Chapter 24:

Volume 1, Chapter 20: Temptation

Parable of the Renegades


*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=
AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Hi! Jio Kurenai here!

Oh man, it's been about two months since I last published a chapter. As I said in the previous chapter's author's notes, my progress has been slow because my laptop broke down (still no luck in fixing it) and to continue writing, I've either borrowed the machines of the other people living with me or I've been writing with my phone, which by the way, I realized was a total drag. It works better for editing and it's about to join my laptop because it's also dying to the point that it has become dependent on life-support a.k.a the charger. 

Also, another reason why I took some time to get this done was because this turned out to be a really long scenario. I said I was going to finish it in one more chapter but once again, I underestimated my word count and Honeyfeed reminded me that it has a limit (It also has yet to fix the copy-paste glitch despite the new updates!) >:( 

So what you are about to read right now is actually chopped-off content and I'm currently aiming to publish the second part and conclusion of this event before December ends so I can start the new year with a new scenario! Of course, I'm already being hindered so it's a given I'm having my doubts, but I'll do what I can.

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! I'D ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT IF WE COULD START A CONVERSATION, TOO!

LASTLY, GIVE THAT "LIKE" BUTTON A JOLLY GOOD SMACK UNDER THE MISTLETOE TO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS! YOU WILL BE HELPING YOURSELF AS WELL BY GIVING POINTS TO YOUR BADGE! BY THE WAY, COMMENTS GIVE MORE POINTS!

YOU DO BOTH, AND I'LL BE SINGING YOUR NAME IN PRAISE! OF COURSE, YOU WON'T HEAR ME, BUT YOU CAN BET THAT I CAUSED A RACKET IN THE HOUSE!  ;)
=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*

The atmosphere between them turned into awkward silence. Lucas and Rio continued to stand a few feet away from each other, neither one of them certain of what to do next after their brief scuffle and neither wanted to point eyes at the other.

Then the silence was broken when Rio held a hand, swallowed whole by her kimono's sleeve, in front of her mouth to let out a long yawn. For some reason, it reminded Lucas of a kitten because of its pitch going higher with every second Rio exhaled.

Hearing a yawn urged Lucas to follow suit. Unlike Rio, his expression of sleepiness sounded more like he was speaking in slow motion while contorting his mouth in random directions.

"Well then..." Rio slowly turned her drowsy head to Lucas' direction. "I guess we should get to bed."

His response was a slightly delayed, but Lucas nodded in agreement. Needless to say, he was a bundle of nerves.

The two dragged their weary feet a few steps before standing next to each other in front of Lucas' bed, almost unsure of what to do next. The bed was situated in the corner of the room that was farthest away from the door to enter it and next to one of the two windows built on the walls. There was a narrow gap between the bed's base and the turning end of Lucas' L-shaped desk. This meant that Lucas and Rio would have to get on one by one from the same side.

"I will go first," Rio finally spoke, climbing on to the bed's mattress. She volunteered to go ahead so that Lucas could get off the bed without anyone in his way when he had to prepare for classes the next day.

Rio partially lifted the bed's sheet before scooching herself to the side closest to the window and slipping herself under the cover. Lying sideways on her left with her head resting on an elevated open palm, Rio showed Lucas his side.

"Right, your turn Lucas," Rio gently patted what little space there was next to her. "Come here."

Wearing socks did not stop him from getting cold feet both figuratively and literally. Rio meant no harm this time but her mannerisms on how she invited Lucas to join her was making him nervous. She was only being natural, not trying to do anything meant to tease or seduce him but her choice of words and unintentionally provocative position only served to make Lucas so nervous, he felt like chains restrained him in place.

When she saw how Lucas continued to stand still with pursed lips, Rio decided not to wait for him any longer. She wanted to sleep, not have her patience tested.

"So, you decided to let me have the bed to myself? I guess you can be quite the gentleman. Goodnight, I guess."

With a soft hum, Rio turned herself away from Lucas to face the window, rolling most of the thick blanket around herself like she was being wrapped in a fluffy cocoon.

"Hey, you don't decide what I think."

Lucas regained control over his body and without losing any momentum, followed suit, laid himself down on his side of the bed and carefully got himself comfortable next to his dangerous bed-mate. He lightly pulled part of the blanket over to himself to prevent Rio from accidentally rolling closer to him than she already was while at the same time, distributing the thick blanket's warmth between them. He finished by clapping his hands twice in quick succession. A hidden mechanism in the room detected the claps and faster than a blink, turned off the lights that once illuminated the space.

Lucas tried to fall asleep, but now that he went and done it, he began to build up some internal heat. It had nothing to do with the blanket that was warming him.

