Chapter 21:

Chapter 17: Lighting the Spark

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:


Hi! Jio Kurenai 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!


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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The bell of Cameron's Feint High school was only two minutes away from ringing. 


Almost as if he were one of the living dead in terms of looks and the way he moved, Lucas continued to walk with a slight limp as he slowly navigated himself to the campus' exit, which was on the first floor. He could still feel a bit of throbbing pain from his bruises along with the cuts and gashes he tried to stitch to a close, but for some reason, the difficulty in simple movements that previously hindered him was gone. He had no clue on what made moving so easy again but regardless, he was glad he could go home at his own pace.


By the number of hours Lucas spent mending himself in the nurse's office, he was certain Viola must have already gone home on her own. Besides, it would be too much of a hassle to go all the way to the principal's office on the fourth floor only to find out she was already gone.


To get to the staircase that would lead down to the first floor, Lucas had to pass the nurse's office and the long line of injured students waiting outside it. The line stretched across the long hallway with the person at the back of the line just a few feet away from the staircase.


Neither Lucas nor the students looked at each other, not even a glance. Lucas stayed close to the wall opposite to the other students while he walked past. It appeared neither side wanted to remember the senseless violence that occurred and Lucas was more concerned with getting to the school bus while the path to it was still clear.


It turned out not all of the injured students felt humbled by Lucas' retaliation. One of them in the middle of the line had the nerve to mutter a verbal jab right after Lucas took a few steps past him.


"You just got lucky, punk..."


Lucas did not have an exceptional sense of hearing but what little he could pick up still sounded spiteful, enough to make him come to a stop. His head swung toward the line as he attempted to identify the student that tried to talk behind his back. His subtle glare was all it took to remind the entire line of what left them in need of medical attention in the first place. It wasn't more than a few seconds later before they scrambled into a frenzy, every panicking student tried to prematurely force themselves into the nurse's office to the displeasure of those who were already inside.


Now with nobody around to make him feel uncomfortable with their unwanted attention, Lucas managed to open the door to the outside just as the school bell began its earsplitting ring.


While every other student was busy packing their school supplies to wrap up for the day, Lucas came across a familiar object right as he stepped foot on the pavement outside. He had forgotten to take off his schoolbag right when he started risking his life against a horde of weapons. The rectangular bag's only strap was severed clean, apparently cut by a bladed weapon in the middle of the fight. Lucas checked the bag's contents and was glad to know that nothing in it was stolen despite the hours that passed. If he had to worry about losing anything, it would be his trio of high-quality pens because who wouldn't ignore a free pen, especially the type that wasn't so cheap? Lucas had them in black, blue and red. They were the perfect colors for note taking.


A few seconds was all it took to tie the severed ends of the bag's strap together in a knot. Lucas then slung it over his shoulder before boarding the school bus.


As always, at the end of every school day, a couple of these yellow vehicles were parked on the road outside for those who wouldn't be picked up by their parents or anyone else. Lucas made himself comfortable on the back seat and gazed at the school from the window to see the school grounds now flooded with students, some looking like they jumped straight out of a video game and some sticking to the old-school unarmored modern attire. Most of them were excited that they were taking another step closer to summer vacation next week.


The back seat was Lucas and Davis' favorite spot thanks to it being just one wide leather seat instead of two individual chairs on either side. The extra room allowed the two to sit in non-conventional ways without a worry of discomfort or invading each other's personal space. Despite having enough room for about five people, it was uncommon for anyone to join the two friends and it was more unlikely they would have any company now because one of them was dressed in ripped and bloody clothes, which made him not too pleasant to look at.


Lucas leaned back on the window, legs stretched across the leather material, and he turned his head to continue looking at the outside view.


The very bus Lucas boarded was eventually filled with other students minutes later and one person boarded this particular vehicle because he had a clear view of his friend sitting by the last window.


"Yo!" Davis took his usual spot next to Lucas and got himself seated right next to his feet, placing his own bag and weapon, a halberd, next to the window on his side. "Man, you really look more banged up than I thought."


"I've seen better days," Lucas responded with a weak smile as he tried to relax.


"No kidding, dude. You know, you were the main talk of the day. Everyone who didn't get their asses kicked was gossiping about you left and right!"


