Chapter 20:

Chapter 16: Re-acquaintance

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:


Hi! Jio Kurenai here!


Sorry to keep you waiting~!


I'm very pleased to see that my novel has been getting some attention even while I remained inactive, and that brings this humble author to tears... To my newest fans, I hope we can interact in the comments because that is one of my favorite things to do right after I publish a chapter!


Now, this chapter is currently the second longest one I've ever written; about 700 words less than chapter 12 which was also the first chapter I wrote after another hiatus due to midterms! Never thought I would cram so much material into one but I guess it's all because of the pent up desire to write which had been building up while I practiced my grammar and Kanji.


This hiatus happened because my finals were coming and boy was it worth it! I still got a long ways to go, but I've managed to climb another step on the ladder to learning Japanese! :D


As usual, feel 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! YOU WILL BE HELPING YOURSELF AS WELL BY GIVING POINTS TO YOUR BADGE! BY THE WAY, COMMENTS GIVE MORE POINTS! ;)


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Within the main building of Cameron's Feint High, in the confines of a room with ivory-castle yellow walls sat a young male student. His weakened body was slouched forward, forearms resting on top of his loosely dangling knees, shivering and struggling as they tried to support his upper body to keep it from accidentally falling forward.


His clothes were riddled with numerous cuts and holes and stained all over with his blood, especially his once white short-sleeved hoodie, which was now almost a complete carmine red.


Surrounded by one of the two teal sliding curtains that sort of gave at least two people their own private room within a bigger room, Lucas Thorne sat on one of the two exam tables in the school nurse's office while waiting for something. These exam tables were the cheap kind of elevated bed that utilized a cotton mattress which was why the one Lucas sat on had been stained with a lot of blood that leaked from the numerous cuts all over his body. His exam table was also situated farthest away from the clinic's entrance. As the clock on the wall continued to tick, he fought the urge to fall asleep from feeling so weak.


With nothing much to do but wait, he listened over and over again to the sound of the door opening, footsteps tapping the tiled floor, the sound of another person propping himself on an exam table, a bit of some pained moaning, a notably weary female voice uttering the words "okay, we're finished", more footsteps and then the door closing. One by one, someone else was entering and exiting the nurse's office for treatment of their injuries. The poor school nurse who had to treat them all by herself was starting to lose her cool when her tiredness from treating so many patients in a single day, broke her sense of professionalism.


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Earlier that morning, Lucas and dozens of other male students who attended Cameron's Feint High were involved in a massive schoolyard brawl for a very outlandish reason. A new transfer student named Viola Knightly had just recently moved to Cameron's Feint and was at the school to negotiate her transfer to begin studying there in a few months time. Summer vacation was going to start a week from now.


Apparently, this new girl became quite popular the moment she first set foot on the school grounds as she unintentionally stole the hearts of almost every male student who laid eyes on her. It wasn't long before they all surrounded her, clustering like they were meeting a celebrity in person, into a massive crowd that wasted no time in raining down on her with all sorts of personal questions. Some were even bold like asking for her three sizes or if she was seeing anybody.


While trying to avoid or give a vague answer to every question that came her way, Viola was growing restless and a bit uncomfortable with all the attention she was getting, that is, until she caught sight of a familiar face she hasn't seen in over five years.


Lucas was that person. Finally reuniting with someone she recognizes after so many years led Viola to lose control of herself for a moment that she invaded Lucas' personal space with a "long-time-no-see" embrace, catching him off-guard while also spurring incredible jealousy from her new fanboys. It only served to rub salt into their wounds when they found out she knew Lucas since childhood, and so much of that theoretical salt was rubbed in that they didn't hear her mention what might have been enough for them to be rid of their hostility.


Viola was currently single and Lucas' relative, specifically his cousin.


Unfortunately, it was far too late for them as they had already begun to vent out their frustrations on Lucas not long after Viola entered the school's main building, leaving the scene. To Lucas' shock and horror, the boys who once gathered around Viola now surrounded him, except they actually had the nerve to violate school rules and raise the weapons they brought against him, forcing Lucas to fight all of them unarmed for the sake of ensuring the safety of his cousin's new life in Cameron's Feint.


It was not like any of the fights Lucas was used to in the Underground Arena. It was all thanks to his experience, instinct, determination and incredibly dense skeleton (which he was unaware of), that Lucas was able to fight through the damage sustained to him from swords, axes, maces, baseball bats and all sorts of other weapons that would normally kill a human being and defeat almost everyone who opposed him until Viola interfered and finished the last one off, revealing to him that she was no damsel in distress.