Rio's guess before they went under the covers was almost perfectly accurate. The two of them were now technically crammed on a bed far too narrow for either to have any considerable space to themselves.

Lying supine, Lucas could feel his left side just barely about to fall off. His left arm was dangling off the edge, fingers just a few inches away from touching the floor. Meanwhile, his right arm was having a different experience. It may have been by his side and resting flat on the mattress but every inch of it could tell it was just barely touching Rio's slender and enigmatic body from behind. Thanks to Rio's clothing acting as a sort of barrier that kept her third [Law], [Reaper's Embrace] from activating, Lucas felt nothing but the enticing texture of a girl’s body from behind.

The temperature grew hotter from the sample and it only continued to rise. While he didn’t know how long it would actually take, Lucas was certain that he had been within Rio's [Influence] for quite some time now. The emotional trigger from entering its range was most likely gone. Then, Lucas guessed that this emotion he was experiencing...

...must have been the real thing.

Internal conflict clouded Lucas' mind. What floated in his subconscious was not only his adolescent curiosity of copping a feel but the worry that such actions would lead to divine retribution, courtesy of Rio and her submission holds.

And more factors served to fuel the fire. Despite his fatigue telling him to just fall asleep already, Lucas could do nothing about the aromatic smell that was forcing itself into his nose. Even the slowest inhales he took brought in a powerful blast of the scent wafting from Rio's unbound hair, not like the one he accidentally smelled before.

It was little sweet, sort of spicy, and sort of like a dash of peppermint or vanilla. Lucas grew tense as he recognized the smell.

"Why did it have to be cinnamon?" His nose twitched with every aromatic blast it smelled.

Cinnamon had an aroma so balanced that even the most pessimistic people had to agree it was one of the few things in life that weren’t so bad. More to that, the smell of cinnamon was used as an aphrodisiac due to its effectiveness in forcefully awakening a person's deepest desires no matter how chaste they may appear to be.

After minutes of trying to win a mental struggle against himself - a struggle that turned out to be hopeless with not the tiniest speck of light at the end of the tunnel, Lucas learned that every time he tried to close his eyes, they would pop back wide awake.

He now had insomnia.

Nothing could help him fall asleep - not until he could satisfy that lingering curiosity of his once and for all. He was now convinced that this situation was beyond his control. Every last bit of his guilt and the paranoia for the consequences that may follow was now forgotten.

Who was responsible for making him feel this way? Unsettling cracking noises reverberated as Lucas turned his head without moving any other part of his body. He begrudgingly glared with animalism to the person sleeping peacefully to his right.

It was Rio who suggested that they sleep in the same bed even though she would douse herself with pleasant aromatic compounds beforehand. She should have expected that something like this was very likely to happen.

"Sorry about this Rio, but I can't imagine myself falling asleep... not until I know what it feels like," Lucas blurted. He knew this was going to be immoral, but he couldn’t hold himself back anymore - another chance like this was unlikely to happen.

It was now or never.

Slapping both palms on his cheeks a few times to mentally prepare himself, Lucas went for a test run. Without lifting the covers or taking his eyes off the ceiling, Lucas gave Rio a quick poke to her upper back then withdrew right after the tip of his finger hit something.

There was no reaction. Rio continued to sleep as if she was already out cold. It was safe to say that she would remain unaware from the beginning to the end.

Lucas reflected on what he did. It was a simple act that was so wrong...

...and yet...

...It also felt so right.

Since there was no violent reaction from Rio, Lucas figured it would do him no harm to turn things up a notch.

Slowly and gently, he tried running his hand starting from the previous spot he poked then went as far as his arm could stretch. His fingers slid and traveled down the curving outer layer of Rio's back with the vertical indentation on her spine serving as its guide. The whole trip was smooth with no sense of friction. The layered fabric of Rio's kimono was so thin, Lucas could have lied to himself that he was feeling Rio's skin directly.

Eventually, his arm extended to its limit. At that point, Lucas felt like his hand ended up somewhere unfamiliar, nothing like what he felt seconds ago.

Unlike Rio's back, which felt somewhat firm, this new part Lucas was touching appeared to be quite soft, a finger could practically sink into it without much effort. Still curious, the remaining four digits of Lucas' hand joined in and when they all grabbed hold, the object felt like a marshmallow with a solid core, too big to be fully grasped.

His hidden eyes widened, and his mouth flipped into a nervous frown. Lucas realized he had just wandered into forbidden territory. In a split second, he recalled his hand back to himself and held a firm grasp on its wrist as if he was trying to prevent it from doing any more harm.

