Chapter 36:

Volume 2, Chapter 3: Encounter in the Alleyway (Part 2)

Parable of the Renegades


Lying prone and ignoring the pain of his injuries plus the mild friction burns that ate at his chest, the man with metallic blond hair stretched his left arm and grasped the cold hilt of his short sword.

The struggle to get up was difficult. He kept trying to push himself with self-inflicted warnings that the group of hooligans was going to arrive at his location at any moment. Despite all the desperation, his legs didn't stop slipping in the process of getting up and refused to give him the support he needed. They weren’t broken or fractured but they were very sore and numb, a partial result from the curb stomp beatdown he suffered at that hands of Logen.

With only one arm capable of helping him move, the blond man dragged himself across the rough terrain and to a wall after he finally acknowledged that it was impossible at the moment to stand up without help. Choosing the nearest wall that was made of bricks, he raised his sword as high as he could and gouged a hole into the gaps of brittle cement. Grunting and tensing the muscles in his good arm, he used his sword as a handhold and pulled himself up.

It was a painstakingly slow and steady climb, but the blond man was finally able to get back on his feet. At least they still had the strength to let him stand once he got to that point. He then wandered into a random corridor that he chose with a quick mental lottery, hoping his guess will bring him closer to escaping from the alleyway maze and away from the meddling hooligans.

Now if only his legs could run without putting his balance in jeopardy…

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“No way… is this for real?”

Jason and the other five remaining hooligans gathered and looked down in disbelief at the two sprawled bodies of their comrades, Bruno and Brody.

Jason bit his lower lip; Markus gritted his teeth as a quiet growl seethed through them. At the same time, Josh, Scott, and Zach stared in anguish at the corpses and considered themselves lucky it wasn't them who ended up dead. Kevin was indifferent, almost not changing the look on his face upon his arrival.

Both of the twins were found killed by each other’s weapons: baseball bats with rusted nails studded into to them, a deadly combination that equaled blunt force trauma and toxic perforation.

It was clear that the two of them were now dead, but why the cause of their deaths happened to be such led the group to some mild confusion. They didn’t know how it happened, but they all had to agree that the target they were sent to kill was not simply a crippled weakling attempting a futile escape.

“Guys,” The sternness of Kevin’s tone brought back order into the group and snapped them out of their thoughts. “Forget Bruno and Brody. It’s time to go.”

“The hell are you saying, Kevin!?” Jason stepped up and held back on the urge to shove his superior, hard. “Out of all of us, you’d be the last person to—"

“Our target’s gonna give us the slip if we don’t get a move on.” Kevin's assertion put Jason in his place as a reminder meant not only for him but for the rest of the group as well. “And I can only imagine what that asshole boss will do to us if we fail.”

With that being said, an argument within the group was stopped before it began. Varying but all unfortunate backgrounds had left each of the hooligans with no future to look forward to. Their only compromise of living a decent life was as the underlings of Logen Thayne, who was younger than all of them but hardly showed them respect. Just bringing up the boss, and the consequences waiting after a failure, made the rest of the group heed Kevin’s warning without a second thought.

Forcefully suppressing their grief, the group of hooligans ran off in haste toward the other corridors nearby and continued their hunt for the injured blond man, leaving one by one in order of who had the least attachment to the twins.

Bowing his head and clasping his hands as a sort of final goodbye and a prayer for them to rest in peace, the last person to part ways with the corpses of Bruno and Brody was Kevin.

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The blond man’s breathing turned heavy as his chest expanded and contracted to their limits. Not a single person was in his line of sight, but a series of footsteps from a general direction were thundering louder with every passing second.

They were getting closer.

The hooligan group was on their way and ready to avenge the two fallen comrades he’d baited into killing each other, and from the sounds of it, they were far from taking the losses lightly.

That trick the blond man used against the twins was less likely, maybe impossible, to work on six more people at once as much as he wished it did. At the very least, the pursuing hooligan group had no knowledge on the mechanics of his gauntlet, which displayed an ability no one would expect it to be capable of doing. However, the injured state of the blond man rendered the ability impractical and reserved to be used only as a last resort.

