We kept exchanging blows. The trees were getting split in half, and the ground was breaking into pieces. The weather had changed. Bolts of lightning kept appearing nearby us. The others were fighting too. Time was running out for me. I had to finish him, but he was quick at dodging. The ghouls kept getting in the way too. His body was slowly getting ripped apart by my claws. Xykoss was surprisingly obedient. I knew that my anger was fuelling him and that he was eating away at it.
“I don’t think that you fit in with the DNPI. I mean look at you. You have the eyes of a predator. How about joining us?”
I kept my body low to get close to his body to then kick him in the ribs. He stumbled back. I quickly grabbed him by his arm to jump into the air. My body spun and I axe kicked him into the ground. His shoulder cracked with the impact. But that was not enough to make him immobile. A ghoul’s head popped out of his hand and nearly bit my head off. I lost my balance for a second and stumbled back.
The guy concentrated most of his ghouls into his arms and shot them all together at me. It was like a whip. Sharp teeth buried into my flesh and pushed me off the ground and into the air. It moved like a snake. I managed to get out of his fangs and fell towards the ground. He jumped into the air, to get above me and launched the same attack again. But I was able to defend myself by sacrificing both of my arms by crossing them in front of my body. I could hear the bones breaking. Some of them pierced open my skin.
“You sure about that?”
Xykoss suddenly appeared behind him in the air. Before he had tossed me up in the air, I had split with Xykoss and had already given him orders. He looked fierce like a raging flame and his claws were casting a shadow over the guy. He tried to defend himself, but it was too late. Xykoss let out a howl and in an instant, ripped him apart. It was raining blood. The guy crashed into the ground. The impact created a crater. My body was exhausted, and I couldn’t brace myself for my own landing either. Xykoss was busy going after the guy who had already passed out. I crashed into the ground as well. The pain started to creep in, but I forced myself to move. I crawled over to Xykoss and told him to be on standby. The ghouls were gone. The guy was beat up and bloody. My arms were hanging loosely from my body. Blood was running down them and dripping from my hands.
I tried to swallow but my throat was dry. Tears started running down my face.
“Don’t do it.”
The barrel of a gun was touching the back of my head.
“What a mess.”
He said it with a pleased voice and twisted his silver ring. Other Outliners walked out from behind the trees.
“Deactivate your Paroxys.”
I did as he told me and sank my head.
“I’ll leave Ayumi to you, Jun. I’m going to where my Yu is.”
The Outliners started cleaning up the scene and handcuffed the unconscious guy laying in the dirt. My body was in intense pain but at the same time felt numb. The gun that was being pointed at my head was removed. Without saying anything, he put me on his back and carried me out of the forest. The sun was peeking through the clouds. I wondered where he was taking me. It was difficult to keep my eyes open. I had no energy left. People were giving us looks. I could hear sirens in the distance. His light brown hair was tickling my nose. He came to a stop, and I took a look over his shoulder. Police officers were rushing around. Paramedics were treating the wounded. His body was underneath a yellow drape. A concerned police officer ran over to Hibiki who was all over Yu. He was sitting on the ground. Hibiki’s eye widened, and he looked over to us.
“The guy escaped. The one that Ayumi roughed up pretty badly.”
Himura walked over to him, with me still on his back. I hid my face.
He loosened his grip on me and Hibiki took over. He held me in his arms and carried me to where Yu was.
“Here you go. You can have your girlfriend back.”
I was passed over into Yu’s arms. Himura and Hibiki vanished from our sights.
“Let go of me. You’re hurt.”
“No, actually I’m doing pretty good. You’re the one who is not fine.”
I struggled to stand up on my own and rested against Yu’s body. Shiraishi and the others were getting treated, but it didn’t seem like they were in bad conditions. Yu helped me to get over to the yellow drape. My body dropped to the ground. I was silently sitting there.
“Well done for winning.”
I overheard a police officer say to Uehara. Was this considered a win? Did we really win? A child died. Several civilians were killed. There was no way that this could be counted as a win. Yu was the only one who managed to apprehend his enemy. The other two were nowhere to be found, the young girl and the guy. The injured were transported to a nearby University hospital and were treated by DNPI doctors. I would regain and lose consciousness in a vicious cycle and stayed in a delirious state for several days. It felt like I was burning up, but my insides felt ice-cold. My family was not allowed to see me. Neither were my friends. I was all alone in the hospital room. A week went by, and I was finally discharged from the hospital.