Lucas had mixed feelings about this. Trending amongst the student body was something he wouldn't mind accepting if only it weren't for a reason like thrashing almost every male student in the population. "Well, at least topics like this die down eventually," he finally said, a bit optimistic.


Davis sheepishly scratched the back of his head, accompanied by a quick laugh. "Yeah... 'Eventually' might not be as soon as you think."


Lucas was somewhat perplexed and asked for some clarification.


Davis dug a hand into his pocket, pulled out his smartphone and tapped a finger on its screen to start one of its many apps. "Just look at this."


On display was the popular video sharing website known as "YoTube", and the video that Davis chose to stream was a shaky camera recording. The spectator captured footage of a boy who managed to fight off an armed mob with nothing more than his fists but also suffering some injuries in the process.


The video was entitled "LUCAS THORNE CANNOT BE STOPPED!!!"


The actual subject of the video wasn't amused in the least. It was more accurate to say he was horrified judging by the way he shuddered as he watched himself. "This is not good... Do you realize what this can do to me!?"


"You'll become an internet celebrity?"


"Yeah, but if this is the video that comes to everyone's minds, I might be seen as some punk who enjoys beating the crud out of people... or worse."


"Don't you enjoy doing that? Almost every weekend, you're busy fighting in the Underground Arena instead of hanging out over at my place."


Being thought of as someone who relishes combat didn't come off as unexpected to Lucas. Still, it was preferable to him if at least his friend didn't see him like that.


"That's only because I'm the breadwinner. Rea's not making much money running her clinic so I had to eventually take matters into my own hands. Besides, it's not like I win every time I compete." He took another glance at the video which currently showed him delivering a headbutt to another student's face, breaking his nose into a bloody mess. "And it's also not like I enjoy fighting. When I must, I'd only beat people to let them know they should never try to pick a fight with me again."


Even though Lucas opened up to his reasons for fighting, he was disappointed when it became clear to him that something else was taking all of Davis' attention.


He was still watching that video of Lucas kicking ass.


"Woah, the number of 'views', 'likes' and 'subscribers' keep rising and the comments keep coming!" Davis' eyes widened in delight and he cracked a smile as he noticed the video gaining more popularity by the second. Then his eyes shifted to another set of digits on the screen. "Ah, there's also a few 'dislikes' thrown in... They're probably from some of the guys you pummeled, but it sure feels good when your posts get a lot of attention, don't you think?"


"Your posts?" Lucas began to feel suspicious.


Looking at the other details outside of the video, Lucas noticed that aside from the massive numbers related to various statistics, the video was posted under a user whose name wasn't written like an alias but as his real name.


The next thing Lucas did was to grab the unarmored parts near the hem of Davis' shirt, bringing the two of them face-to-face. He wasn't too pleased to know that the true identity of the user who uploaded the video was sitting right next to him. In the process of suddenly getting pulled in another direction, Davis accidentally dropped his phone back onto the seat's leather material while it continued to play the video.


"You uploaded this!? So you were recording me instead of doing anything to help!?"


"Don't jump to conclusions," said Davis as he pried Lucas' hands off himself. "I didn't know about the big fight until before first period started. Then during lunch break, I found the guy with the best footage and traded the rights to the video for a discount at my shop. 30% off anything so long as it was made by me! During the actual fight, I was in the gymnasium the whole time, you know? Just waiting for the morning assembly and fantasizing."


"Fantasizing? Over what?"


"Why, Viola's potential as one of the girls who'll be chasing this guy soon enough!" Davis declared with a puffed out chest and a thumb pointed towards it.


Lucas deadpanned. "You can't be serious..."


"Oh, you bet I am! Viola will take the spot as um..." Davis held his chin as he pointed his eyes upward in thought. Then an imaginary lightbulb flashed over his head. "The 'Genki girl!' Yeah, I think that suits her! Now I gotta find someone who fits the role of the 'Tsundere', the 'Yandere', the 'Onee-san', the 'Ice Queen'... hey, maybe the perfect candidate for that is--"


"I won't stop you from this 'harem' you're so obsessed with making, but leave Viola or anyone else I know, out of it!"


Lucas cut Davis off before he could utter a name. Even though he managed to make Davis shut his trap, Lucas had a hunch about the person Davis had in mind.