His mind spiraled down into disarray when he realized that he just crossed a line that could no longer be undone. All of the guilt and paranoia he once thought were lost, came waltzing back in just as fast as he had forgotten them.

"It was in your grasp, dude! Somebody call the F.B.I and tell em' one of their boys is crap at his job!"

Lucas couldn’t believe his ears when he heard a voice from an undisclosed point - a voice identical to his own but more ominous and with a higher pitch.

He quickly sat up to search for the voice but before he could start looking around, a tiny explosion of flames conjured itself next to his head and an amplified chorus of drums and electric guitars began playing at a considerable volume.

Out of the dispersing flames stood a sneering entity who casually stood over Lucas' right shoulder.

"By the way, 'F.B.I' stands for 'Female Body Inspector'," it said.

Its proportions were super-deformed; a round head around half the size of its figurine body. The bangs of its chocolate brown hair were swept to the side to reveal a pair of malevolent white eyes on its malicious face. Its choice of clothing was a black leather jacket and pants accented with a mess of countless silver zippers and its feet wore steel-plated shoes. Its jacket was unzipped, putting its ripped six-pack on display. Sprouting out of its head right above its ears were a pair of ram horns that curved inwards into numerous spirals. Finally, it had a long prehensile tail with a forked tip protruding above its tailbone.

It looked just like Lucas, except more... sinister. The shoulder devil version of Lucas looked with disappointment at how its human charge looked so regretful with the way he was clutching his hand and took in a deep breath in preparation.

"What the fuck are you backing out for?!" It erupted in a rant and threw both of its hands forward. "Look at her! She still hasn't noticed a thing! I want you to put those two hands up and let them embark on a slow and steady journey around her curves! It's a guaranteed adventure to remember."

Before Lucas could question what was going on, another explosion of a similar magnitude conjured itself on his opposite shoulder. Not to Lucas' expectation, a second shoulder devil, identical to the first, walked out bellowing.

"Right about now should be the part where the angel shows up so he can try to lead you down the path of restraint instead of the path that rocks! Lucky for you, we made the divine intervention and gave that goody-two-shoes a personal lesson in the ways of the bitch-slap, and now he's off wimping!"

As the second shoulder devil gave his explanation, it slapped one of his hands like it was someone else's face. The first devil grinned in appreciation and saluted its kin with a "sign of the horns", a hand gesture where the index and pinky fingers are extended while the middle and ring fingers are held down by the thumb.

Shortly after the second finished speaking, the first grabbed a handful of Lucas' right ear. Clearly and concisely, it whispered, "Now show her you're a big dog..."

"...And not a bitch!" screamed the second shoulder devil through clenched teeth.

Their job now done. The two shoulder devils vanished at the same time in another explosion of flames and the background music accompanying them, stopped. Lucas pondered over what they said and laid eyes once more on Rio's sleeping figure to see if she was showing any signs of waking up. She was still out like a light, oblivious during the short moment the music was playing and the shoulder devils were yelling with no restraint.

Lucas knew what it meant if he listened to the devil versions of himself. Their appearance made it more obvious. Still, a part of him also had to admit one thing: anything sweet in life is not without its risks. Rio may not be the apple of his eye but she was still a girl - more than within his grasp and more than an eye-catch to boot.

Lucas asked himself, "So long as she doesn't know, it's okay right?"

Regardless of his answer to his own question, Lucas could not stop himself from grinning ear to ear after that. In the short amount of time they had been together, Rio always treated him like dirt and any acts of kindness she would give were always meant to set him up for something she could laugh at.

Now, this was Lucas' chance to get even with her.

He let his hands go on autopilot. They trembled with excitement and crept toward an unaware Rio. Unlike before when they were somewhat reluctant to get up close and personal, the earlier pep-talk influenced them to stop holding themselves back.

As his hands went closer to their destination, his fingers spread out. They were only inches away from getting their second helping of foreign goods when the calming melody of choir music started playing and a timely cloud of white smoke poofed itself into reality just above Lucas' right shoulder. As the smoke dissipated, another entity descended. It had a golden glowing ring hovering over its head and it was similar to the shoulder devils from earlier in terms of clothing and appearance but this new entity's clothes were white, had a significantly lesser number of zippers, and was worn in a modest manner. Its snow-feathered wings folded as it touched down.

"Oh, hi there... sorry I'm late," the shoulder angel greeted with a pained groan in his voice. It was holding an ice pack over one of its eyes, which was black and swollen - a parting gift from the shoulder devils. "So... what did I miss?"

The angel whipped its head over to the person sleeping next to Lucas, and then to its human counterpart's creeping hands. It didn't take long for it to grasp the meaning of the situation.