He limped to the end of the corridor he was traversing and turned around its corner while looking back, hoping he would throw off his pursuers for at least a little longer…

…only to bump into someone the moment his head snapped forward.

The blond man fell to his backside, his weakened legs unable to keep him standing following the accidental recoil. He groaned at the shock his behind was feeling, looked up and trembled at how down his luck must’ve been lately.

A towering adolescent loomed over him. His short and tousled black hair framed a handsome face – or what would’ve been a handsome face if it weren’t for the black bags under his restless eyes, bruises, and bandages that marred it.

But there was a more pressing matter regarding looks.

He was dressed to kill. The blond man shuddered at the weapon harness that went over the killer’s maroon shirt and down his navy-blue distressed jeans. A pauldron and vambrace armored his left arm. A grip and pommel peeking from behind one of his shoulders indicated that at least a sword was strapped to his back with many more tools for killing hanging next to it.

Still downed and too out of focus to point his gauntlet and shoot its sword at the killer, the blond man lost to his natural instincts and tried to scamper away, only to be stopped in his tracks.

“Sorry about that. Looks like the both of us timed it bad. You okay?”

Davis, who the blond man perceived to be a killer, crouched and offered a hand to help him up while trying to give the best impression that he meant no harm despite the weapons on his back. From his point of view, the blond man looked too injured to try hurting him and he also appeared to be quite weak considering an accidental bump was all it took to make him go out on his butt.

The blond man stared at the open hand with eyes of paranoia. Despite the apparent lack of hostility, he hesitated to reach out and take it, as he was unsure whether this person deserved to be trusted or not.

Davis was a little annoyed he was left hanging, but he nonetheless understood the blond man’s reaction. Knowing a thing or two about San Desquiciado, he was aware that anyone could be a suspicious person without any qualms about killing, so the blond man’s lack of a response was nothing unusual.

“Don’t worry. I’m not gonna hurt you just because of an accident.” Davis rotated his outstretched hand slowly to show there were no hidden tricks that were waiting to pounce. “I know it can be hard to believe sometimes, but not everyone in San Desquiciado is a bad person.”

The blond man studied Davis again. The look on his face, while not the friendliest he’d ever seen, looked genuine, and his words were spoken with sincerity while also making sense. If Davis was really going to kill him, he would’ve done so already, especially since his downed state meant he had little room for defense.

The blond man reached out his left hand, ready to meet Davis’ and accept his offer to be helped up, only to abstain and retract it when he caught Davis suddenly pointing his eyes toward his gauntlet.

“He’s over there!”

Josh signaled the others that he found the injured blond man and it wasn’t long before five of his fellow hooligans regrouped alongside him at the end of the corridor, opposite to the blond man and Davis. Josh clicked his tongue upon seeing someone else near their target.

“You there!” He called out to Davis. “Scram now if you know what’s good for you, or blondie over there won’t be the only one getting his ass handed to him!”

And Davis thought he was just going to help someone stand up before going their separate ways after a quick "thank you." The situation for him had escalated in an instant, and he was far from pleased.

He traded glances with the other people in the same corridor. Davis didn’t know the details of the story but he clearly knew who was playing the victim and who were the aggressors. Looking back at the blond man whose knees wobbled during another strenuous climb to get back to his feet, Davis heaved a sigh.

If he were to be honest with himself, Davis would have preferred to do as he was told and not get involved with this affair. It was no lie that he was sorry for what was happening to the injured blond man, but that person was also a complete stranger to him. There was nothing he could do about the limited level of concern. Besides, there were already enough issues for him to deal with and adding another one wasn’t going to make things easier.

However, Davis also couldn’t find it in himself to abandon the man. Was it because he had a strong sense of justice? A lingering desire to protect the weak? Any quality of his personality that may liken him to a hero?

Those were some noble qualities, but no, it had nothing to do with them either.

“Can you stand on your own without my help?” Davis took in a reluctant breath and stepped forward between the blond man and the hooligan group with one eye fixated on the latter in case he needed to take action.

“I can manage.” The blond man muttered, one arm undergoing a minor struggle to straighten itself off the ground. At the same time, his knees buckled in their progress to lift him up.

