Chapter 19:

The New Squad


We finally found Cherry.Bookmark here

He wrinkled his nose in anger and frustration as he attempted to gain freedom from Jessica. She still had one of his wrists gripped with one of her hands and a gun shoved into his right abdomen with her other hand. While observing Cherry’s struggle, I couldn’t help but notice his unique characteristics. He was young but not too young, and he was a white tan-skinned boy. He was a relatively skinny guy, which I observed after seeing his arms through his shirt. The boy had light pink hair that was messy but looked incredibly smooth as if it was brushed daily. He had silver eyes with no facial hair whatsoever and wore a simple snow-white buttoned long-sleeve shirt alongside bright pink sports shorts. He looked odd but, in a way, he reminded me of myself when I was younger.Bookmark here

Jessica threw his arm and tossed him onto the ground while still aiming her pistol at him calmly. I spoke as he landed on his back.Bookmark here

“Well? Are you Cherry?”Bookmark here

He looked up at me in clear resentment.Bookmark here

He scowled, “You damn bounty hunters won’t leave me alone! I won’t let you kill me!”Bookmark here

Cherry pulled out another weapon from his shorts and pointed it at Jessica, but this time it was a small kitchen knife. Jessica looked at me while still pointing her gun at Cherry and smiled. We began giggling together as Jessica slowly brought her gun back into her cloak. By now, there were only a few random people watching us from afar as the old woman who was cradling the bowl of potatoes slowly stepped her way towards us. Cherry’s expression changed.Bookmark here

“What? Are you not here to kill me?”Bookmark here

Jessica knelt down to the ground in front of Cherry’s knife that he was holding and replied.Bookmark here

“No, we’re not here to kill you, idiot. The real issue here is that you thought a kitchen knife would save you from bullets. What are you trying to do? Cut some butter or something?”Bookmark here

Jessica, still smiling, sighed and stood back up to my side as Cherry slowly dropped his knife letting it clatter on the ground. The old woman reached us and stood behind Cherry.Bookmark here

The old woman nagged, “Cherry! Cherry! Cherry! How many times are you gonna make me scream for god’s sake? I made you your lunch!”Bookmark here

Cherry slowly stood up and rotated his body around. He grabbed the plastic bowl as Jessica and I chuckled once more. The people that ran away began slowly making their way back in surprised expressions as the small crowd of people around us dissipated. The two men that Jessica and I spoke to returned to the fountain as well.Bookmark here

One of the men hesitated and expressed, “Wait, so you’re not here for the bounty on Cherry?”Bookmark here

The old woman sighed and began trudging her way slowly back to the village entrance.Bookmark here

I replied frowning, “No. We just have an offer and some questions for him.”Bookmark here

The hesitant man was still on edge looking at me in suspicion.Bookmark here

I sighed, “C’mon. If we wanted Cherry dead, he would be dead by now. Did you not see the loaded gun shoved into his ribs?”Bookmark here

As the man began to believe us, he gasped in relief alongside many others and sat down at the giant streaming fountain. Cherry turned back to us, looked at us as if he was annoyed, and walked his way to the fountain to sit down. He sat down abruptly, and Jessica sat near him. I crisscrossed my arms and sat down at the fountain beside Jessica as I fixed my cloak into a comfortable position. Cherry began eating his potatoes with his right hand as he held the bowl with his left, and Jessica began to talk.Bookmark here

“Listen. I have some questions for you. Can we talk here real quick while you eat?”Bookmark here

Cherry didn’t respond. All he did was continue shoving the half-cut boiled potatoes into his mouth. He was eyeing us while he ate like he was afraid we would take his potatoes.Bookmark here

I asked in true curiosity, “Everyone is okay with you staying here? Even though there’s a bounty on you? That wasn’t the case for me. Plus, you look like a little kid. How old are you?”Bookmark here

He decided to answer those questions, responding with his mouth full, “Topeka Village is my family. They would never let me leave even if I wanted to, and I’m nineteen years old.”Bookmark here