"Oh... God bless Amerika," the angel said, face-palming with its free hand. "Do you really think you won't feel guilty, even just a little bit if you take advantage of that?"

Not wanting to tell a lie, but also not wanting to admit his intentions, Lucas instinctively pointed his face away, which the angel took as a sign.

"So... it's come to this. Sinner... I have your penance... in the form of my blessed fist."

The angel quickly switched shoulders and with one hand balled and glowing in a blinding light, struck Lucas hard with a swinging hook strong enough to force his head all the way to the opposite direction. Immediately after the punch, the light encapsulating the angel's fist dispersed into countless particles that quickly faded away.

"So... learn your lesson yet?" the angel asked, adjusting the placement of its ice pack on its black eye.

It watched Lucas momentarily rub a hand on his cheek in silent annoyance. That blow he felt stung only for a moment so it didn't take long for the pain to go away. Despite how minuscule the shoulder angel's "penance" was, Lucas was in no mood to complicate things and forced his other hand to retreat.

"That's the way... just keep your hands to yourself," The angel said, slowly forming a satisfied smile. "You're just at that age... you know? A healthy young man who just started to realize that girls aren't infested with cooties and are actually more interesting than he once thought."

The angel, no bigger than a normal-sized fist, flew to Rio's side of the bed while continuing to preach. It wanted to get a better look at the source of trouble that was hindering its charge.

"Anyway... no matter how good she may look, you have to discipline yourself to--"

A record scratch sound effect ended the choir music.

"--HOLD THE PHONE, THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE DEALING WITH!?"

And just like that, the angel's calm demeanor and sermon was put on hold, indefinitely. Its tone took a sudden change, its jaw dropped and its eyes widened out of sheer astonishment at what it was seeing.

"Something wrong?" Lucas asked. "You were gonna tell me something about disciplining myself to--"

"HOLY SHIT, DUDE! THAT'S WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE!?" the shoulder angel exclaimed, interrupting Lucas as its eyes scanned every last detail of Rio's face. "Not even God can create a face as celestial as that...!"

The shoulder angel forgot it was carrying something, namely, its ice pack as soon as Rio's innate charm stole all of its attention. The cold compress slipped out of its fingers and plummeted, disappearing as soon as it hit the mattress.

At first, the angel's eyes were fixated on Rio's face but then the rest of her, which was hidden under the blanket, intrigued it. The angel flew as fast as it could and without hesitation, went under the covers before Lucas could try to stop it. Seconds later, the angel re-emerged and hovered back to Lucas with its head down. Stopping short of Lucas' face, the angel lifted its head to reveal that its own face was bizarrely contorted and steam was escaping its ears harder than an overworked machine.

"...God would never even dare to sculpt a figure like hers! I thoroughly checked everything! There's nothing that feels lacking or exaggerated, her proportions are just... perfectly balanced!"

The angel's sudden change in mannerisms left Lucas surprised. It was like it was playing a role then broke character contrary to its persona in the middle of it. Could it be possible that there was something more to what the shoulder angel and two devils appeared to be?

"And then there were those two!" The angel continued, staring at both of its hands, clawed and alternating between rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise. "They're neither melons nor are they flat! They're... They're just the right size!"

"Are you alright? Your speech pattern's kind of changed," Lucas said, trying to console the supposedly virtuous side of his conscience.

The angel facepalmed itself over its actions.

"Lucas! I'm sorry, I came unprepared! Before arriving here, I just knew you had to share your bed with a girl due to circumstances beyond your control, but seriously! This girl's got a face and a body made entirely out of sin!"

Lucas turned away to hide the look on his face from the angel's odd description. "Okay... I get it, but I'll be fine... maybe."

The angel continued to voice what was on its mind. It didn't take long for it to get annoying. With a single hand, Lucas gently pushed the white entity away from him up to arm's length before asking it if it was going to be okay as well.

"Y-yeah, I-I'm fine too! R-really! Um... Oh! If you'll excuse me, I gotta go and distract myself by uh..." The angel fidgeted with its fingers as it pondered for an excuse, which it then came up with when its halo glowed three times brighter. "By beating the unholy spirit out of those two sucker-punching charlatans! Yeah, that's what I gotta do!"

"Right... You go do that," Lucas grouched.

"Alright." The angel calmed itself down with deep breaths as it prepared to dismiss itself. "Listen up, and listen to me good! You're fighting at the highest difficulty level but you gotta keep your hands off the goods or I'll have done a crappy job! Don't do this to me!"

Both of its hands grabbed what they could of Lucas' sweater and it begged until Lucas forcefully pried it off.

"Alright, just get off me already. You're starting to creep me out," he hissed.