“Alright then.” Davis shifted his full attention to the group of hooligans, who all looked ready to brawl from the unconventional fighting stances they took. To their confusion, he walked toward them at a steady pace and raised his empty hands to show that he was unarmed. “Listen. I don’t know what that guy did to make you all go ham on him, but he looks like he’s had enough, don’t you think? Maybe we can find another way to—”

“He’s about to pull off some sneaky magic trick!” Markus kicked a cloud of dust and charged.

Davis twisted his face into an irritated scowl.

Ugh. So much for trying to talk me out of this mess…

In response to Markus, who was closing in fast with a serrated hunting knife in his hand, Davis angled an arm behind himself. Assembled parts clacked against each other when his grip was fixed upon it. Kevin detected the preparedness in the reaction and tried to stop Markus from charging into a trap, but he was too late.

“You want magic? Then prepare to be amazed...” Davis’ brows furrowed with the squint of his eyes. “…as I whip out my Boomstick!”

*Chi-chik!*

“Oh, shit!”

Oh shit, indeed. All the bravado Markus displayed ran away crying in an instant when Davis flashed out one of the harnessed weapons on his back.

A combat shotgun.

Without hesitation, he planted a foot behind himself to take a stance, aimed the barrel, and pumped the forend.

The curl of a finger was all it took for Davis to pull the trigger.

*BANG!!!*

A deafening blast left everyone disoriented except for one. Hands bracing his stomach and too breathless to scream his pain, Markus stumbled a few steps toward a wall before crumpling to his knees and toppling face-first to the ground.

His misery ended when everything went black. Markus stopped moving.

Davis had no time to acknowledge the fact he shot someone. He pointed his shotgun to the sky and pumped it, ejecting an empty round that clinked off the ground. Now ready to fire again, he alternated the aim of his shotgun’s barrel toward the rest of the tensed hooligans, threatening to blast whoever tried to come at him next.

Kevin devised a strategy on the fly and hurled an empty wine bottle he found next to a garbage can when the shotgun wasn’t pointed at his direction.

The burgundy glass projectile came fast, spinning numerous revolutions toward Davis’ face with Kevin right behind it and with his machete ready to deliver a follow-up attack. Another attack, specifically a panic attack, surged within Davis and made his nerves freeze.

Dodging the bottle will only make it strike the blond man, who was on the verge of standing straight. If Davis were to shoot the bottle, it will explode into tiny shards that may embed themselves into his skin or eyes if he was unlucky. The possibility of that happening was high as the bottle was thrown at him from a considerable distance, and he was certain his bad luck was going to make sure it happened too.

Come to think of it, that was the second time in one night a glass bottle was hurled toward his face.

He wouldn't have any of it. A theoretical flame lit itself within Davis and evolved in an instant from a sizzling campfire into a raging inferno. His nerves didn’t stay frozen for long.

In a silvery flash, the bottle was split apart, both halves passing either side of Davis’ face before they fell to the ground and broke into pieces that were only harmful if stepped on with bare feet. Kevin was nearly caught by the same flash, but he backpedaled barely in time and escaped with a slight nick on his nose, a few fluttering strands of his hair, and an increased frequency in his heartbeat.

It all happened so fast. The hooligans couldn’t interpret what they saw until they adjusted a little lower to what Davis was now wielding in his hands.

He had dropped his shotgun to reach for the other weapon on his back. This time, Davis pulled out a longsword and a burst of adrenaline allowed him to draw it in record time and bisect the bottle at the last possible second.

Getting struck in the face with something so fragile, and yet so dense, was nothing to laugh about. Although Davis managed to avoid what would’ve been a second wine bottle to the face, his head still ended up throbbing. It was a migraine, one that came from getting triggered by a specific action. He twisted his sword hard and creaked the leather on its grip. The subsequent breaths he drew became heavier, all of them seething with frustration; frustrations that had begun to take their toll on him.

They all came pouring back.

All of the recent frustrations that Davis suppressed inside himself surrounded him as manifestations only visible to him. They taunted him with the fun his fate had at his expense. Some of these were as a result of his own doing and some weren’t, but Davis didn’t care about the cause. Not with his current state of mind he didn’t. Right now, only the results mattered, and none of them were worth smiling about.