"What? Why? She's your cousin and I'm your best friend who knows he can treat her like a queen. At least try to be a wingman for the both of us by trying to hook us up."


What his friend said made Lucas grind his teeth. As much as he tolerated and supported his friend's nature, Davis' interest in Viola triggered him to blurt out something he would regret.


"No one will take Viola away from me!"


The sudden increase in the volume of Lucas' voice made a few of the passengers in front of them look back but only for a moment. It wasn't long before they dismissed what they heard and went back to what they were doing such as talking about the current trends.


Davis pouted and crossed his arms at his friend for getting so defensive."Geez, you overprotective of Viola much? It's almost like you were..." He paused to think about why Lucas' declaration felt kind of odd. Then slowly, his eyes grew wider and wider until it almost looked like they could pop out of their sockets.


"Oh God, oh man... Oh God, oh man! You do realize that is incest, right!?"


Once again, heads in the bus were turned. This time, however, the timing happened almost perfectly in sync. And it wasn't limited to just a few people - Lucas and Davis found themselves in the spotlight of an intense stare from everyone else. Even the middle-aged portly bus driver who took his eyes off the road, joined in, to Lucas' mild horror.


It was at this moment that the two friends began to ponder if becoming the center of attention or popularity was something they both wanted to achieve in their school lives. Their runaway train of thoughts came to a sudden end when Lucas took a deep breath and came up with an excuse that he announced to everyone else.


"It's just... Davis being Davis, you know?" Lucas tried laughing off his friend's earlier outburst.


As if on cue, everyone else in the bus turned away from the two like that was all it took for them to lose interest. That was great, especially for the bus driver as only Lucas noticed that the bus was just about to hit a sharp curve on the road.


Lucas and Davis sighed their hearts out in relief for getting rid of the attention but Davis was a bit annoyed at how he was seen by the others.


Regardless of how silly or delusional he may appear, Davis was still a blacksmith with considerable skill. By his own claim, any sort of equipment that didn't bring the word "ordinary" to mind, was most likely forged in blood and sweat by him.


The two ended up going back to their previous discussion but spoke more quietly in order to avoid arousing any more attention.


"So, let me ask again. Do you really have the hots for your own cousin?" Davis asked.


"Did you forget about what I told you yesterday? I'm adopted," Lucas reminded him. "Viola and I aren't related by blood so this isn't incest or anything like that at all."


"Hmm... Maybe you think so, but have you ever considered how Viola or the rest of her family would feel?"


Davis' remark stunned Lucas so much, his head dropped down hard. As much as he hated to admit it, Davis had a point. The factors of the matter were all so simple but for the longest time, Lucas had been thinking only on the surface when it came to the person he had been infatuated with since childhood.


"I... never thought about it," Lucas admitted.


Davis glanced out the window next to him and saw that the surroundings they passed were still that of small buildings or structures meaning the bus wasn't out of Cameron's Feint yet. "We still got a long way to go. Could you do me a solid and tell me why you are so into your cousin? Maybe your weirdness factor for me will go down a bit if you do."


"Heh, look who's talking," Lucas lifted his head back up. "Also, I'd appreciate it if you stopped calling Viola my cousin."


Davis responded with a chuckle and a wry smile. It wasn't rare for those two to rib each other over what they felt was wrong or weird about the other but in the end, they would always laugh it off and get back to hanging out like nothing happened. They were friends all right, and that was why Lucas chose to honor the favor and recalled what he could.


Lucas had known Viola not long after Rea had first adopted him. Due to the busy schedules of their respective families, especially on Viola's side, the two of them only saw each other once or twice a year. Aside from a short greeting, the two of them hardly talked and in every chance he had, Lucas blew his opportunity to get closer to Viola because he was always unsure on how to start a conversation or even approach her. Their family reunions were always one or two days long and took place in venues that were suitable for vacations like a resort or a hotel near places for sight-seeing. It didn't help him either that those venues had plenty of activities to keep their guests busy, which Lucas would always end up retreating to, keeping him and Viola even further apart.


Then with no announcement, after they both turned ten, Lucas and Viola never saw each other again due to the family reunions coming to a halt. As he remembered from the short conversation they had in the school nurse's office, Viola had moved to another nation and stayed there for five years. Lucas, on the other hand, had just started to learn how to fight the hard way in the Underground Arena in order to provide for himself and Rea.