"Right... Sorry, and good luck."

With another puff of smoke, the angel vanished into thin air. To his own surprise, Lucas was liberated to finally be rid of that shockingly unprofessional side of his conscience. Before he could try to come up with a way to keep his mind off the intimate distance between himself and Rio, the angel suddenly reintroduced itself again, conjuring right in front of Lucas' face.

"Oh, but if she puts her hands on you out of her volition, that's a different story, okay!? You did nothing wrong if she does that!"

The frantic entity vanished again, but for good this time after saying its piece. Who knew his conscience could make such questionable judgments? And Rio having a perfect face and body? That's in the eye of the beholder.

Lucas fell back, letting out a heavy sigh right after his head hit his half of the pillow.

✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧

The sound of the winds howling was the only sound he could hear from outside. What seemed to feel like hours was actually just a few minutes. Lucas grew bothered by the combination of his sweat dripping out of every pore in his body, the increased difficulty for him to breathe, his warm clothes and the warmth of the bed sheet he was sharing with Rio. Speaking of Rio, not once had she complained about anything, so far.

Sometime past midnight, Lucas' room had become too stuffy and was in dire need of some ventilation. In order to let some of the soothing night air in, Lucas had to get past the obstacle between himself and the window.

Of course, that obstacle was Rio. Lucas feared for the worst should he accidentally disturb her in her sleep. He could only imagine the punishment that would be awaiting him if he disturbed her. Still, he needed to do what he felt needed to be done and prepared to reach for the window.

Something warm and kind of heavy pressed against Rio's body while she slept. An uneasy Lucas held his breath, not wanting Rio to detect that he was unintentionally invading her personal space. He was trying to crawl over her in order to reach the window and push it open without accidentally waking her up. When his hand was just inches away from touching the glass, Lucas heard a buzzing noise from the person lying under him.

*Mhhmmm...*

Rio began to mumble in her sleep. Lucas ceased his movement as he feared for the worst kind of retribution she may rain down upon him for disturbing her, but to Lucas' mild surprise, all Rio did was snuggle herself by making minor adjustments to her sleeping position. She must have still been fast asleep as she was still breathing at a slow and steady pace. Her eye was still shut tight but her lips gave a curl too subtle to be seen so easily.

Relieved that he was still safe, Lucas slowly extended an arm forward and pushed the miniature glass doors to open all the way, making them fold outside. As if it was being invited in, a breeze of cold air flowed in through the open passage and began circulating around the room.

It felt so cool and refreshing. Lucas basked in the pleasantries of the wind hitting his face and he gradually found it easy to drift himself to sleep after backtracking to his side of the bed.

In the end, he didn’t have to give in to a temptation to save himself from restlessness. He just needed an alternative.

Lucas was now feeling warm and cold in different places, the temperature in the room was now perfect for him. His face and hands were gently brushed into a soothing sensation by the wind outside while the rest of him enjoyed the relaxing warmth and theoretical protection of the bed sheet above him. If his feet weren’t wearing wool socks, they would have enjoyed the wind, too.

In his sleep, Lucas would have been steps away from entering his head movies had he not been rudely awakened by a strange noise that could make his ears bleed.

Next to him, Rio appeared to be uttering strange sounds as she slept. It was nothing like a snore, more like she was in discomfort. A lot of groaning and unpleasant moaning came out of Rio's shaky lips. It was not loud enough to be heard outside the room but it was very annoying to the person beside her. Lucas tried covering both of his ears with his hands and part of the blanket, but that did little to shut the sound away.

In addition to that, Rio herself began to vibrate. She unconsciously crossed her arms, hands rubbing the opposite shoulder in an attempt to create friction and her feet began to paddle. The frequency of how she quivered was so high, Lucas was forced awake when he felt a part of himself getting tickled in a strange way.

Is she having a nightmare? he thought, trying his best to ignore Rio's impulses.

After a few minutes, the trembling and strange sounds Rio was making, stopped, finally putting Lucas at ease. Just as he was about to let sleep take him away again, Lucas was given another harsh wake-up call when he felt something slam down hard on his left shoulder. To him, it was a sting comparable to the crack of a whip. Breathing also became slightly more difficult for him and the right side of his body was rendered immobile and numb. Gentle bursts of lukewarm air creeped into his right ear, tickling it in a strangely pleasant way.

Still lying down, Lucas groaned and slowly lifted his head off the pillow, trying to get a better look at what disturbed his sleep. With all the lights out and with one of his arms restrained for some reason, Lucas could only see a blurry image of what seemed to be a long and thin silhouette, draped over his chest and reaching all the way to his shoulder.