Jessica and I continued to listen to Cherry.Bookmark here

“By the way, about that bounty that you keep mentioning.”Bookmark here

Cherry glared his silver eyes toward my eyes and pointed at my forehead.Bookmark here

“There’ve been countless bounty hunters throughout my life that have constantly tried to kill me. My family isn’t stupid. We all knew you were bounty hunters as soon as the old hag let you guys in.”Bookmark here

Jessica and I looked at each other as Cherry continued to eat.Bookmark here

I replied, “Why did she let us in then?”Bookmark here

He swallowed his food, leered at me, and once more responded to me, but this time, he responded to me acting like that was a stupid question.Bookmark here

“Oh wow! Yeah man! An eighty-three-year-old woman is gonna stop two armed bounty hunters from entering our village! You’re so smart! Idiot!”Bookmark here

We looked at each other in resentment for a solid twenty seconds as he put his bright yellow plastic bowl down by his feet.Bookmark here

He wiped his face with the front of his shirt and expressed, “You guys couldn’t kill me if you tried. My greed would’ve stopped your bullets from reaching me.”Bookmark here

I replied, “Your greed huh? So you have killed then. What is it that you gain exactly?”Bookmark here

The boy continued to pierce his eyes at mine and didn’t respond to that question.Bookmark here

Jessica changed the subject, “So, they take care of you here, but why?”Bookmark here

Cherry wiped his hands on his sports shorts and replied.Bookmark here

“I used to live here with my real family. They were killed years ago when I was a kid, and I’ve known everyone here ever since then. Like I said before, we’re all family here.”Bookmark here

I intruded, “What do you gain brat? Are you gonna answer my question?”Bookmark here

Cherry replied, “Nope. What, do you think I’m stupid? You’ll find out when you find out.”Bookmark here

He annoyed me so much that I stood up and was about to scream, but Jessica changed the subject and continued asking her questions once more.Bookmark here

“Who killed your family?”Bookmark here

Cherry looked down at his lap slowly and uttered as if he really didn’t want to answer.Bookmark here

“A number.”Bookmark here

Was he really like me? Jessica answered assertively.Bookmark here

“Cherry. That’s why we’re here. The same thing happened to him.”Bookmark here

She pointed to me.Bookmark here

“His name is Coal Jenie. He’s a lot like you. He’s from Phoenix Village, and, by the way, he’s not an actual bounty hunter. There’s a bounty on him just like there’s one on you, and his family was killed by a number when he was young too. Now, he’s working with me to complete a bounty and kill a number. Number Twenty-Nine to be exact.”Bookmark here

Cherry looked at me as if he was shocked and surprised.Bookmark here

“Which one? Which number did it to you?”Bookmark here

In a sad but angry fashion, I answered slowly, “Number One. How about you?”Bookmark here

He replied surprised, “Number One? You encountered Number One? I don’t know which number it was for me. All I remember is what he wore and how he looked.”Bookmark here

I confirmed, “Did he have a number engraved on his right shoulder or anywhere on his body?”Bookmark here

Cherry brought his left hand to his chin as if he was thinking.Bookmark here

“No. He didn’t. I wouldn’t have forgotten that. From the number I encountered, all I remember is a hashtag beside one of the man’s eyes and that he wore shades.”Bookmark here

I replied, “Shades? Like sunglasses?”Bookmark here

Cherry scowled, “Yes. Shades.”Bookmark here

I sat down once more. All three of us got comfortable and remained silent for some time simply watching villagers and workers go about their business while listening to the streaming water from the fountain.Bookmark here

I spurted out, “Cherry.”Bookmark here

Jessica and Cherry both looked at me.Bookmark here

“Is that your real name, and is that hair dyed?”Bookmark here

Cherry replied quickly, “No and no. I don’t know my real name. Everyone just calls me Cherry because of my hair, and no, my hair is natural.”Bookmark here

We once more entered silence, and after about five minutes of silence and watching more people pass by, I asked the question that we came here to ask.Bookmark here

“We need all the help we can get Cherry. If you’re serious about having already gained, then we could use someone like you. Would you join us?”Bookmark here