Now that he said it all, the reason for Lucas' puppy love was starting to become clear to him. Viola, in his opinion, had the looks to launch a hundred ships, but even Lucas had to admit, she wasn't the most beautiful girl he ever laid eyes on. What made him so enamored with her was how he knew absolutely nothing about her. How talking or approaching her felt like an obstacle that was tough to overcome.


"Now that I think about it," Lucas recalled, a bit excited. "Viola did tell me that she was hoping we could get to know more about each other now that she's living around here. Do you think maybe--"


"Did she really say that?" Interrupted Davis, a bit doubtful. "Well, whatever the case, you better not complain if she comes to her senses and contacts me before you. After all, she was pretty friendly with me when she introduced herself."


Lucas looked away. "Oh I won't worry about a thing," his lips pressed together and curled upwards to form a smug look on his face. "Because she never got your number in the first place."


Davis was frozen in denial and just barely managed to shake his head. "Nu-uh."


"Yah-uh!" Lucas shot back. "You just left her in the dust yelling 'I'm looking forward to that first call or text, Violaaaaaaa!!!!' Remember?"


Now that he thought about it, Davis came to realize he got too excited about getting acquainted with Viola that he ended up making a mistake...


...That and Lucas did a terrible impression of his voice.

His error struck him hard. Davis curled into a fetal position and toppled like a coin, arms bracing his knees into his chest, rocking side to side and moaning, "Oh God, oh man..." over and over again. The bits of armor attached to his clothes rattled as he did so.


Lucas should have been laughing at the sorry state his friend was in but he didn't - he made the same mistake too, forgetting to exchange contact information with Viola back in the nurse's office because he got too excited as well. Until the next time he and Viola meet again, he guessed.


"And speaking of numbers," Lucas nudged a moping Davis with a hand on his shoulder. "Could you get your phone back up and delete that video from Yotube, please? The fewer people know this, the better."


Davis faked a sniffle. "Aww... and lose all of the support some random people are giving me?"


"Ugh... If you do that, I'll tell you something that might cheer you up."


Davis faked another sniffle."Okay..."


Once more, Davis brought up his phone and the Yotube video which was at the part where Lucas knocked out one more student before he, the biker student and the trench coat student were the last people standing before the video suddenly faded to black. It was a good thing there were time limits on how long a smartphone can record a video. Otherwise, Viola might have been dragged into the depths of infamy as well.


One by one, Davis looked at each of the statistics his video achieved within a day then bid them goodbye before hitting the delete button.


Goodbye to 1,156,930 views.


Goodbye to 531 comments.


Goodbye to 341 subscribers (probably).


Goodbye to 11,374 likes.


And good riddance to 54 dislikes.


With Davis doing his side of the deal, Lucas had to do his part. Even though he was the one who started this transaction, Lucas was still hesitant to do it at first because it would mean him eating his own words but he eventually forced himself to say it. When he finally did, Davis had the most devious smile plastered on his face. He never knew this day would come.


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The bus made its last stop after climbing up the steep road just outside the entrance to the residential village of Falcon Rock. One by one, students stepped down from a small staircase off the bus, schoolbags and/or their equipment on their person, before heading off in separate directions on route to their respective houses.


As they were the ones who sat on the back of the bus, Lucas and Davis were the last two students to disembark before the bus turned around and drove back downhill.


"So, how far have you gone on the light novel I lent you a few weeks back?" Davis asked.


"Which one are you talking about? 'D******I'?" Lucas replied.


"Well, there's that, but there's also the second volume of 'The demon princess and I are secretly dating in a faraway land while everyone else is expecting us to be having some ongoing epic fight to the death'. Are you almost done with it? I've been craving to read it again!"


"Just what is it with these long titles for a story?" Lucas thought. "Anyway, I'm still about... two chapters away from finishing it," he said, looking away. "But you can have it back now if you really want it so badly."


"Are you sure? Davis raised one of his eyebrows. "You're about to hit the climax if you're there."


"It's fine. Really. C'mon, let's pass by my place before you head home."