In the end, however, it was Lucas who was left with the most grievous of injuries when the fight ended. Wounds obtained from getting cut, battered and scrapped were far worse than getting knocked out with a physical strike to the face or body.


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Back in the nurse's office, Lucas was broken out of the sound cycle he was listening to when one of the curtains surrounding him was slid away, allowing someone else to approach him. He immediately turned his face away from his visitor then slowly he began to turn it back.


"Hey there. You feeling a little better?" Viola asked him, a bit uneasy. Gripped by her shivering hand was a small paper bag filled with items. There was a dark spot somewhere on its brown material.


"Y-Yeah," Lucas replied in a barely audible voice. "Now that you're here."


"What did you say just now? I didn't get that last part," Viola leaned forward, the gap between the two of them growing closer.


"I-It's nothing," Lucas' arms straightened and shuddered as they continued to push down on his knees. He also tried to erase the redness on his face through sheer force of will.


Viola shrugged with a sigh. "Alright, if you say so. Anyway, here's the stuff you requested." She placed the small paper bag she was carrying next to where Lucas sat on the exam table.


Lucas thanked her in silence with a nod and snuck in a glimpse of her, trying his best to not look at her face, lest he starts losing his composure again. In that split-second of a glimpse, he caught sight of how Viola's fashionable blouse was now dirtied, mostly on the shoulders. He didn't have to think hard about what caused that. After all, it was her who assisted him in walking up two floors of the school in order to reach the nurse's office and naturally, all that blood seeping out of his wounds have apparently smeared on her. Even though it wasn't his fault, Lucas couldn't help but apologize.


"What're you sayin' sorry for?" Viola forced a smile to herself and placed her hands on her hips. "I'm not that sensitive when it comes to my clothes getting dirty, and I knew what was coming when I decided to catch you. Besides, I'd look pretty stupid for being more concerned with looking good, over letting someone precious to me fall flat on his face, amirite?"


"P-Precious? M-Me?" Lucas stammered over that word of endearment.


"Of course. We're cousins after all!" She assured him with a friendly slap on his back.


Lucas dropped his head in disappointment from hearing the c-word again. "R-Right... Of course... Cousins..."


With Lucas being the only other person with her, Viola couldn't help but gaze at her injured cousin again. Even though she was happy that Lucas came out of the fight alive, other emotions dwelled in her as well. Maintaining a cheerful attitude was becoming too difficult for her.


The longer she stared at how bloody every part of him looked, the more Viola's anxiety began to overpower her.


Then she looked at the hand that she used earlier. The entire palm looked like it hit a red stamp pad.


"Well, I should be heading to the principal's office soon. I think I've delayed my appointment with him long enough. Is there anything you still want to talk to me about?" she asked.


"N-Not really. I'm fine." Lucas said, his hands balling into fists while they continued to rest on top of his knees. If there was one thing he could talk about besides wanting to catch up on the gap of years since they last met, it was that he fought in that schoolyard brawl this morning both to defend himself and for her sake.


"I see," Viola's eyes narrowed down as she placed a hand on Lucas' shoulder. "Then there's something I want to settle before I go."


"W-What is it -- HAARKH!!" 


Something silenced Lucas and forced him to flinch. He found himself unable to breathe when he felt something thrust deep into the hollow cavity below his chest. What he felt was a pointed object, short and sharp.


On another side of the curtain, the nurse, and another student she was treating stopped what they were doing and pointed their attention to where that weird sound came from. When nothing else reached her ears, the nurse went back to patching the student's injuries, releasing a worn out sigh as she was still not even halfway done with the number of patients who needed medical attention that day.


The kind of pain he felt pointed him toward one conclusion though he didn't want to believe he would ever arrive at that. Out of all the people in the world, it was Viola who had stabbed him hard in the solar plexus with a knife.


Slowly, Lucas' darted his eyes to look down, expecting to see a small weapon seeped in blood and jutting from his abdomen. To his astonishment, it was actually the index and middle finger of a human hand, and not a steel blade that sunk into him. These two fingers were straightened and firm while the rest were folded, hence why he was actually convinced that it was a knife.


A couple of seconds later, Viola slowly pulled her fingers out from under Lucas' chest. No wound was actually made. Right after that, Lucas gagged and coughed as the ability to breathe slowly became accessible to him again. He gasped for oxygen, taking in heavy breaths to make up for not being able to earlier.


"What was that for!? I'm already injured!" He lifted his head to metaphorically lock eyes with Viola who was now standing in front of him, face-to-face. His current state of emotion led him to forget about blushing even at the sight of her gaze. There was no stuttering coming out of his mouth either.