He couldn't tell exactly what it was and decided to search for the other source that was bothering him. Lucas turned his head to the right, the direction where the unknown source of air was coming from.

And when he saw it, his heart stopped beating...

...Then it restarted, but it expanded and contracted at an accelerated rate.

Lucas could see nothing in front of him. Nothing, but Rio's sleeping face.

It was at a distance so intimate that anyone would probably mistake Rio to be kissing Lucas on his nose unless they took a closer look.

Still, seeing Rio so up close brought Lucas down with flustering emotions. Like a moth to a flame, he found it difficult to ignore and look away but at the same time, he knew the dangers of what was hiding underneath this pale complexion of skin from a face said to be beyond God's capabilities in creation (as claimed by the imperfectly virtuous side of his conscience).

With only his eyes barely managing to scrape at doing any work, Lucas solved the mystery despite the limited view. What was draped over him was actually Rio's right arm and the reason why the right side of Lucas' body felt numb and almost incapable of moving was that Rio was partially lying on top of him. She must have rolled onto him in her sleep, which also explained why her arm suddenly struck him. And as Lucas experienced shortly after turning his head, the bursts of air that penetrated his ear was simply Rio breathing out her mouth.

Rio exhaled another breath, caressing the center of Lucas' face with a fragrance that indicated her as someone who cares about her dental hygiene.

What Lucas considered to be the most attractive feature of a person, whether it be male or female, was their scent. He did not have a sense of smell as sensitive as most animals but living in a house and frequently visiting a clinic that had at least one air puriefier emitting a pungent herbal scent must have influenced him to value that trait above all - even higher than looks, although that was not so far behind on the scale. Even if a person was not his type, their scent could at least make them approachable to him.

Rio's breath smelled too good. Lucas was enticed. He even forgot about Viola's existence for a moment and almost gave in to getting his first kiss. At the last second, however, his danger senses kicked themselves back in, and he managed to stop himself from submitting thanks to the prior knowledge and experience he learned from touching Rio directly.

With a captivating combination of both looks and scent, it would take a lot of willpower for Lucas to just simply look away from Rio's face. He needed an outside force to bail him out. He needed a distraction, and fast.

His wish was granted but it became the prelude to another issue. From the shoulder where Rio's hand was resting on top of, Lucas felt that part of him getting scratched. It started out so gentle that Lucas felt his skin crawl in a funny way.

Then it began to get wilder. The still unaware Rio held such a firm grip on Lucas' sweater, Lucas could feel the skin underneath getting clawed. If Rio scratched him on certain parts, it could lead to the risk that some of his stitched wounds would re-open.

The sounds of multiple thread fibers snapping reached his ears, urging Lucas to panic.

Is she... trying to rip my clothes off!?

Quickly, he grabbed hold of Rio's wrist by her sleeve and shakily forced her hand away from his shoulder. It was surprisingly difficult. When Rio's hand found out it was no longer gripping anything, all of its fingers started to move erratically at their own individual rhythm. With the room being almost devoid of light, to Lucas, it was almost like looking at the shadow of a hand-sized spider.

Things began to escalate seconds later.

Still asleep, the rest of Rio's body joined in the struggle. Every part of her worked together as they all focused on one unconscious action plan.

(1) Get on top of Lucas regardless of what he thinks.

(2) Pin him flat on his back against his will.

(3) Forcefully use him as a personal hug-pillow until he is no longer needed.

Despite being unconscious, Rio displayed a lot of brute strength thanks to all the vitality she absorbed from the hooligans she killed in what she considered to be self-defense earlier that day.

In the midst of the struggle, the blanket that was keeping them warm fell to the floor.

Still flat on his back, Lucas grunted as he tried to fend off Rio from trying to cling on to him. She was fighting relentlessly to get on top like she was trying to violate him against his will. Both of Rio's hands held a firm grasp on Lucas' wrists and she tried to grapple him down by essentially falling forward. Before it was too late, Lucas forced his hands above himself and they managed to break Rio's fall by catching her by the shoulders. Every part of her was hanging loose so she felt heavier than she appeared to be, and Lucas' arms were slowly being forced to bend down due to the unexpected weight. Simply trying to push Rio off of him was not enough for Lucas as he also had to watch out for Rio's face when it craned down in an unintentional attempt to meet his. Her long silky hair fell to his face, tickling the skin and making the task even more difficult.

He could not hold her off much longer due to his exhaustion from all that happened within the day. In a few seconds, the pressure Rio was exerting on his arms would overwhelm him and Lucas would get a forced kiss of death via [Reaper's Embrace].

In the time of the moment, Lucas summoned every last ounce of strength his tired self could give and he managed to overturn the situation, flipping Rio off him while simultaneously returning her to her side of the bed.