On the way to Lucas' house, Davis revealed there was some breaking news during the morning assembly. Thirteen students have been reported by their parents to have gone missing when they didn't come home the previous night.


Lucas didn't need to ask for their identities. Those thirteen students were the group of friends that made the Knights of Viola, who were all killed unceremoniously by Rio.


Even though Lucas was now forced to hunt down the group's original target, the [Renegade] known as Fenris, he was certain that he wouldn't be thinking like he avenged the knights if he were to somehow succeed. It may seem cold-hearted but Lucas couldn't help it. He didn't know any of the knights personally, thus he had no strong feelings toward them. Feeling sorry for their untimely deaths was the farthest he could ever go. Nothing more.


Lucas and Davis walked across the asphalt and over the sidewalk until they reached a house with the number "610" embedded in its front door. Approaching it, Lucas tried to turn the knob but it refused to budge. Remembering he locked it earlier before leaving for school, he searched the left pocket in his tight-fitting jeans for the key needed to unlock the door. His pants may have been riddled with cuts now but at least the pockets weren't damaged in any way. Right after finding the key and before he could insert it into the doorknob's keyhole, Lucas and Davis were bathed in an invisible field that triggered a sudden sensation.


"Weird," Davis checked his surroundings and commented on the situation. "I'm suddenly feeling all excited like I'm about to score or something. Am I that desperate to get my light novel back?"


Lucas, on the other hand, was petrified in place as he knew exactly what was going on.


"Not good. She's still here..."


The door before them was opened by Rio whose long raven hair with a hint of a bluish hue, scintillated when the sunlight hit it. To Lucas' surprise, she was wearing a black sweater that belonged to him. Her hands were hidden in the sweater's sleeves and one of her bare shoulders was peeking out of its collar. Printed on this sweater was a strange scorpion-like creature with eight bony legs crawling on a phrase that read, "FREE HUGS!"

"Hey. Welcome home, Lucas," was what Rio tried to say but she came to a sudden stop in the middle when she noticed Lucas wasn't alone.


"Lucas, there's a girl that's not your mom in your house," Davis rubbed his eyes to make sure this was not some illusion from feeling strangely aroused. He tried rubbing them three more times and even after doing so, the girl didn't disappear from his sight.


"S-She's real!"


"Davis..." Lucas tried to keep his cool. "I can explain..."


"And she's a perfect candidate!"


Without warning, Davis leaped to his feet and pounced on Rio out of instinct, thinking by instinct that she was going to be easy prey for this predator. In response, Rio's became proactive. She put her hands up, palms open and ready to defend herself.


"No! Don't touch her!" Lucas yelled.


Like his life depended on it, Lucas got between the two in time and stopped Davis with a lariat to the face before falling to his knees. His earlier injuries had acted up after he exerted himself. Davis' face contorted a bit from the blow and he flew back a few feet before landing on the stone path to the house, unconscious.


Rio was surprised, but pleasantly so. 


"You defended me~?" She cooed and gently placed a hand on Lucas' shoulder. "Thank you, I appreciate that."


"I was actually defending him from you, but I guess you can also put it that way," Lucas admitted.


Rio didn't like what she heard. Her once grateful smile went upside down. "Is that right? Then doing so left you wide open."


The hand on Lucas' shoulder suddenly turned ferocious like a claw was gripping it and it drew out a bit of blood, making him wince in pain. With a powerful yank of her arm, Rio pulled Lucas to herself, forcing him to land on his backside with a thud into a sitting position. From behind, Rio dropped down, leaning back with her arms standing behind her for support and subjected her victim to a world of hurt.


『後体三角固 Ushiro Karada Sankaku Gatame 後体三角固』 (Reverse Triangle Body Lock)


Crossing her legs around Lucas' ribcage and grasping a foot behind her other knee, Rio grunted as she tensed and contracted the muscles in her thin but toned legs, crushing what they wrapped around like a boa constrictor. Lucas could only struggle in vain as he felt his breathing getting hindered and his ribs slowly cracking under the pressure. His attempts to escape only provoked Rio to squeeze him harder.


"And I was just starting to gain some respect for you," Rio scolded him while she increased the burden on his ribcage. "You brought this upon yourself, Lucas."


"Tch! You know what will happen... if... you... touch him!" Lucas objected, his voice getting raspier with every second that passed. "D-Do you want him... to f-find out... you're not exactly h-human?"