“Both of your arms were in pretty bad shape when you got here. They haven’t fully healed yet and there is a high chance that the scars will be permanent. I would like you to have a follow-up appointment with me after a week. The rest of your injuries have healed but I would still be careful. I recommend not going on any missions for a while nor using your Paroxys.”
That’s what the doctor told me who was in charge of my recovery. A DNPI staff member was tasked to drive me back to AoE. But I requested for a detour. I felt defeated as I was walking up the stairs. My body was still cold. I couldn’t shake off the feeling. I hadn’t spoken to anyone yet. My phone kept ringing. I had several unread text messages. My hand turned the knob, and I pulled the door open. Yuuma was still at school. I sat down on our dining table. My mom was sitting opposite of me. Her face told me that she was worried and distressed. There was complete silence between us. My arms were covered in bandages. The tea in front of me had gotten cold. Its scent had vanished. The window was open but there was no breeze today. Only the scorching hot sun. Where should I begin? What was I supposed to say? My thoughts had reached a dead end.
“Ayu, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“For not telling you the truth. About me and your father.”
“It’s fine. I can understand why you hid it from us. Why you erased my memories. But why do I feel betrayed? Why do I feel sad? You told us to live a happy and peaceful life. It’s not possible for me anymore. And you know that. You knew what I was getting into when I mentioned transferring schools, right? Did you know about my, I mean, dad’s Paroxys too? That I had it?”
She nodded her head slightly.
“Are you angry?”
“No. I don’t have any anger left inside of me. I have used it all. Every last drop of it.”
Our conversation ended there. I told her that I would come and visit again but first I had to sort out my head and my heart. I was confused about what to do next. What next step should I be taking? They say that you reap what you sow. And that was exactly what happened to me when I got back to my dormitory. I was placed under temporary detention. My recent performance had not been satisfactory nor acceptable according to the DNPI’s rules. Having the intent to kill, twice, was distasteful. I was allowed to attend my regular high school classes but not my Paroxys training. The others were told to keep a distance from me as well. They told me to take this time to carefully think about my actions and re-evaluate what values I hold in my heart.
I spent most of my time sitting inside the bathtub. The hot water against my skin felt nice. I yearned for something. A feeling. A touch. Something other than what I was feeling inside of me. Everything had gone back to normal. My arms had healed up and the doctor told me that I was good to go at my appointment. The scars remained like he had told me before. I had visited my home again, but it was still hard for me to have a proper conversation with my mom. The only solace I got was from Yuuma. He wanted to visit my school again, but I told him another time. On my way back, I found a box with a stray kitten in it. It was black and white. I picked it up and took it with me. Not sure, what I was going to do with it. But I did yearn for someone’s company whenever I was in my room, all alone. It was windy and I hid the kitten underneath my t-shirt. While I was on campus, I was surprised to see Yabumi-sensei stopping me.
“Moriuchi, what are you doing?”
Thanks to his Paroxys, a mighty wolf, he had a good sense of smell and was capable of distinguishing between people by their scents.
“Nothing. I just found a stray kitten.”
“Animals are not allowed on campus, unless it is your Paroxys.”
“Sorry. I wasn’t aware of that.”
“Maybe you can give it to that girl that Himura Jun cares for.”
I was taken a little aback by his suggestion. Cares for? He’s her father, so of course he cares for her.
“That’s a good idea.”
“Tell me. Are you aware of what Paroxys that child possesses?”
The conversation was making me strangely uncomfortable. Something felt off.
“He did vaguely mention it once, but I didn’t probe any further.”
I was being honest with my answer. He nodded his head and excused himself. It took me a minute to gather my thoughts again. Our conversation seemed random. But I did follow his suggestion and went to the greenhouse and sure enough I found Rin, watering her plants. I knocked on the window and she opened the door for me. She told me that Himura was at a meeting and would come back in a bit to pick her up.
“Rin-chan, what is your favourite animal?”
Her tiny hands grabbed on to her light green dress and she swayed from side to side. Her hair was in two pigtails today.
I smiled at her and crouched down.
I lifted my t-shirt to reveal the kitten to her. It meowed. Her eyes widened and a big smile appeared on her face. I gently grabbed the kitten and placed it in her arms.
“What should we name it?”
She again started swaying from side to side while petting the kitten.
“Strawberry it is.”
I waited with her until Himura came back. We didn’t talk at all. I just excused myself and went back to my room. My detention was nearly over but I still felt lost. Was I going the right way? Was it okay for me to be an Outliner? I knew that it was wrong to always lose my temper and sanity whenever I used Xykoss. Did my dad have the same struggle? But, in the end, he should have handled it better. He should have found a better solution or way to reach his ideals. Whatever they were.
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