That was a close call. Panting from the effort he exerted, Lucas recalled the warning Rio gave him before she left to change into her nightclothes: she had the tendency to play rough in her sleep. After what just happened, Lucas now understood that Rio was not exaggerating by any means.

Accomplishing such a feat required Lucas to roll to the side while simultaneously throwing his weight in order to get Rio off him. He was oblivious that this actually landed him in another predicament until it was too late.

Looking down with bewildered eyes, Lucas saw how vulnerable Rio looked in contrast to the dangerous kind of person she had imprinted on him. She was now sprawled out on the bed, with no sign of resistance. The ribbon tied around her waist had loosened because of the struggle and her kimono was slightly unraveled. Lucas' face grew redder the more he stared at that vertical line on Rio's chest, which was barely peeking out. Her legs were now exposed, spread out in a careless fashion, and the lower half of Lucas was coincidentally wedged in between them.

Now the roles were reversed. This time, it was Lucas who was on top, both arms extended and hands pinning Rio down by her shoulders.

Anyone who saw this scene would immediately be certain without a shadow of a doubt that Lucas was a shameless pervert trying to have his way with an innocent Nihanese maiden.

The entirety of him was overheating. Lucas swore he did not mean for this to happen.

With Rio seemingly asleep and doing any involuntary action, Lucas should have taken this chance to get off her and to try getting some shut-eye himself, but he couldn’t help but keep giving himself a "couple more seconds" to gaze upon the work of living art below him.

The way her long hair was spread out in a fan-shaped pattern...

The way her glossy kimono of swirling petals painted her with the appearance of someone shrouded in mystery...

The way she looked so wide-open and inviting, he felt like a traitor...

How long was a "couple more seconds"? Definitely not two.

Lucas gazed at every detail Rio had to offer while trying to solve the mystery behind his current emotions, which to him, were confusing and incomprehensible. He kept asking himself questions in an attempt to make everything understandable, that is until one question caught his attention.

"Lucas... What is the meaning of this?"

It was a question from another voice below him and spoken so firm that it sent chills down his spine.

Lucas looked down in horror. Horror was indeed appropriate. A single blue feline eye, glowing faintly in the dark, was awake, sharpened and staring back. The face it belonged to was slowly turning upset as it quickly read the situation.

"I... Uh... It's not what it looks like..." Lucas claimed.

He tried to explain why they ended up in that position, but before he could start, Rio's eye widened to its limits and her face became lightly flushed with annoyance.

"Something... just poked me," she growled.

"I... I can't do anything about that," Lucas bashfully said.

He apologized and tried to get off, pretending like nothing happened but Rio was in no mood to give him an easy way out.

Lucas felt his sides getting caught in the iron grip of a vice. Rio had taken advantage of the position she was in to wrap her toned legs around the young man's waist in the same manner of a python trying to strangle its prey.

Uttering a kiai in conjunction with a quick and powerful swing of her hips, Rio overturned herself and Lucas, forcing the two of them to swap positions. Lucas found himself flat on his back again with Rio holding his shoulders down while straddling him on his hips. Her hair cascaded when she looked down at him, the silk strands of black and midnight blue became a curtain of private space where Lucas and Rio could only see each other's faces.

"Thought you could have your way with me just because I was asleep?" Rio taunted with an accusing frown. "You know there are consequences for things like this."

"Don't jump to conclusions, and at least let me tell my side of the story!" Lucas protested while trying to pry Rio's arms off him. "You were--" *Gakk!*

"I did not ask for your excuses." Rio gagged him with a forearm pressed down hard on his throat. "You obviously did this because you realized this is the closest you will ever get to share a tender moment with a girl. It is sad how you pity yourself."

Rio just made an assumption without giving Lucas a chance to defend himself.

Unfair. You're being unfair.

Frustrated, he began to grind his teeth almost to the point of turning them into dust.

Injustice. That was what Lucas felt. It was drilled into his mind that Rio will always seize the chance to walk over him for her own amusement. If he could never prevent Rio from walking over him, the least he can do was to make sure that every time Rio tries to go for a stroll at his expense, she will find every step to be painful.

From this point forward, treading on Lucas will mean treading on a path of thorns.

Once more, it was time for Lucas to show he had some backbone that only reveals itself when he gets provoked. His objective changed to better suit the situation. No longer did he care about explaining himself; accomplishing that began to feel like nothing would be gained, not with how Rio continued to snub him. What now reigned within Lucas was a newfound desire - the desire to take Rio's arrogant words into account and viciously rub it back in her face. If her ego would shatter in the process, that would only make things better. What kind of a face would Rio make if she was forced to learn humility?