The visualizations only he could see and hear was so annoying. They needed to be disposed of.

*Nrrrgh-RAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!*

Engulfed in a blind rage, Davis went berserk and let loose an almost inhuman battle cry that left the blond man and the hooligans unsettled and questioning what just happened all of a sudden.

Fixated on his spot, Davis cleaved his longsword several times against the visualization of the pain he felt when Lucas smacked him in the face with a suitcase full of cash before slamming his tenderized face twice into a wall in Rea Nightingale’s clinic.

With the bitter image falling into nothingness from all the heavy slashes it received, Davis turned slightly clockwise to another image and attacked the extreme jealousy he felt when Rio called herself Lucas' girlfriend. His suspicions on Rio aside, Davis accepted but despised the notion that sometimes people are given something when they don’t work hard for it like how an introvert like Lucas had a chance of scoring ahead of an extrovert like him.

Next, Davis went for the image of a lifelong frustration. It was him listening to a repeat of his father's helicopter parent sermon. When will his father be the one lending him an ear and listening to his perspectives? When will his father try to understand his interests instead of trying to mold him into an ideal son while controlling him like a puppet on strings!? Davis hacked at the image, the brutality of his swings were a decent fit for a slasher movie.

Then came the most recent moment of frustration.

Davis, in desperate need of sleep but unable to do so over his concern for Lucas, had his face sucker-punched by a random flying wine bottle after reluctantly venturing to San Desquiciado in order to obtain some equipment in preparation for a trap for Rio, only for the shortest path to his destination to be blocked by a stupid turf war between Lord Xavion and Mary Glow, thus forcing him to take a detour into the dangerous alleyways where bad things were more likely to happen, then he got dragged into someone else’s problem and had to face off against six hooligans, one of which he blasted with a shotgun!

Davis could’ve chosen to avoid that issue, if only there weren’t any lasting effects for doing that as well.

His wild and careless sword swings against the air upped in their intensity, becoming a storm of tempered steel that threatened to rip anyone near him into bloody shreds.

Everyone followed their common sense with the hooligans keeping their distance from the sword’s range while the blond man, who was just as frightened as everyone else, backed off a few steps and tried not to lose his balance again.

Davis, hacked, slashed, stabbed, cut and sliced until he lost the drive to continue. When he did, the tip of his longsword hit the ground with a heavy clang.

A panting but still proactive Davis, having released all of his pent-up frustration, hunched forward and continued to wield his sword which was now pointed at a downward angle. He tried but failed to lift it up, having worn himself out with all his wild swinging. At least his migraine was gone.

That relief didn’t last for long though.

What the!?

Davis' eyes dilated to a change within his psyche. His sweat turned cold and his breathing sank into haggard rasps.

This new feeling… it wasn’t anger or exhaustion. It was more like something heavy was weighing down his chest. He couldn’t comprehend how or why that had gotten into him, so his instincts resorted to a warning.

The blond man sympathized and held a hand to his chest. There was no mistaking it. This was the second time that night this forced feeling permeated him.

Something or someone dangerous was within the vicinity. Whatever it was, it was nearby and approaching. Davis felt it in his gut that it was time for him and the blond man to abandon their current location and move somewhere else, and they had to do it now.

The hooligans saw an opportunity with how vulnerable Davis had become and how the blond man was barely standing. With his strength yet to recover to a suitable amount, Davis dropped his sword as the band of hooligans, led by Kevin, drew closer.

“Okay… it looks like I’m in dire straits now,” Davis admitted with a pant. “I guess this means… you guys were too much for me to – THINK FAST!”

In tandem with the last two words, Davis rached a hand behind himself for a pouch on his harness and lobbed a small object at Kevin, who dropped his machete and caught it in time. The object was spherical in shape and had a narrow black screen ringed across its surface, which displayed a scrolling digital message.

Eyes following the text, Kevin read it out loud and quickly while his danger senses were still recuperating from the sudden force of action.

“'I am sofa king we Todd Ed' – ah, fu--”

Before he could complete his remark on the self-insulting pun, cracks branched all over the spherical object and light peered out.

