Chapter 20:

Volume 1, Chapter 16: Re-acquaintance

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:Bookmark here

Hi! Jio Kurenai here!Bookmark here

Sorry to keep you waiting~!Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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! :DBookmark here

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!Bookmark here

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! ;)Bookmark here

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Within the main campus of Cameron's Feint High School, in the confines of a room with ivory-castle yellow walls sat a young male student. He slouched, forearms resting on top of his loosely dangling knees, which shivered and struggled to support his upper body and keep it from accidentally falling forward.Bookmark here

Numerous cuts and holes riddled his clothes, which were also stained all over with his blood, especially his short-sleeved hoodie. From white, it was now almost completely carmine red.Bookmark here

Surrounded by one of the two teal sliding curtains that sort of gave at least two people their own private space within the 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 the blood that leaked from him. 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.Bookmark here

With nothing much to do but wait, he listened repeatedly to the sound of the door opening, footsteps tapping the tiled floor, the springs of the other exam table compressing, 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 stress broke her sense of professionalism.Bookmark here

✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧Bookmark here

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

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. They also wasted no time in raining down on her with all sorts of personal questions. Some were very personal like asking for her three sizes or if she was seeing anybody.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Lucas was that person. Finally reuniting with someone she recognized 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 spurning 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.Bookmark here

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

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 campus, 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, 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.Bookmark here

It was not like any of the fights Lucas was used to in the Underground Arena. Thanks to his experience, instinct, determination, and incredibly dense skeleton (which he was unaware of), 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. He defeated almost everyone who opposed him until Viola interfered and finished the last one off, revealing to him that she didn’t have to be a damsel in distress.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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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 slid away, allowing someone else to step in and approach him. He turned his face away from his visitor upon realizing who it was before slowly turning it back.Bookmark here

"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. A dark spot was present on one side of its brown material.Bookmark here

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

"What did you say just now? I didn't get that last part," Viola leaned forward, the gap between herself and Lucas narrowing closer.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

Viola shrugged with a sigh. "Alright, if you say so. Anyway, here's the stuff you requested."Bookmark here

She placed the small paper bag she was carrying next to where Lucas sat on the exam table.Bookmark here

Lucas thanked her in silence with a nod and snuck in a glimpse of her, trying his best to not look at her face, unless he wanted to lose his composure again. In that split-second of a glimpse, he saw 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 would smear her. Even though it wasn't his fault, Lucas couldn't help but apologize.Bookmark here

"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?"Bookmark here

"P-precious? M-me?" Lucas stammered over that word of endearment.Bookmark here

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

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

With Lucas being the only other person with her, Viola had nothing to look at except him. 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.Bookmark here

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

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

"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.Bookmark here

"N-not really. I'm fine." Lucas said, his hands balling into fists as they continued to rest on top of his knees. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

"W-what is it -- HAARKH!!"Bookmark here

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

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 long line of patients that day.Bookmark here

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

Slowly, Lucas' rolled his eyes 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 fingers 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 convinced that it was a knife.Bookmark here

A couple of seconds later, Viola slowly pulled her fingers out from under Lucas' chest. No wound was made. 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.Bookmark here

"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. His current state of emotions led him to forget about blushing even at the sight of her gaze. There was no stuttering coming out of his mouth either.Bookmark here

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

The bronze-haired girl's eyelids were twitching, and her eyebrows furrowed. She was fighting to hold back her relieved tears from falling 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!"Bookmark here

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

"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--"Bookmark here

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 rested on her shoulder, and the close proximity to her hair made him inhale its relaxing herbal scent. The hostility he felt toward her died in seconds.Bookmark here

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

Lucas said nothing for a moment but then confirmed Viola's assumption with a whisper.Bookmark here

"...Yeah."Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

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

"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!"Bookmark here

"Right... Sorry I said that." Lucas looked down at his knees.Bookmark here

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

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

"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 while you were really careless, you were also quite valiant. You looked pretty cool too."Bookmark here

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

"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."Bookmark here

Lucas bit his lower lip down hard as he recalled unpleasant memories of the previous night. A group of boys who wore matching ivory white uniforms, 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.Bookmark here

"Hmm... A 'Knight of Viola.' I kinda like that name,” Viola said, unaware of Lucas’ thoughts. “Maybe it’s because my last name is 'Knightley.' What do you think?"Bookmark here

He was unsure of how to answer her question. "Um... T-that's kind of--"Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

"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."Bookmark here

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

"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."Bookmark here

"Alright. Thank you," Lucas said as he twisted the bottle’s cap off before taking a sip.Bookmark here

"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 that she could head for the exit.Bookmark here

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

She looked back, beamed half of a smile and said, "Yes. You too, especially with what you're about to do.” She then whispered to herself, “I’m sorry I wasn’t prepared for this."Bookmark here

Lucas clasped his hands together in anxiety. Indeed, he wasn't going to enjoy what he was going to do next.Bookmark here

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 were to say it the next time he and Viola spoke, so this was both his first and last chance.Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

"Viola!"Bookmark here

...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.Bookmark here

Resigned to his failure, Lucas sunk into a mild form of depression similar to getting rejected. His face buried itself in 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. While Lucas was already reluctant to open it despite the benefits of its contents, this time, he didn't even feel like thinking about it.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

"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 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...?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

"S-sure!" Lucas' voice finally returned and he enthusiastically obliged, much to Viola's delight. "A-anytime you want!"Bookmark here

“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!"Bookmark here

With that, a now mostly satisfied Viola left the nurse's office to go to the principal's office as was her original objective.Bookmark here

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 his legs 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--Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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 from a convinience store near the school, which was why Lucas had to lend some money to Viola.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

What was that for? Lucas didn't own a pet.Bookmark here

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 to disinfect it.Bookmark here