Cherry appeared stunned by the question as he continued watching chattering kids and villagers run around. He briefly remained silent as Jessica and I awaited a response.Bookmark here

He responded, “The numbers will die. The numbers need to die.”Bookmark here

Jessica and I looked at each other thinking that was an agreement to join us, but then Cherry added on to his response.Bookmark here

“All I care about is killing them, and I will kill them all, but I have to decline your offer. I can’t leave my family. They won’t allow me to join you. Not unless they trust you with me. I don’t even trust you yet.”Bookmark here

Jessica spurted out, “What do we have to do for you and your family to trust us? You keep saying this village is your family. Who exactly do we need to talk to?”Bookmark here

Cherry waived his right hand at us signaling us to follow him. He stood up and walked toward one of the homes with us following him. Quickly, he knocked on the house’s door, and we were let in by an incredibly old but muscular dark-skinned man who had two young white tan-skinned girls behind his legs. Cherry whispered a quick exchange of words with the old man as he walked inside.Bookmark here

He whispered, “They’ve offered it to me. What I always told you I was gonna do one day, but they want to help too.”Bookmark here

The old man looked at us frowning and instantly invited us to enter and sit down on a couch in a giant living room. As we sat down, I noticed the unique features of the room. The room had an incredibly wide carpet with intricate artwork painted onto it. It was also accompanied by a few paintings, a long couch, many chairs around the edges of the huge carpet, a piano, and a fireplace at the far right wall. The old man shouted something from outside, and within an instant, countless kids, adults, elders, and even pets flooded the home, entering from outside. Even the old woman from the gate walked in.Bookmark here

I turned to Jessica nervously and whispered, “Maybe we should just take the hint and go...”Bookmark here

She slightly turned her head toward mine and whispered back, “No. Hold on. This is good. This is our chance.”Bookmark here

Once about thirty people were sitting around the living room, the old man along with the old woman from the village entrance sat on individual retractable silver chairs in front of us alongside Cherry.Bookmark here

The old man began, “Cherry’s told me enough. He’s a grown boy now and should be able to choose to do whatever he wants, but I need to ask you some questions before we let Cherry make his decision.”Bookmark here

Jessica replied, “Okay. We’re happy to answer anything you have to ask.”Bookmark here

First, the old man asked us what our names were and if we were real bounty hunters. Jessica responded honestly, and I did too. After the simple questions, he began the real analysis.Bookmark here

The old man expressed, “What is your greed? What have you two gained, and what do you two gain?”Bookmark here

I turned to Jessica, but she didn’t look at me. She simply answered the question looking at the man.Bookmark here

“I gain poison. Poison in the form of my blood. The more lives I take, the more poisonous my blood becomes. That’s all. It’s nothing special, but I know how to use it in battle.”Bookmark here

Everyone in the room, including Jessica, stared at me awaiting my response.Bookmark here

I responded hesitantly, “I, uh, gain weapons.”Bookmark here

Cherry and the old man were confused by the response.Bookmark here

“I gain weapons. For each life I take, I get a new and unique weapon. There are factors that affect my greed, and depending on how much the person I kill has already gained, the weapon I gain can be something as simple as a knife to something as complicated as a greatsword.”Bookmark here

The old man scowled, “Yea, okay. Show me.”Bookmark here

I turned to Jessica as she nodded at me.Bookmark here

I stood up, opened my hand toward the center of the living room, grasped the air, and my gained crimson scythe’s handle appeared in my grip. It towered over the old man and Cherry as scarlet particles tore down from the blade and as wind erupted. Everyone in the room gasped and mumbled amongst each other. After a few seconds, I once more gripped the scythe firmly as the crimson rings clanked on the handle, making it disappear into thin air this time as the red particles dissipated along with it.Bookmark here

The old man asked in disbelief, “Where does it go when you do that?”Bookmark here

I replied honestly, “I don’t know.”Bookmark here

He looked behind himself at a few towering men to observe their reactions. The muscular men were stunned.Bookmark here

The old man turned back and responded at me, “Jessica’s greed is one thing, but I’ve never seen greed like that before.”Bookmark here