"That... was for scaring me!" Viola scolded him. 


The bronze-haired girl's eyelids were twitching and her eyebrows furrowing. She was fighting to hold back on letting her sorrowful tears fall as both of her hands gripped on to Lucas' shoulders and gave him a gentle, but powerful shake. "That was very reckless. Look at you, getting yourself hurt like that! I finally get to meet you again after five years abroad, only to witness you possibly losing an arm! I could have sworn my heart stopped beating for a couple of seconds. That's how horrified I was!"


Lucas looked away, still somewhat annoyed from the pain the surprise hand spear gave him despite knowing who did it.


"Well, I'm sorry you had to see that! I know facing someone with a weapon, let alone many was dumb, but I was only trying to--"


Lucas was cut off and silenced again. Not because Viola thrust him with another hand spear, but because she enveloped him in her arms, subjecting him to another tender embrace that stained her clothes with even more of his blood. His chin was rested on her shoulder and the close proximity to her hair made him inhale its relaxing herbal scent. The hostility he felt towards her was slowly dying.


"You were trying to protect me, right?" Viola acknowledged his actions from earlier that morning and a pair of streams ran down from her eyes.


Lucas said nothing for a moment but then confirmed Viola assumption with a whisper.


"...Yeah..."


Viola shut her eyes and hugged him tighter. "But you didn't have to go that far. And if those guys were becoming too persistent and annoying, I could've dealt with them myself."


"You mean you would've fought them off?" Lucas asked, mildly surprised.


"What!? No! Of course, I wouldn't!" Viola released Lucas from her hug and backed off a step. "That's the last thing I want to do. I'm supposed to be taking care of people, not beating them up!"


"Right... Sorry I said that," said Lucas looking at his knees.


"But you know," Viola calmed herself down and wiped away her tears. "That doesn't mean I don't appreciate what you went through."


Lucas raised his head up, slack-jawed as Viola lightly scratched her cheek with a finger.


"Of course I was very worried for your safety. But after seeing how you fought and won against weapons with nothing but your two fists, I gotta admit that you were really careless but also quite valiant. You looked pretty cool too."


"Really? Y-You really think so?" Lucas asked with a return of his bashful stuttering.


"I mean it," Viola assured him with a smile. "With the way you fought so hard for me to the bitter end, I couldn't help but think that I was like a princess being held hostage and you... It's like... you were my knight."


Lucas bit his lower lip down hard as he recalled bad memories of the previous night. A group of boys who wore matching ivory white uniforms, probably around his age, calling themselves the Knights of Viola were killed on short notice by Rio's hand while sounding off a war cry to protect their fair maiden. That fair maiden being Viola, of course. To Lucas, the word 'knight' had somewhat become taboo, made even worse if Viola herself said it. She might end up jinxing it.


"Hmm... A 'Knight of Viola'. I kinda like that name, maybe because my last name is 'Knightley'. What do you think, Lucas?"


Lucas was unsure of how to answer her question. "Um... T-That's kind of--" 


"You're right," Viola admitted. "If you were my knight, that would mean you'd be putting your life on the line just to make sure I'm safe. Sorry, I guess I shouldn't have said that."


That only made things feel even worse, Viola making an uncanny reference to what just happened to those who also fought for her, albeit it was one-sided.


Then the gesture she made to signify her regret left Lucas in bewilderment.


Viola shut her eyes and gave herself a light bop on the head with a fist she made while she stuck a bit of her tongue out. She even went *Tee-hee!* to complete it. It was a gesture Lucas never saw before, but apparently, it had an effect on him as heat suddenly rose to his cheeks and his face burned hotter than a furnace.


"Lucas are you alright? Your face is all red," Viola said, a hand covering her mouth.


"I-I'm just getting dizzy! Y-You know, from, bleeding all over the place and stuff, heheh..."


"Well then, you should be drinking this now." Viola reached for the paper bag she placed next to Lucas moments ago and pulled out a wet plastic bottle containing a sparkling orange liquid. "Here, I bought this for you."


"Tropikana Twister? Orange juice?" Lucas pondered as he took the bottle off Viola's hands, relishing the short but sweet moment their hands came into contact.


"It contains iron. Less blood means less iron which then makes everyday functions like moving difficult," Viola explained. "It's not the best way to replace lost blood, but at least it's better than nothing."


"Alright. Thank you," Lucas said, and he started to drink it with a sip.


"Okay, I think I've been stalling long enough. I guess I should get going for real now." Viola turned away and prepared to move one of the curtains surrounding them aside so she can head for the exit


"S-Sure. Take care." Lucas stopped drinking and muttered as Viola slid the curtain away.


