Chapter 10:



The Original Simp’s attack didn’t do shit.Bookmark here

Joshua grinned to properly feel the adrenaline ripping through his heart. His head was in the clouds. His fingers were loose and giddy. Bookmark here

He wanted to laugh it off. He wanted to hump the air and dance. He wanted to throw that white-haired weirdo some Ls, but the cold sweat dripping from his chin begged him to not throw his dignity due to peer pressure. He had something to protect now.Bookmark here

And it was from a damn sword that he never saw. Bookmark here

But then again, Leigh wasn’t on the same page. Joshua’s helpless smile grew. Everything fell apart when Ryan rushed forward. Just like that, he ruined everything. Again. The damsel was still as shaken as before. But her strained, desperate yet hopeful eyes were dead set on that bastard.Bookmark here

She was raring to go to his side. She kept looking around, stuttering as she breathed, trying to think of a wonderful scenario, a way to go to him. It was like her life didn’t matter at all. Bookmark here

It would be all too easy if Leigh turned to Joshua instead. Running away would be fine. He’d take the blame. She pretended that he didn’t exist until she needed him.Bookmark here

It was the same as before.Bookmark here

Everyone referred to it as the park. It was an abandoned lot where the kids would play, punch each other, and have their parents punch each other next to defend their children. It’s that kind of spectacle that drew people in to stay there. Bookmark here

It was when the skies. It was when the skies stretching above turned into a heavy orange. Rain was bound to come. It was just the two of them hanging out. It was fun, as he could remember. People were about to pour out, and it was when Leigh tugged his clothes and begged him not to go.Bookmark here

Joshua kept his head low and stepped forward. Bookmark here

Maybe he wanted this. Bookmark here

Leigh’s concern was directed to someone else. Bitter. She wore that same look when she asked him to go out, just the two of them together, to share a cup of cold pineapple juice and a single stick of fried breaded quail eggs. She wanted to run. But she didn’t want to go alone. Bookmark here

Back then, the sun faded out along with the rest of the world’s color. Time dragged. Joshua mustered a smile. He fanned himself as he waited for Leigh to pick her words. She looked adorably embarrassed. For a moment, he thought that the world belonged to him. For a moment, all they heard was each other’s breaths until it was broken by the thoughts he would always remember. Bookmark here

“Would you…”Bookmark here

Her soft yet calloused hands pressed into his. She trembled as she breathed through her words carving every sheepish syllable into his brain. That was a long, torturous moment that he would give anything to return to. Bookmark here

She flashed him her eyes. Desperate yet shy. How dirty her face looked at the moment didn’t matter. The world seemed to not exist.Bookmark here

“Would you… take me away… from here? From everything?”Bookmark here

And she just had to say that. Bookmark here

Her voice rang in his head. Her lips formed a slight smile. Unlike him, she wanted to abandon everything like nothing mattered. Bookmark here

His smile quivered. So was hers. She nodded at herself and realized his answer. She tilted her head to the side, and for a moment, the half-empty cup of juice in his hand grew heavier. Bookmark here

It was for his family. Bookmark here

The thought twisted his heart, and it did the same with his smile. He had to pay for the things that his parents had sacrificed for him to be able to grow old, to live. It was his job to take care of them, no matter how hard he had to deny himself. He was someone that his family could depend on. Bookmark here

Leigh’s hopeful gleam darkened. It rotted into a glare like she’s forced to appreciate a piece of trash as the greatest piece of art.Bookmark here

He led a sad life. Bookmark here

But what he felt inside him screamed to differ. Bookmark here

Joshua’s grin twisted even more. Bookmark here

Nothing mattered. Bookmark here

Joshua clutched his chest. He won’t get hurt. These people wanted him. No one would be able to even hurt him anyways. No one would be able to crush him.Bookmark here

Even the one named Juan Montefalco wouldn’t.Bookmark here

Everyone’s looking, and he felt nothing but mad thrill and fun. For a moment, he seemed alone, but that awkward piece of the board that no one noticed came up and turned the whole playing table. Bookmark here

“I’m saving both of your asses. Again.” He flashed Ryan a pained smile. “I’m the one that they want.”Bookmark here

This poor excuse of a hero, this one-armed cabbage man, was at the height of his uselessness. He would be left confused, pained, betrayed. And he would die, knowing that someone saved him, and he failed to do anything to change it.Bookmark here

“No—”Bookmark here

Joshua’s steps wavered upon hearing Leigh’s voice. He stopped. This unknown expression drawn on his face turned hopeful. He faced his back. He was killed five times over when Leigh rushed to Ryan instead.Bookmark here

That’s interesting. Bookmark here

She said nothing more. She slapped the guy in the face. She had Ryan reeling back, grinning to ignore the pain. Only then did she notice what she was doing. Bookmark here

Joshua faced Leo. “I’m the one that you want. Take me.” Bookmark here

“That sounded so goddamn wrong…” Ryan commented weakly. Bookmark here

Leo clicked his tongue. “Like I said—”Bookmark here

“I get to choose if I die or not. And we’re looking like prime targets. I’m the Chief of Defense now. And that Montefalco would be gunning to kill me, and he couldn’t.” Joshua licked his lips. “You’re all looking pretty naked right now. I have no doubts that all of you are strong, although none of that matters if you all get crushed by rocks. The last time we fought against something bright and flashy, that guy flattened an apartment building along with the neighborhood. You don’t get to tell me what to do.”Bookmark here

Leo’s eyes narrowed. Bookmark here

“You want me, right?” Joshua chuckled and pointed them at the wasteland not far from his back. “You need my power. And you’ll get it, given that you don’t touch them. But hey, this guy would probably bleed to death anyway, so all you have to worry about, if you could kill me, is one little girl.”Bookmark here

Leigh heaved. “You don’t have to…”Bookmark here

“You don’t have to try so hard to finish something you didn’t want to say.” Joshua sighed at Leigh. “And I don’t want either of you to go save me.”Bookmark here

Ryan looked at Joshua with disgust. Leo said nothing more and walked away, expecting Joshua to follow his lead. Leigh was a bit confused, but he realized something.Bookmark here

“For a second there, Ryan, I thought that you would understand, but hey… I can see it now,” Joshua smiled at Leigh. “You’re really looking as poor as ever.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.