The curiosity of discovering the answer filled Lucas with malicious excitement.

Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he prepared to retaliate. After a bit of struggling, Lucas slid his hands underneath the forearm silencing him and slowly but surely, forced it up. Rio took notice, grit her teeth and fought back against the resistance by shifting her weight to her upper half in an attempt to pin Lucas back down. In the end, her efforts were not enough. Lucas managed to barely relieve his throat from the heavy pressure, just enough to regain his ability to speak.

"For your information Rio, it may have just happened recently, but I was hugged by a girl," Lucas confessed as he and Rio continued to grapple at a stalemate. "I'm not talking about you, of course. Remember when I told you about how I protected someone today? She hugged me not once, but twice for good measure!"

To her own confusion, Rio flinched after hearing what he just said. Lucas observed her reaction to his reveal. The look on Rio's face was so golden, Lucas couldn't help but crack a devious smile.

He could tell the momentum was building up and it had to continue.

"What's this~? Is little Ms. Rio getting riled up just because I talked about another girl~?" Lucas smoothened his voice to sound cold and calculating. He started to talk in his own mocking tone and for some reason, asking bold questions now felt like nothing to him. "Don't tell me... you actually like me~? As in... like-like me~"

Rio's face burned pink in agitation and the force she exerted grew weaker. "A-are you stupid!? W-why would I!?"

"W-why would you get so defensive over such a simple question~?" Lucas pressed forward, imitating Rio's stutter. "That reminds me. Hours ago, you called yourself my girlfriend in front of Davis. I bet part of you was fantasizing it to be true. Maybe that explains why your act was so convincing~"

Rio shook and rattled her head. "N-no... You are wrong! D-do you even know what you look like in a mirror?"

"What's behind your face will break a mirror!" Lucas countered in a flash as if he was expecting her words.

The shot Lucas fired penetrated Rio with a critical blow that left her unsettled. What did Lucas mean by "behind your face"? In the heat of the moment, Rio desperately tried to understand its meaning. Was Lucas referring to her personality, or was he referring to what she really looked like underneath her skin? Whatever Lucas meant, Rio started to tremble after perceiving his words.

"I... I do not see you like that!"

She tried to deny him, but her words had already lost their power.

"Okay~" Lucas brushed aside her meek response. "Maybe you don't see me that way, and yet, you also look like you don't want me to be stolen away~ Well then, could it be that you see me as the very first friend you've ever had~? Until you met me, you thought you were going to be forever alone, right~?"

Rio's chest began to ache, not like how it went when Lucas complimented her looks or the design of her kimono. This chest pain was heavy meaning it hurt in a bad way. Sweat trickled down her face and under her eyes when she heard Lucas using a word she despised.

"S-stop it..." she pleaded.

Rio was displaying signs that the trauma was affecting her, but Lucas remained stoic and continued to speak his mind, unhinged.

"I guess being a [Renegade] made you look down on every human, but in exchange for your newfound abilities, you learned the hard way that it's lonely at the top, isn't it~?"

"N-no more... p-please..." Rio's voice cracked as she pleaded.

Lucas slowly sat back up despite Rio's continued attempts to hold him down. The adrenaline rush from before and during his roast of Rio allowed Lucas to tap into more strength. In seconds, he rose until he faced Rio on the same height and level of eye contact. He looked straight into her now frightened eye and leaned himself closer with not the slightest hint of timidity.

Their faces touching should mean a crippling advantage in Rio's favor but despite that, the shivering girl slowly tried to back away. Her efforts were futile; her body suffered from some form of mental paralysis. Shocks and chills circulated around every fiber of her body.

When their faces were inches away from contact, Lucas beamed an insensitive grin and with no desire to rush, harshly whispered the final nail in the coffin.

"Well, here's the thing, Rio. Me? With you? Before that ever happens... I'LL DIE FIRST!"

It was the same phrase Rio used to taunt Lucas with when he warned her that pretending to be his girlfriend might actually become a thing, given some time. Rio, hearing her own weaponized words being used against her, was humiliated beyond what she could hope to handle.

It filled her with internal pain and madness. The pressure gradually weighed Rio down until she could no longer bear it.

Then, she went beyond the boundaries of her breaking point... and snapped.

Trenches of glowing azure cracks began to form and branch out on the skin surrounding her eye.

Every corner of the room became heavier with the pressure of killing intent, the distortions in space could almost be seen. Due to being drunk on his newfound bravado, Lucas failed to anticipate what happened next.

Without warning, Rio lunged at Lucas with a pained wail - a wail far too distorted and piercing to be considered human.

Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.