She looked back, beamed half of a smile and said, "Yes. You too, especially with what you're about to do."


That last remark made Lucas clasp his hands together in anxiety. Indeed, he wasn't going to enjoy what he was going to do next.


Viola slid the curtain back and began to make her way out of the nurse's office. As she walked away, Lucas came to the realization that this was his last chance. He wanted to say something to her earlier, but his hesitation due to its content led Viola to think their conversation was already over. What he wanted to say would definitely feel out of place if he said it the next time he and Viola would speak, so this was both his first and last chance.


Time was running out. With every step she took, the sound of Viola's footsteps on the tiled floor grew more and more fainter to Lucas' ears. Finally, before he could fail to hear anything from her, Lucas clenched his teeth, braced himself and called her back...


"Viola!"


...but no voice from him came out. If only he could have stopped hesitating and made that leap of faith, his tongue wouldn't have felt too heavy to prevent him from speaking.


He was now resigned to his failure, Lucas sunk into a mild form of depression in a similar manner to getting rejected. His face buried itself into an open palm as he berated himself for letting this chance slip away. Next to him, the paper bag of items he requested remained untouched and while Lucas was already reluctant to open it despite knowing how beneficial its contents were, this time, he didn't even feel like thinking about it.


He was in his own little world. A place painted everywhere with moody colors. A place where he was alone and heard nothing, failing to hear the sound of footsteps growing louder until a familiar voice called his name, waking him up and bringing him back to reality.


Right away after waking up with a gasp, Lucas turned towards the direction the voice came from to see a head full of bronze petal-like hair and hazel almond eyes poking itself in between one of the curtains.


"Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you something!" Viola's eyes looked down and away while she twirled a part of her hair with her index finger before she continued speaking.


"Now that I've moved here and no longer need to wait several months just to see you and auntie again, I'm hoping that... we could find some time to hang out and maybe... get to know each other...?"


Viola's proposal was so out of nowhere to him that Lucas found himself breathless and unable to move, not like he was strong enough to do so anyway.


Viola took his silence like he must've been freaked out. "I know. It's pretty weird, but-- "


"S-Sure!" Lucas' voice finally returned and he enthusiastically obliged, much to Viola's delight. "A-Anytime you want!"


"Hehe, I was worried you'd start thinking I had few screws loose for saying that," Viola sheepishly giggled. "But great! I'll be looking forward to it!"


A now satisfied Viola left the nurse's office immediately to go to the principal's office as was her original objective.


Now, Lucas was in a state of bliss. He let himself fall backward, his back up to his head landed just barely on the edge of the narrow side of the exam table while the part of his legs just below the knees continued to dangle loosely on the other side. He was back in his own little world again, but his surroundings were now painted in vivid colors. In his fantasy, he was alone with Viola in a field of white gardenias. A gentle breeze bellowed as the two of them frolicked and then...


"What am I thinking!?" Lucas asked himself and snapped back as he awoke from his delusion. "Why should I put Viola and myself in a fantasy when I'm already taking steps toward the real thing?"


Right away, Lucas grabbed and dumped out the contents of the paper bag Viola left for him. It contained all the tools he needed in order to mend the injuries he sustained that morning. Some were already available from the nurse's office, but some had to be bought outside which was why Lucas lent some money to Viola.


The first items to spill out were a small metal pan, a new roll of toilet paper, an unopened bottle of medical alcohol and a few coins and dollar bills, his change from the purchase.


Following that, a bundle of black linen thread rolled out alongside a single needle, a pair of scissors and finally, the last item to fall out of the paper bag... was a blue rubber chew toy for dogs, covered in tiny bumps and shaped like a bone. What was that for? Lucas didn't own a pet.


After emptying the paper bag, Lucas began to make preparations. First, he poured some alcohol into the metal pan, just enough to fill about half its volume and dropped the needle into the liquid in order to disinfect it.


He removed all of his clothes, leaving himself with only a pair of boxers after making sure that no one had any intention of checking up on him from that point on. Without most of his clothes on, the numerous fight wounds Lucas obtained laid themselves bare. Every limb and almost every part of his torso was riddled with numerous cuts, scrapes, and bruises no matter where you looked. The most prominent wound, however, was a straight diagonal gash that stretched from his right trapezius all the way to the left side of his lower back.


Taking a deep breath to stop the trembling of his body, Lucas took the disinfected needle out of the alcohol in the metal pan and after a few tries managed to thread some black linen thread through its tiny eye. He then bent a part of the needle near its sharp point to make a hook. The thin piece of stainless metal now resembled the letter "J."