Without giving a warning, a reckless Davis grabbed the blond man by the shoulder and forced the two of them to look away from the hooligans. The blond man also shut his eyes tight out of instinct. Davis did the same, right before the flash grenade exploded in Kevin’s hands.

*YAAARRGHHHH!!!*

Shortly before the actual explosion, Kevin tried to close his eyes and throw the object back to its sender, but his attempt ended in vain. The payload of light was too close and bright for a thin layer of eyelids to protect and the object broke down into shards that bounced off Davis and the blond man.

The rest of the hooligans failed to anticipate the harmless but blinding explosion. They held their eyes shut and shrieked in a mixture of surprise and horror as all they saw was a white emptiness with the occasional flashes of green, yellow and red. Their sense of balance was also affected, leading some of them to trip on nothing while others hurt themselves from colliding to the walls, fire escape ladders, dumpsters, or any other obstacle within the corridor.

Davis took the time of reprieve to return his longsword to its scabbard, pick up his shotgun, and strap the two weapons to the harnesses on his back. Next, he tapped the shoulder of the blond man, who like him also avoided the effect of the flash grenade’s explosion. Davis signaled to him with no words that now was their chance to escape. He slung the man’s left arm over his shoulder and acted as his crutch, helping the man limp away from the disoriented hooligans as fast as he could.

“You ain’t getting away that easy!”

Josh rushed after Davis and the injured blond man. His sight may have been affected, but his hearing wasn’t. With the blond man still unable to run, the hooligan was certain that he would at least catch up to him.

Then his instincts determined one of his targets to be within his range. At the same time, an odd feeling weighed down on his chest. His vision still unclear, Josh swung a vicious haymaker with all his might put into it.

It connected, slamming against something soft on the outside but with a bit of hardness the more he tried to sink his fist in. Josh smirked in triumph. He landed a clean and solid hit, not accidentally on a wall or any other hard object, but on a person’s face. Knowing that there were no footsteps that went ahead of him, he was certain that he didn’t hit any of his fellow hooligans by mistake.

Something else did bother him, though.

Either Davis or the blond man had to have some level of resilience because whoever got hit neither uttered a sound nor fell to the ground when they took the impact of the blow.

His answer arrived soon enough. The endless white space in Josh’s vision faded away and what started as a blurry scene, sharpened itself until everything was clear.

Josh trembled when his vision returned to normal, as did his fist which was still caved into someone’s cheek.

It didn’t belong to one of his fellow hooligans, but it also didn’t belong to Davis or the injured blond man. This person who took the blow was a newcomer to the scene; a person whose face was obscured by the hood of his jacket but his melancholic eyes shined in the darkness like emeralds.

His hood fell, revealing an unfazed face of exotic skin. Long ashen hair came tumbling down alongside the feathered hair accessories that were tied to one of his braids.

The [Renegade], Fenris, spat a bit of blood to the side and rotated his head in a rigid motion to face the person who punched him (considering Josh’s fist was still buried into his cheek). Josh drew himself back and fell on his behind upon realizing his mistake as well the strange atmosphere this being cast upon him. His trembling would have seen no end if his comrades (minus Markus, the twins, and Kevin) didn’t arrive in time to back him up.

“What the?” Jason eyed the strange person who was scratching a burning itch on his back and skidded to a stop a few feet behind Josh. “Where’d this guy come from?”

As they stood there, wondering how to deal with the mysterious newcomer, Kevin appeared behind his group, having been occupied at the moment before catching up to them. He read the situation and decided to take the initiative when his comrades continued to have an air of uncertainty on what to do next.

“Hey, you!” He held up two fingers at Fenris as Scott and Zach helped Josh back to his feet. “Two guys. One’s a blondie with a limp and the other is a sword-swinging, gun-wielding black-haired kid who looks like he went through a prison tour. You see any of them?”

“…”

“It’s a simple question, buddy. But depending on what you say, we might be forced to do things and letting you off isn’t one of them.” Scott only dared to give that follow-up warning once Kevin arrived on the scene.