Rio took the words she heard into account while her victim continued to suffer. Her occupation as an assassin made her not care in the slightest when killing and she would have no issues doing so to Davis if he forced her hand. That could eventually lead to some complications if he was considered missing and it would be a lot better to not pile trouble over trouble. After all, she was certain that the group she slaughtered last night will probably have a case being investigated upon later if not now.


"R-Rio... let...me...go...augh..." Lucas was growing weaker and was just steps away from approaching death's door due to asphyxiation.


"Hmph... Very well."

Still seated up, Rio uncrossed her legs and released Lucas from her hold. He fell backward because he was bit comatose but instead of hitting the floor, something cushioned his fall - something really soft that Lucas felt his back melting into it. It was bit embarrassing to do but Rio allowed Lucas to fall onto her, cradling him like a human backrest while he tried to catch his breath.


"Can you hurry up? I would be happier if we can get out of this position before anyone sees us like this," said Rio, refusing to meet Lucas' gaze with rosy cheeks.


"Um, Yeah... I'm fine now. Just help me up, please," Lucas groaned with mutual feelings.


Rio did as he asked and helped Lucas back up to his feet by lifting him from under his arms, only doing so because now that she took a good look at him, he was messed up all over.


The two of them walked over to where Davis laid sprawled out. Kneeling down, Lucas tried to wake him up with gentle slaps to the face while asking him to do so.


"Hey, Davis? C'mon. Wake up, man."


The weak slaps weren't working. Steadily growing frustrated, Lucas tried making each subsequent slap consecutively harder and when those didn't work...


"Move you stupid piece of junk!"


...He unleashed a powerful swinging palm strike that smacked his friend's face hard like it came straight from a paddle.


That last hit made Rio smile, just a little bit. Apparently, it worked.


"Oww..." Davis painfully groaned, one hand holding his cheek as he tried to get up. "That hurt, you know!"


"Sorry, but you were pretty much asking for it," Lucas told him, offering a hand to help him up.


After Lucas pulled him back to his feet, the next thing in Davis' mind was about the identity of that strange pale-skinned girl who emerged from Lucas' house and her reasons for doing so. Before he could get to that, he decided to apologize for his impulsive actions and hoped that this could allow them to get acquainted on a better note.


"So... Uh... Sorry and nice to meet you. I'm Lucas' friend, Davis. Davis Crane," he said, a bit awkward for making a bad first impression.


Rio returned the greeting by bowing at a slight angle, her hands lowered and joined together in front of her body, which made Davis raise his eyebrows a bit. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Davis," she said with a hint of a "not really" when she spoke his name. "My name is Rio Kiyodera from the Eastern Nation of Nihan."


Hearing the name of her home nation made Davis squeal with excitement. "Nihan!? I was wondering why you were bowing! It's all thanks to anime, manga, light novels and some video games that I fell in love with your nation! Can't wait for the day I get to finally go there!"


"I see..." Rio muttered, a big vein throbbed on her forehead. Splurging in the Otaku culture was of no concern to her but it rubbed her off the wrong way if that was the biggest reason for anyone wanting to visit Nihan.


"Hey, hey," Davis hyped himself, throwing away his uncertainty. "Can you introduce yourself again, but a little longer and in Nihango this time? I've always wanted to hear from a real-life Nihanese!"


Rio rotated her left eye clockwise out of sheer reluctance. While she had no obligation to fulfill Davis' request, she figured this would also allow her to have a little fun while doing so.


After organizing her thoughts for a bit, Rio gave Davis her re-introduction.


「初めまして。清寺莉桜です。私は15歳で、血液型はABで、ニハンから来ました。。。」


Lucas lent an ear to listen for a bit but eventually stopped in the middle. He decided to just ask Rio for a translation later because she was really taking some time just to describe herself.


「。。。一番の秘密は。。。私は暗殺者と背教者です。よろしくお願いします。」


Rio bowed slightly once more after saying her last phrase.


For a moment Davis was silent. He gawked, his mouth gaped open and his eyebrows rose higher than he thought. Rio held her head back and her lips pressed together. She was a bit unnerved from the look on Davis' face until he started applauding her for a job well done.