Clenching the rubber chew toy hard between his teeth, Lucas began the painstaking task of stitching every single one of his open wounds shut as they were far too deep for bandages to cover.


He would have preferred to seek professional help, but unfortunately, the school nurse already had a preferential means of prioritization to do the easier tasks first. She chose to cover the students beaten up by Lucas first because their injuries were far simpler to treat despite the fact that Lucas was the one with the greater need for medical attention. Lucas was normally the kind of person who was patient, but not treating his wounds before he dies of blood loss was something he couldn't wait around for. For once, he hoped that someone (the nurse) would get fired from her job soon and he had a legit reason to think so too.


He started with the smallest cut he could find on his right arm. Lucas was left-handed so he naturally chose to do the delicate work with his dominant hand, but he also knew he would have to eventually delegate the work to his other hand.


Slowly, his hand approached the straight wound. With most of his blood already lost, Lucas expected himself to feel too weak to work. His hand should have been shivering, but for some reason, Lucas found it easy to move his arm like he was never injured in the first place. It was strange, but Lucas chose to save figuring out why for later as he had a lot of wounds to treat.


For a moment he hesitated, but Lucas eventually jabbed the hooked needle into his skin, taking care to go for only the surface and not accidentally prick any muscle or bone.


This was not like taking a shot from an injection. The alcohol in the needle getting in contact with the countless nerves in him forced Lucas to endure a stinging sensation as if his skin was set on fire. Over and over again the linen string traveled and looped through the tiny holes in Lucas' skin that he made with the needle until it covered and closed the entire wound. The whole ordeal was unbearable enough to make Lucas scream his heart out but only a suppressed groan of pain leaked through his teeth. This was what the chew toy was used for. Still, it mildly annoyed the school nurse and the current student she was treating because Lucas was screeching like a rabid, caged animal that hasn't been fed for days.


It was better not to count how many more wounds needed stitches. Lucas just kept working and enduring the pain until he could finally seal the last wound shut. As he worked, the hands of the clock in the room managed to accomplish a number of revolutions.


At one point, his eyelids felt heavy and he began to grow weary of the amount of time he was taking. Before he could accidentally fall asleep on the spot, Lucas dumped all the alcohol from the metal pan straight into the biggest gash on his back. Like someone was branding him with hot metal, the burning agony was more than enough to force him back awake, but the chew toy was starting to break from the crushing pressure of his teeth.


Working on that gash was the most difficult wound to stitch. With no mirrors to tell exactly where he should pierce the needle, Lucas had no choice but to rely on the stinging pain from his back to help him pinpoint its location. And to add to that, his hands had to work behind him, which only served to increase the difficulty. That gash alone was a long and painful process that made the other wounds feel like child's play.


With a final snip from the pair of scissors, a perspiring Lucas released a triumphant sigh of relief as he cut off the black linen string for the last time, right after stitching the gash on his back to a close. All of his open wounds were now closed and the blood that once dirtied his skin had also been cleaned off with almost all of the toilet paper he had. However, his efforts didn't deserve much critical acclaim. The stitches were apparently done by an amateur, judging from the inconsistency in the gaps between the strings that pulled the skin back together, especially for the injuries on the back and the left arm.


After putting his damaged clothes back on, Lucas packed away almost everything he used back into the paper bag. He didn't care that some of them could have been taken from the same school nurse's office he stayed in as he could use the remaining medical supplies for later on.


What he did leave behind on the really bloody exam table were countless squares of red toilet paper, and the rubber chew toy, which at this point had already broken apart into three chunks after hours of bearing the brunt of Lucas' teeth. Either that chew toy was really fragile for being so cheap or Lucas had a strong set of jaws. He wasn't sure what to think.


With the paper bag in hand, Lucas was just about to turn the knob and leave the nurse's office when the nurse herself caught his attention. The young woman was in plain sight and in the middle of applying medicine to a scrape on a random Viola fanboy's elbow, who sat on the other exam table in the room. She didn't turn to look at Lucas. She was probably inexperienced or at least reluctant to treat his injuries due to how tedious and graphic stitching cuts or gashes can be.


Lucas looked at the clock. It was now quarter to 4, just fifteen more minutes before school ends for the day. Before leaving, he decided to leave the incompetent nurse with some parting words that buried themselves into her head once they entered her ears.


"I hope the drama back there was worth it because you still have a bed to change once you're finished with the line outside your office."


Lucas closed the door behind him after leaving, to which the nurse sighed in relief, thinking she was finally rid of that troublesome student... only to shrill without looking behind her when she heard Lucas open the door half-way and poke his head back into the clinic.