The old man stood up and quietly talked to the muscular men making sign movements as he whispered. He turned back around, still standing up, and asked Jessica and me to wait a few more moments as he exited the room and entered another. We sat back down in silence. The muscular men alongside a few others followed the old man. As I heard them conversing in the back, I noticed Cherry looking at me with widened eyes in astonishment as if my greed fascinated him.Bookmark here

The old folk came back with the various random people and once more sat down. They gave us their decision.Bookmark here

“You people are formidable, but you see, before you leave, we’ve decided that we would like for you to accompany our people in training. We would like to observe the true strength of both of you before we allow you to take one of our family members. Cherry will join you in training as well.”Bookmark here

Jessica and I looked at Cherry and the old man in confusion and perplexity. Cherry slightly smiled.Bookmark here

The old man continued, “We have many that have gained around this room including Cherry and I. We would like to allow Cherry to make his own decisions, but before we give our blessing, we need to make sure we can properly trust you two with him. All we ask is that you stay five or six days to train alongside those of us that have gained before you leave. I guarantee you, if you stay, it will be worth your time.”Bookmark here

I replied instantly before Jessica could, “You’ve gained? What is your greed old man, and what does Cherry gain?”Bookmark here

The old man chuckled, “Oh I haven’t gained in years, young man! Don’t worry about my greed!”Bookmark here

I stared at him still awaiting a proper answer.Bookmark here

He continued after placing a hand on one of Cherry’s shoulders, “But Cherry here. He gains coolness.”Bookmark here

I confirmed, “Coolness?”Bookmark here

Cherry clarified, “Yes. Coolness. The more lives I take, the colder my body becomes. My father had the same ability. I gained it after he died, but I’m not sure how I did. I didn’t kill him. A number did.”Bookmark here

The old man added, “It is a simple ability, but it has more potential than you could imagine. He could bring about the cold from his body at will, opposite to how heat is exerted by the body.”Bookmark here

So, Number Nineteen and Cherry have opposite abilities. Interesting.Bookmark here

As we conversed back and forth for hours, daytime turned into nighttime, and the village members offered us rooms to sleep in to think about if we were going to stay and train. We slept in our given rooms, woke up, and agreed to train after I confirmed that we had time with Jessica.Bookmark here

For days, Jessica and I trained alongside Cherry and a few other men and women who’ve gained. Every day was the same training, but oddly, it truly was effective. The various men and women who accompanied us in our training had incredibly unique abilities from their greed. We trained to get in shape utilizing calisthenics like pull-ups, push-ups, and even core workouts, and after that, we would train using what we’ve gained against each other in one-on-one style matchups. I would use my weapons as Cherry used his coolness against the various village members. While we fought each other, Jessica would simply practice her precision by shooting wooden targets set up by the dark-skinned old man who questioned us. Every night, we would feast alongside the villagers.Bookmark here

It… felt like home, but I made sure to not get attached. I know what happens when I get too attached to people… like what happened with Spade.Bookmark here

Overall, we trained our hearts out and oddly bonded at the same time. Cherry came to his final decision after all the training. He decided he would join us.Bookmark here

We woke up early in the morning, gathered our things, strapped our weapons, packed some quick snacks and water bottles within our cloaks, and walked toward the village exit.Bookmark here

As Jessica, Cherry, and I made our way towards the old lady guarding the gate, Cherry looked at me and expressed, “We will kill them Coal. All of them. We have no other purpose.”Bookmark here

Cherry’s hair blew from the wind as I turned to answer him. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was completely stunned by those words. It was like… it was like I was looking at another version of myself. I replied confidently and softly with one word.Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

He was given a ragged brown cloak by the old lady, and Cherry threw it around himself. We were on our way.Bookmark here

We were on our way to avenge not only my family but now, to avenge Cherry’s as well. As we began our journey, we walked side-by-side. Me, Cherry, and Jessica. As we walked, Jessica loomed near me whispering in my ear.Bookmark here

“Number One? Were you serious about that?”Bookmark here

I turned to her and just nodded.Bookmark here

Konoko Asada
Fair Proph
Joshua Lundquest
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