"That... was... awesome! It sounded complex, but it was also vivid and interesting! Like poetry to my ears!"


Rio let out a sigh of relief but tension rose to her again when Davis shot up another question.


"So, what I wanna ask now is what are you doing in Lucas' house?"


Rio couldn't say she was keeping tabs on Lucas due to the contract established between them from one of her [Laws]. She silently eyed her unwilling accomplice, who just shrugged. That unwillingness to help convinced her to resort to something fabricated.


"No, no, no, wait. I think I got it!" Davis claimed. "You're undergoing some kind of exchange student project where--"


"I am his girlfriend~," Rio chimed in, eye half-closed, pointing a hand at Lucas and covering her mouth with the other.


Lucas and Davis traded stares for a few seconds. Then they both stared at Rio at the same time.


""WHHAAAAAAAATTT!?!?!""


If outer space allowed it, the pair's exclamation would've been heard from even there.


"His... girlfriend!?" Davis couldn't believe it. "No way... Lucas said he only had eyes for..."


He turned his attention to Lucas who was just as flabbergasted as he was.


"And why are you surprised!?" Davis interrogated his friend who had no idea what to say. "First Viola, and now Rio!? Unless..." He grabbed Lucas by the shoulders and shook him hard enough to make his head bob back and forth. "You're not planning to go down the harem route like me, are you!?"


Lucas who finally snapped out of his surprised state responded, "Of course not! I'm not interested in that kind of relationship!"


"He is just too shy to admit it~," Rio got in between the two and forcefully entwined her arms around Lucas' while resting her head on his now shivering shoulder, giving an impression that the two of them were an item. The look on Rio's face was kittenesque; eyes shut, lips curved and curled like she was purring.


Lucas, however, was a bit bothered. Not because a girl was doing this to him but because Rio threatened that any attempt to deny her acting will lead to some physical contact between their bare hands.


Seeing that image in front of him made Davis' brain overload itself with conspiracies. In a fit of both displeasure and possibly insanity, he targeted the closest lamppost on the street and viciously banged his head over and over again on the hollow steel while fixating a firm grip on it.


Right after Davis' attention had been taken off them, Rio threw away the kittenesque mask she wore on her face. She let go of Lucas' arm and shoved him away with a double palm thrust like a cliff was behind him, forcing Lucas to stumble back a few steps.


"You do realize you're only making things more complicated for us, Rio," Lucas said, regaining his bearings and rubbing the part of his chest Rio shoved at.


"It had to be done," Rio protested, her face turning disdainful. "With that, I eliminated the chance of your friend trying to get his hands on me. You want him to stay alive, do you not~?"


A bit worried, Lucas nodded in confirmation before moving on.


"So we have to pretend now?" He pondered over what could possibly happen if he and Rio were to keep up this charade for a while. "You know, you should try watching your words from now on because they might just come true later," he warned her with a snicker.


Rio responded with a sardonic smirk. "Me? With you? Before that ever happens, I will die first~."


Lucas made sure to bury that phrase into his brain. It might have some use for another time.


"So, what did you tell him when you re-introduced yourself?" he asked, keeping an eye on his friend who was still busy abusing the lamppost.


"The same things I said to you except I decided to make it more fun for myself by also telling him that anime cannot teach him how to speak proper Nihango and since he has no clue on what I am saying, I can take advantage of him whenever I want, like you. I finished by asking him to be kind to me and told him straight that he was talking to both an assassin and a [Renegade]."


Lucas facepalmed over Rio's risky action. "Unbelievable. Who knows what he will do if he finds out what you actually said."


Rio just scoffed, not worried in the slightest. She was certain Davis was going to be left with a concussion rather than a suspicion.


=======================================================================


Here are some other ideas on the top of my head for when I was thinking of an in-universe light novel title that Davis wanted Lucas to return to him:


*I signed up as a practice dummy in an all-girls mixed martial arts club so I can have a valid excuse to touch the cute but feisty girls (and get beaten black and blue in the process!)


*I'm an overpowered hero but I still get injured in every battle I participate in because I spend too much time monologuing over philosophy and trivial matters.


*I've chosen a girlfriend amongst my harem of fourteen powerful goddesses and now the other thirteen are trying to make my life a living Hell.