"Thought the day would never come when someone finally decided to use his weapon not just for show, huh? I hope the next guy with injuries like mine gets better treatment."


He then closed the door again, for good this time. The nurse took those words as a harsh reminder that she still had a lot to learn about her job, especially in this day and age.


Standing outside the door to the clinic, Lucas saw how long the line of injured students currently was and started to question his words towards the school nurse.


That was pretty harsh coming from me. She does have a lot to cover. Maybe I should go back in and apologize.


Then again, that nurse refused or was reluctant to treat his injuries right away even though he was the first one to enter her office. Lucas was unsure of what would be the right thing to do so he decided for the time being that maybe he should at least not snitch on the nurse's lack of professionalism. The age gap between her and the students she was treating didn't seem very wide so she's probably young and still has room to learn. Maybe after some time, he could see her in a new light if she took his words to heart and maybe he would be ready to accept an apology from her if she were to give him one.


With that thought out of the way, Lucas looked ahead only to find himself face-to-face with someone the nurse already dismissed. He had his back leaned on the wall opposite to the clinic and wore a lightly armored black trench coat. On his forehead was a square plaster bandage that was a bit stained in the middle with his blood. This was the dual sword-wielding student who earlier that morning, tried to chop Lucas' arm off, but failed to do so despite giving his all to his swing.


"Hey... I need to talk to you." He said.


Lucas wasn't that willing to engage in a conversation with someone who tried make him lose a limb. "After what you tried to do to me? No, thanks."


"Please, I've been waiting here for quite a while now."


"How long?"


"Since the morning assembly ended. And whether you believe it or not, I skipped classes and lunch just to wait here!"


Lucas sighed and raked some of his fingers through his hair. "Seriously? You didn't have to go that far." 


"I couldn't help it, there's something I want to tell you and I can't move on until it's done!"


"Alright, alright," Lucas groaned. "I'll listen to what you have to say."


"Thank you," the student said. "The first thing I should be doing is apologizing for my actions, but I want to explain what happened before the other guys and I attacked you. Let's talk about this somewhere others won't hear us."


The two of them moved to another hallway on the same floor, filled with school lockers and away from any classroom doors. The trench coat student leaned his back on the wall of lockers and began his piece.

"Right after we saw how you and that bronze rose--"


"She has a name, you know? It's Viola," Lucas interjected.


"Oh, that's her name?" The trench coat student remarked, to which Lucas pressed his lips firmly together, scowling. "Anyway, right after we saw how you and Viola were acting so friendly with each other, we were all struck with this strange feeling. All of a sudden, the guys and I felt like something heavy was dropped on our chests. It was weighing us down and telling us to 'do the right thing'..."


Lucas' eyes, hidden from plain sight behind his hair bangs widened and his chin dropped a bit. For a moment he was surprised. There was something oddly familiar about how those guys felt.


"...Then the next thing you know, we brought out our weapons and attacked you. I don't know why at least I would do such a thing. I saved years worth of my allowance, birthday and Christmas money to buy those swords and I know the school rules for irresponsible weapon use... but it still felt like it was the right thing to do. It was like I was just following my instincts. It's weird, but I think the others around me felt the same."


"I see. That does sound a bit weird," Lucas agreed, crossing his arms.


He looked down at a slight angle with a hand held to his chin as he thought about the possibility of an outside force being responsible. Then as if he was struck by lightning, he remembered a term from the crash course on [Renegades] Rio gave him while he was stuck in the Eastern nation of Nihan. Another thing that entered his thoughts was that he caught a glimpse of a figure who was watching the schoolyard brawl from a distance while Viola was helping him to the school's main building. It was someone with emerald green eyes, ashen hair, reddish skin and a right arm wrapped in bandages. With those thoughts in mind, the pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit.


What happened that morning was made possible because of Fenris.


Fenris, the first of the seven [Renegade] targets Rio assigned Lucas to hunt down as part of their contract, was near the school grounds that day. And the reason why dozens of male students felt the same before attacking Lucas was that they were all within the range of his [Influence] which must have covered a lot of distance since he wasn't near enough to be considered trespassing on school property.


Still, something was off. While the students who attacked Lucas must have done so because the [Influence] manipulated them, why did Lucas and the Knights of Viola, who had also gone through the same thing the previous night, not gain any violent tendencies? Other than the emotional trigger that happens when one gets within range of an [Influence], Lucas certainly did not feel like mindlessly attacking anyone while his heart felt heavy. The Knights of Viola may have had their weapons unsheathed, but they sure weren't out of their heads unlike how the students from this morning were.


