter to it. Resigned to his disadvantage for the time being, Lucas had no choice but to hope that Rio would behave at least decently while she stayed in his house.

As he previously realized from his experience with Rio's third [Law], it only took a few seconds for Lucas to regain his stamina. Good thing her [Law] worked like that. After recovering, Lucas stood back up and slung his schoolbag, a one-strap messenger bag, over his shoulder. He then put on his socks and shoes before making his way to the stairs, which was in the left corner of the same spot the door to the bathroom was found.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, a sense of euphoria permeated Lucas, arousing him. It was Rio's [Influence], a signal that she was nearby and true to that, it lead Lucas to find her in his kitchen.

It existed as a really small hallway with two ways of entering it and was located in the same room as the living room, only separated by a counter that was styled after a bar. There were plenty of drawers and cabinets just below one side of the counter, and appliances were situated on either side of the small hallway. Among the appliances were an electric stove, a coffee machine, a sink, a refrigerator, a microwave and a toaster oven where Rio was heating up a sandwich that was wrapped in aluminum foil. It was pre-made, coming from the dozens of sandwiches Lucas made in advance so he could have a quick breakfast if he didn't have much time to prepare for school. There were different varieties that occupied one of the shelves in the refrigerator such as chicken, tuna, mushroom, beef, and ham with cheese.

"You know, all you had to do was ask if you wanted one of those," Lucas put his bag down on the counter as he took a step into the kitchen.

"Sure," Rio said. "Can I have one after this?"

"Just how hungry are you?"

"Who said this one is for me~?" Rio hinted with a smirk.

Lucas blushed a little. "You mean to say--"

"That is right~ Consider this my apology for earlier~"

With one contemplating on whether to say "thank you" or not and the other one watching the steady rotation of a knob on the bottom right corner of the toaster-oven, silence engulfed the two. After a few minutes of waiting, a *ding* sound played as the toaster finished its job on the sandwich.

"Here, let me get you some mittens to protect your hands."

Lucas went over to one of the drawers but stopped in his tracks. He was astonished when he saw Rio stick her bare hand into the oven's burning interior without hesitation. Despite the heat that remained in the powered down appliance, she didn't wince at all and proceeded to grasp the sandwich before taking it out.

"Catch." She tossed the foil-wrapped sandwich his way in a similar manner to a Frisbee.

Like he was anticipating a punch from an opponent, Lucas caught the foil covered projectile with a single hand, just inches away from his face. The catch was impressive, but then his hand surged with an intense burning sensation.

"Ahh! Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot!"

Lucas panicked while giving short tosses to the freshly heated sandwich, exchanging the bearing of heat by juggling it between his hands. While doing so, he struggled to make his way to the cabinet where the plates were being kept. Rio could only watch in amusement as she opened the refrigerator to pick out another sandwich for herself.

When her sandwich was toasted, Rio took a seat next to Lucas on the counter, who was taking his time to savor his meal. The sandwich he was eating was chicken. The boneless chicken fillet, mayonnaise, celery, and pepper were all harmonizing in flavor as he ate. Lucas was surprised, but pleasantly so over how Rio just happened to pick his favorite among the different kinds of sandwiches he made.

Rio, on the other hand, didn't bother to get a plate for herself despite the possibility that she now knew where they were. She just kept her hands gripped firmly on her sandwich as she ate it and enjoyed the filling of wild mushrooms.

"So..." Lucas said out of curiosity, to which Rio turned her attention to him. "The way you got that sandwich out of the toaster without burning your hand... Is that a [Renegade] secret you haven't told me about?"

Rio said nothing, only responding with only a quick smirk that exposed the bits of mushrooms stuck onto her teeth before going back to finish her sandwich. Lucas went back to eating his breakfast.

Something I need to observe, huh...

After taking one last bite to finish his sandwich, Lucas picked up his bag and prepared to leave the house for school. It was currently 7:20, just ten more minutes before the next bus would arrive. On the way out, he grabbed a key meant for the front door.

"Have a good day!" Rio called out to him on his way out.

Lucas came to a sudden stop. He sure wasn't expecting that, but it was still nice to hear. "Um, yeah... Thanks. Will you... still be here when I return?" he asked, a bit nervous.

*Ufufufu* "Do you want me to stay~?" Rio teased him. "I have school too, you know? Except it is all the way back home. In Nihan."

Lucas was left unsure of Rio's next move. If she leaves now or in a few minutes, that would be great. Unrelenting from earlier, he wasn't willing to just leave the house to someone he just met and even worse, leave it with a [Renegade], just when he had started to learn about them. Still, he couldn't afford to arrive at school before 8:00 am. Taking a deep breath, Lucas locked the front door and closed it with a bit of worry.

From behind a window, Rio watched him walk away until he disappeared from her sight. With her feeling like she had taken about a few good hours of rest, Rio began to make plans of her own.

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