He removed all 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 had numerous cuts, scrapes, and bruises no matter where he looked. The most prominent wound, however, was a straight diagonal gash that stretched from his right shoulder to the left side of his lower back.Bookmark here

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 tip to make a hook. The thin piece of stainless metal now resembled the letter "J."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

He would have preferred to seek professional help. Unfortunately, the closest hospital was in a part of town he refused to visit, and 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 could die of blood loss was something he couldn't wait around for. For once, he hoped someone (the nurse) would get fired from her job soon and he had a legit reason to think so.Bookmark here

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 switch hands.Bookmark here

Slowly, his left 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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

Over and over again the linen string traveled and looped through the tiny holes the needle made in his skin 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 the purpose of the chew toy. Still, it mildly annoyed the school nurse and the current student she was treating as Lucas was screeching like a rabid, caged animal that hadn’t been fed for days.Bookmark here

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 clock’s two hands managed to accomplish a number of revolutions.Bookmark here

At one point, his eyelids became 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. The chew toy was starting to break from the crushing pressure of his teeth.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. All 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 his back and left arm.Bookmark here

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

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 his 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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

"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."Bookmark here

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 when Lucas opened the door half-way and poked his head back into the clinic.Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

He 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.Bookmark here

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

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

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 didn't seem very wide so she was probably young and still had some 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.Bookmark here

With that thought out of the way, Lucas looked ahead only to find himself face-to-face with someone the nurse already dismissed. Bookmark here

He was leaning 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. Bookmark here

He 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.Bookmark here

"Hey... I need to talk to you," he said.Bookmark here

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

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

"How long?"Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

"Thank you," the student said, relieved. "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."Bookmark here

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 on the wall of lockers and began his piece.

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

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

"Oh, that's her name?" The trench coat student remarked, to which Lucas firmly pressed his lips, 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 wordlessly telling us to 'do the right thing'..."Bookmark here

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

"...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 felt the same."Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

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 his glimpse of a figure who was watching the schoolyard brawl from a distance while Viola was helping him to the school's main campus. It was someone with emerald green eyes, ashen hair, exotic skin, and a right arm wrapped in bandages. With those thoughts in mind, the pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit.Bookmark here

What happened that morning was made possible because of Fenris.Bookmark here

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 because 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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

"Oh, you're right." Lucas released his chin from his left hand. "Other than some cuts and bruises, it's fine."Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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

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--"Bookmark here

He came to a sudden stop when he realized that even though he couldn’t see Lucas' eyes from behind his wavy hair bangs, the trench coat student could tell from how the rest of his face looked that Lucas was giving him a fierce glare.Bookmark here

"I suggest you just accept the fact I've forgiven you and move on,” Lucas warned. “Don't mistake my kindness for weakness."Bookmark here

His tone struck as if he was speaking amidst a murder of crows that wanted to pick on a dead man's carcass.Bookmark here

"Err, right... I'll be going now," the mildly frightened student turned to walk away, but suddenly realized he had one more concern 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?"Bookmark here

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

"It's been bothering me, but I could’ve sworn that when I first saw your eyes during our fight, they strangely 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.Bookmark here

The bandage on the student’s forehead made Lucas remember. 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 gripped 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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

"Lucas Thorne."Bookmark here

An imposing voice called his name, resounding within the hallway they stood at. It wasn't loud enough to be a shout, but Lucas instantly recognized it and trembled, as did the trench coat student despite the call not being directed to him.Bookmark here

"Oh no..." Lucas expressed worry as the footsteps of shoes with resin rubber outsoles echoed across the previously silent hallway.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

He was clean-shaven, and the most noticeable feature he had was his "tapered nape" hairstyle: His long onyx hair, starting with his bangs and especially on the top of his head, gradually shortened as they moved closer to his nape and ears. The 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 as a stray bang.Bookmark here

In contrast to his 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.Bookmark here

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

"Mr. Faust..." he whispered under his breath.Bookmark here

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

Even though he was courteous and fair to everyone around him, he was also 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 whenever Mr. Faust 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 graduated from his class.Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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

"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 empty-handed so long as you are on school grounds."Bookmark here

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

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

"Good. I will be expecting you and that completed assignment tomorrow then." Mr. Faust turned away to continue his day the way he pleased when Lucas called him back.Bookmark here

"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 now had his hands clasped together and his head lowered 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."Bookmark here

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

Mr. Faust raised two fingers to the bridge of his glasses, adjusting it. "He's only asking you for a simple request, and my curiosity had been piqued for a while ever since you became one of my students last year." He crossed his arms, awaiting Lucas' next move.Bookmark here

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

"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.Bookmark here

"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?"Bookmark here

"No... I-I just--"Bookmark here

"Then open your eyes."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

The demanding tone of Mr. Faust's voice left Lucas enticed. 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 they opened at a snail’s pace and revealed themselves to the trench coat student and Mr. Faust. Bookmark here

The student dropped his jaw and gasped in surprise, but Mr. Faust remained indifferent.Bookmark here

"As you can see, his eyes are no different than yours or mine," he commented.Bookmark here

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

"So your eyes are brown, too."Bookmark here

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

They are?Bookmark here

Lucas knew the color of his eyes had the tendency to switch between white or brown, but he didn't know what made them change to the other. All he could recall was that they have shifted 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.Bookmark here

"So... does this mean I can go now?” Lucas asked. “I think the school bell is about to ring."Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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

He walked away from the two to navigate his way to the school's exit. Right after Lucas 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.Bookmark here

"Now it's your turn, young man," Mr. Faust chided the once again frightened student, who slowly forced his neck to face him. The infamous world history teacher removed his glasses, folded them, and placed them into his shirt's breast pocket. A piercing set of eyes revealed themselves, 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?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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