It seems certain to him now that Rio was still hiding some secrets regarding the information she shared with him during her crash course on [Renegades].


"Anyway," the trench coat student continued. "I'm glad nothing bad happened to your arm when I tried to chop it. After all, you're using it right now."


"Oh, you're right." Lucas made his left hand let go of his chin. "Other than some cuts and bruises, it's fine."


"Great. I think I've explained everything," the trench coat student said. "So let me end this by saying that I'm really sorry for what happened and while I don't expect you to forgive me, I just wanted to do my part."


"It's okay, I forgive you," Lucas said. He now came to the conclusion that what happened was most likely beyond the control of the dozens of students who attacked him.


Naturally, the trench coat student couldn't help but feel overjoyed. "Really? Thank you! For someone who is quite a monster in a fight, you sure are kind and accept apologies easily--"


He came to a sudden stop when he realized that even though Lucas' eyes were hidden behind his wavy hair bangs, the trench coat student could tell from how the rest of his face looked that Lucas was giving him an angry glare.


"I suggest you just accept the fact I've forgiven you and move on. Don't mistake my kindness for weakness." 


Lucas warned the trench coat student, his tone struck as if he was speaking amidst a murder of crows that wanted to pick on a dead man's carcass.


"Err, right... I'll be going now," the mildly frightened student turned to walk away, but suddenly realized he had one more concern that he wanted to settle despite him now being reluctant to bother Lucas any further. "Sorry I can't help it, but can you show me your eyes?"


"What...? Why?" Lucas appeared to be naive over the trench coat student's curiosity, but he knew why he brought up that question.


"It's been bothering me, but I could have sworn that I when first saw your eyes during that fight, they were strange as they appeared to have no color. Nothing but white. I might sound crazy, but I just want to see it one more time and confirm everything for myself," the student urged him.


Thanks to the bandage on his forehead, Lucas remembered that after the student failed to chop his arm off, he tried to knock him out with a headbutt. In the process of doing it, however, he caught sight of Lucas' ghostly white eyes when he held a grip on his bangs. The inhuman appearance distracted him and made him botch his attempt, which only led to the move backfiring and the student knocking himself out like he tried to ram his head through a solid wall.


"You don't need to see them. They're just like as everyone else's."


Lucas tried to make him lose interest but to no avail.


"Then please show them to me and prove it," the student pressed on, starting to forget that Lucas already scared him, seconds ago. Now it was Lucas who was starting to back down.


"I think now's not the time to--"


"Lucas Thorne." 


An imposing voice calling him resounded within the hallway where they stood at. It wasn't very loud enough to be a shout, but Lucas instantly recognized it and felt uneasy as did the trench coat student despite the call not being directed to him.


"Oh no..." Lucas expressed his worry as he listened to the sound of footsteps from shoes with resin rubber outsoles echoing across the previously silent hallway.


The voice that called him belonged to an adult male who was making his way toward Lucas and the trench coat student. He had a slender frame and he easily towered over the two students when he approached them.


He was clean-shaven and the most noticeable feature he had was his "tapered nape" hairstyle: Long onyx hair, starting with his bangs and especially on the top of his head that gradually shortened as they moved closer to his nape and ears. His longest strands were combed back to form numerous wavy creases all over his head and a single lock of hair from the sharp widow's peak on his forehead dangled in front of him as a stray bang.


In contrast to hairstyle, his attire wouldn't stand out much in a crowd because it was the ordinary set of clothes most teachers would wear. A pure white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, a black necktie with a pattern of tiny silver squares all over it, a pair of black slacks, a dark leather belt with a square buckle, and polished leather shoes. He also wore a pair of ebony framed glasses with traces of silver on its temples.


Lucas found himself frozen in place and almost unable to breathe.


"It's Mr. Faust..." he whispered under his breath.


Soren Faust was this man's name. He worked as the teacher who taught world history to the students in their freshman year, a subject he felt passionate for thanks to how he possessed knowledge that didn't even exist in the textbooks.


Even though he was courteous and fair to everyone around him, he was still seen by both the students and the school staff as an emissary of fear. He was very intimidating, not because of the lessons he taught, the exams he gave, or the assignments he handed. In fact, those were rather easy so long as you did your part. What made others fear him, was the consequences of what happened if anyone did something that rubbed him the wrong way. Because of this, everyone in or out of school thought they were in the biggest trouble of their lives if Mr. Faust ever called them by name, especially if he called out their full names. Several students who had already suffered his wrath continued to be wary of him even after they had already graduated from his class.