“What’s wrong?” Zach taunted, also invigorated by Kevin's arrival. “Cat got your tongue?”

"..."

Fenris remained silent. After dealing with an annoyance on his left leg, two parts of his left arm and a twitch on his right knee, he turned and walked away without giving an answer, only for someone to grab his arm.

“Not the best answer, bub.” Josh talked with a newfound toughness in his voice, trying to pretend the fear he previously displayed in front of his fellow hooligans never happened. He noticed what was strapped to Fenris’ back. “If you won't tell us where they are, then what’s in the bag? If it’s worth something, we might just let you go easy.”

Fenris lashed his arm away from Josh’s grip. He didn't say a word, but his intentions were made clear when he turned his back once more and took a step away.

Kevin didn't like the indifferent attitude Fenris was flaunting and called Josh over so he could hand him something.

A mad grin stretched across Josh's face as his hand curled itself on some roughened leather.

“…!”

Fenris dropped to one knee and clenched his eyes shut as a hiss escaped through his teeth. He clutched the newly formed gash on his left arm. Red stained the dirty white bandages wrapped around his right starting with the hand and trailing down the rest of the fabric.

“Ooh, it looks you can talk. Probably,” Josh said as the machete he borrowed from Kevin dripped blood off its unsharpened blade. “You should’ve known better than to turn your back, but hey, you’re lucky I didn’t chop your arm off.” He smirked. “Then again, maybe that luck might run out depending on what comes outta here.”

Fenris’ vulnerability allowed Josh to unzip his backpack without much resistance and steal whatever goods it contained. Reaching his hand in, Josh felt, grasped, and pulled out…

“Uh, what the hell is this?”

A corner of his mouth dropped and he squinted at the only object he could find.

“I’m thinking that’s… a sword?” Jason chimed in after crouching next to Josh to have a closer look. His observation came from the weapon’s strange design. It had a hilt fit for a sword, but the sliver of doubt came from the weapon’s lack of a blade. All the hooligans agreed that the guard had a fascinating design, though. Its shape was that of a fierce wolf’s head with its jaws opened wide.

While two of his guys examined the strange weapon, Kevin instructed Scott and Zach to continue the search for the blond man but also told them not to attack if they find him. The blond man and the secrets of his gauntlet aside, he had a well-armed accomplice in the form of Davis now. Trying to confront them directly would only be committing suicide.

Kevin also told them he will stay behind to watch over Josh and Jason, as there was something odd about the newcomer they downed; like that odd feeling when they got within a certain distance of him.

Before Scott and Zach could depart and follow Kevin's orders, Jason shrugged and moved away from Josh after giving up on trying to discover any hidden features on Fenris' weapon.

“It looks kinda fierce, but that’s about it for me,” he said.

“No doubt," Josh said, running a finger on the weapon’s silvery contours. "But if it doesn’t turn out to be much, we could always hand it over at the pawnshop. I think this can make us a lot of money! Hmm?”

Distracted by his own pondering, Josh was caught off-guard by another hand that grabbed his, which in turn was holding the grip of the strange weapon.

This other hand belonged to Fenris, whose superior strength forced Josh’s arm to wedge his own neck between the wolf’s jaws. Then Fenris squeezed the hand, but more importantly, the weapon’s grip.

*Ka-Chink*

A subtle click was the prelude to a quick sequence.

An ear-splitting bang.

Howling steel.

And a miniature bloodsplosion for the finale.

Kevin, Jason, Scott, and Zach were left speechless and utterly devasted when bits of their comrade was splattered against them.

Josh couldn’t voice his pain, or any if he felt it. He could only choke and gurgle as a straight silver blade went through his neck and lanced out his nape a bloody crimson.

The rest of the hooligans now had their answer.

The strange weapon they were so curious about was indeed a sword. An unusual variation with a retractable blade hidden within its wolf-shaped guard and coated with a special substance while concealed. By applying enough pressure to its grip, the weapon’s pommel extends then slams itself back into place, invoking a piston effect that springs the hidden blade out of the wolf’s mouth. Made of titanium with a tungsten carbide edge, its lancing force is devastating and more than enough to penetrate a human body and everything else within its short range.

And no unique weapon was complete without its name.