"Perfect timing." Mr. Faust reached a hand into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper which he handed over to Lucas. "I was just about to seek you out."


"What's this?" Lucas asked, unfolding the paper that was no bigger than his hand.


"Today's assignment," Mr. Faust addressed. "Though it may be true that my colleagues have exempted you because of your injuries, not on my watch will you be leaving here empty-handed so long as you are on school grounds."


Lucas scanned the classy calligraphic writing on the paper depicting the world history assignment for the day and let out a sigh of relief.


"Yes sir, I'll get this done tonight." He stuffed the refolded paper into one of his pockets.


"Good. I will be expecting you and that completed assignment tomorrow then." Mr. Faust turned to the opposite direction to continue the day the way he pleased when Lucas called him back for a request.


"Sir, he's pestering me to show him my eyes," Lucas turned his head to point in the direction of the trench coat student who had now clasped his hands together and lowered his head with a meek frown.

Mr. Faust returned to where he stood earlier, directed his attention to Lucas and said, "Lucas... Be a nice lad and show him your eyes."


"You're taking his side!?" Lucas exclaimed while the trench coat student refrained from his nervous act.


Mr. Faust adjusted his glasses by raising them up with two fingers. "He's only asking you for a simple request, and my curiosity has been piqued for a while ever since you became one of my students last year." He crossed his arms and turned patient, awaiting Lucas' next move.


Lucas was in a tight spot now. What consequences will fall upon him if he reveals his unusual white eyes? It may only be for two people, but one of them holds a high level of authority within the school. Who knows what he will do.


"This... shouldn't be happening..." Lucas also crossed his arms, but unlike Mr. Faust's, his looked more nervous like he was desperately trying to form a barrier around himself.


"Why do you hesitate, Lucas?" Mr. Faust questioned him. "Are you implying that this young man's suspicions are on point, whatever they may be?"


"No... I-I just..."


"Then open your eyes."


Mr. Faust always spoke in a deep, posh and smooth accent. Apparently, he was from another nation. Students and school staff alike, whether they were male or female, found his voice to be seductive like it was audible chocolate or butter to their ears. His terrifying demeanor and other similar factors were major turn-offs, however.


Lucas felt like he was enticed by the demanding sound of Mr. Faust's voice. One hand began to move on its own and wouldn't stop no matter how hard he tried to fight the urge. Slowly, he brushed away the curtain of wavy bangs that shielded his eyes from view. They were closed shut, but at a snail's pace, they opened and revealed themselves to the trench coat student and Mr. Faust. The student dropped his jaw and gasped in surprise, but Mr. Faust remained indifferent.


"As you can see, his eyes are no different from yours and mine." Mr. Faust commented.


"No different?" Lucas couldn't believe what he was hearing.


The trench coat student, having now arrived at the answer to his question, apologized.


"So your eyes are brown, too."


"They are?"


Lucas knew the color of his eyes could either be white or brown, but he didn't know what made them change to the other. All he could recall was that they have shifted between the two colors at random while he was at home, Rea's clinic in Moonlight Shores and just now, at Cameron's Feint High. They stayed white everywhere else he went.


"So... Does this mean I can go now? I think the school bell is about to ring."


Mr. Faust nodded in approval. "Yes, it might be a hassle if you had to navigate around countless other students in your condition. Run along home now, Lucas. And do be on time for class tomorrow."


"Yeah, go ahead," the trench coat student rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Sorry again for what happened today and have a safe trip home."


Lucas perked up and covered his eyes with his bangs once more, relieved that this was finally over. "Thanks. See you two around."


He walked away from the two to navigate his way to the school's exit. Right after he turned a corner and disappeared from sight, the trench coat student was about to let himself slip away when he was stopped dead in his tracks by a hand that laid itself on his shoulder. It was gentle, very harmless to even the weakest of bugs, but then it gripped on to the shoulder with incredible pressure like its nails were a set of claws.


"Now it's your turn, young man," Mr. Faust chided the once again frightened student, who slowly rotated his neck to face him. The infamous world history teacher removed his glasses and placed them in his shirt's breast pocket, revealing a piercing set of eyes and within the fraction of a second, the student's mental state was bombarded with an amalgam of disturbances that made him break into cold sweat. "Students with no valid issues are not to be dismissed from their classrooms around this time. Tell me honestly, why have you disregarded today's class?"


The trench coat student swallowed a massive gulp of saliva and air, knowing that his reason for ditching class would be taken as a poor excuse.


A friendly reminder to anyone attending Cameron's Feint High School: You're either a good student or you've met Soren Faust at his worst.