Sharing its identity with a purple flower that secreted a poison said to be deadly enough to put down the most powerful creatures both real and mythical, the weapon bore the name, “Wolfsbane.”

Fenris took his weapon back from the now lifeless Josh’s hand and rose up to his feet, powering through the pain in his wounded left arm. The lack of pressure on the Wolfsbane’s grip made its blade appear to flatten itself until it disappeared back into the wolf’s mouth. All the blood on it was scraped off in the process and leaked through the wolf's teeth, leaving the impression that an actual wolf had torn a chunk off its prey.

The rest of the hooligans should’ve taken the chance to flee now that they were given a hint of how dangerous Fenris was, but that wasn’t what they had in mind now.

Another one of their friends had been killed in front of them. Although they weren’t the noblest of people, the hooligans shared a sense of kinship with each other as fellow good-for-nothings just trying to scrape away with the criminal life they had no choice to live.

Jason rushed in, grabbed the machete, and raised it up high with both hands. The most level-headed person of the hooligan group had been pushed to reveal his furious side, something the rest of his fellow hooligans never wanted to do. He swung the machete down hard at Fenris for a chop that would split his head open, only for the blade to stop after barely touching Fenris' hair.

The quiet [Renegade] had intercepted the attack by catching the blade between the open jaws of the Wolfsbane. Only one arm was needed to match Jason's enhanced two-arm strength. Metal screeched as the jaws slid down the machete and onto a level that would equal instant death. Fenris squeezed the Wolfsbane's grip and the hidden blade revealed itself once again from the wolf’s mouth, ready to lance through everything in its way.

Jason’s arms fell limp and the machete clanged when it hit the ground. A new gaping hole appeared on his face as his brain burst out the back of his head, dripping internal fluids while skewered on the Wolfsbane's blade.

While retracting the blade and ridding it from Jason’s disgusting brain, a pillar of brute force slammed Fenris in the stomach and sent him tumbling backward. A rash Kevin, not taking it lightly that his group had now been cut in half, had taken advantage of the interval to rush in and land an unguarded kick on the [Renegade]. He retrieved his machete off the ground after that and swore to hack Fenris to pieces with it.

It took a few more rolls before the weakened momentum allowed Fenris to skid himself to a stop. The Wolfsbane slipped out of his fingers and dropped nearby as he crouched and curled, gagging while placing a hand on his hurt stomach. That heavy kick from Kevin was strong, strong enough to knock all the wind out of him and make him flinch. Had it been a spear, he would've been impaled.

Fenris was not given much time to catch his breath as Kevin already initiated a follow-up attack, closing in with his machete ready to have its second helping of blood. Fenris clicked his tongue and pulled off the best reaction he could do in the heat of the moment.

A clash of steel commenced.

The machete met the jaws of the Wolfsbane once more, locking Fenris and Kevin in a stalemate.

Both of Kevin's hands worked together to inch the machete closer to the still downed Fenris' head. One hand was firm on the machete's grip and the other was pushing down on its flat edge. Kevin also made sure that no part of him was in the line of sight of the Wolfsbane's jaws, having seen its function twice.

As his arm shook from the strain of losing the struggle, Fenris gnashed his teeth in desperation. However, his expression was still neutral overall despite the bleakness of how things were turning out for him.

Fueled by the desire to avenge his dead comrades, having the advantage of leverage from standing, and going up against one arm from a weakened foe, Kevin pushed on without taking a breather.

Everything was going in his favor and this made him completely driven to win.

Then, he felt a new kind of resistance. Kevin knew this meant his machete had gone past Fenris' hair and its blade was now directly on his skull. A little further down and this guy's head was going to experience the start of a bisection that will leave him in two.

Kevin grinned and mused to himself that Josh and Jason can rest easy now. They'll be pleased to know their deaths weren’t in vain now that victory was within their leader's grasp...

...only for it to flee before he could grab it.

When a crimson trail went down his forehead and between his eyes, Fenris changed tactics and refrained from trying to beat Kevin on strength alone. He flicked his wrist and redirected his push to take a sharp turn to the left instead of continuing forward, and that sudden maneuver threw Kevin off balance while also disarming the machete off his hands.

Now granted a small window to retaliate, Fenris took advantage of his right arm's new position and twisted his torso to the left. Then he twisted back while lashing his arm with the Wolfsbane in hand, unleashing a wide and brutal swing that ripped across Kevin's jaw.

The dense metal of the Wolfsbane's hilt slammed against bone and shattered it. The sound of that gruesome combination was never a pleasure for almost anyone to hear.

Kevin spun from the extreme force toward two of his remaining comrades Scott and Zach, who looked on, shocked. Gallons of blood and oral tissue fell from his mouth to the ground as he stared back at them in silence. His eyes were becoming glazed, his tongue was flopping about, and one side of his lower jaw was now dangling loose and almost ready to fall off.

Fenris wasn't finished with him. Not yet.

Before Kevin could collapse, Fenris grabbed him from behind and held him up. After a three-step sequence of ominous noises and a pointless struggle, Scott and Zach watched in horror as Kevin's heart came bursting out his chest skewered on the blade of the Wolfsbane.

And the heart was still beating.

A helpless Kevin twitched in spasms. The beat of his heart was the only sound anyone could hear within the corridor. Its rhythmic, echoing pulse haunted the scene for as long as it could, working to the end until it was time for it to go silent.

It was only when the reliable leader of their group had fallen did Scott and Zack tremble at the thought of charging into a massacre. Only now did they see the strange emerald color of Fenris eyes, whose eerie glow in the darkness was similar to the ones that always inspired fear into them and their comrades.

Scrapping an unstable hand to the ground in a desperate endeavor to survive, Zach chucked a pebble at Fenris with Scott joining him after seeing it the first time. The projectiles were small but dense, enough to make Fenris recoil when they bounced off his skull. Scott and Zach took the opportunity to flee, each running as fast as they could and splitting up through a forked path in the alleyway. They hoped their diversion left Fenris confused on who he should pursue.

Fenris chose to go after neither. He was occupied with the pain on his left arm - another one, not like the earlier gash from the machete.

This pain was searing like someone had written on his arm with a superheated knife. It was the sixth time that night a part of his body felt that sensation.

Finally allowing the deceased Kevin to fall to the ground and land flat on his ruined face, Fenris rolled back his bloody left sleeve and checked the source of the searing pain.

Zach Murdoch.

Scott Adkins.

Those two names appeared, immortalized as bright green letters on the skin of his arm. They were the most recent additions to a collection of countless other names that covered the rest of the limb.

The conditions were met.

Misfortune was heading their way.

〘 The Second Law of Fenris: Pandemonium Wings of a Swallowtail 〙

✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧✦✧

There was no end to the walls of brick, cement, and graffiti on every corner they turned. Getting lost in the alleyway sucked.

"I say we take a break."

Still lost in the alleyway thanks to its maze-like structure but also hopeful it would delay any pursuers from finding them for the time being, Davis undraped the blond man’s arm off his shoulder and helped him down to rest against a wall.

As the blond man sat there with his legs stretched out and his head tilted loose on one side, Davis leaned on the same wall next to him with his arms crossed in thought and a frown marring his face.

Oh God, oh man. What should I do?

With this stranger now stuck with him, Davis' agenda for the night had hit a roadblock. Time wasn't going to wait and he needed every second to gather what he must from the San Desquiciado branch of Craneworks Industries in order to prepare for a possible confrontation with Rio Kiyodera.

Not in cahoots with boredom, he gazed at the pathetic state the blond man was in. His clean-shaven and sort of youthful face wore a crimson mask of his own dried blood (not to mention some of that crimson liquid also stained some strands of his hair), his old-fashioned clothes had rips and other forms of thread damage all over them, and his right arm appeared to be slightly longer than his left. At least the gauntlet on his right arm was interesting enough for Davis to consider sticking around.

But more importantly, and worst of all, the blond man carried a horrible stench. Did he roll around in trash or something!? Davis cringed at the number of times he was tempted to drop and abandon the blond man while he was supporting him during their escape.

And now that they were no longer in danger, Davis wanted nothing more than to part ways with the blond man and let him fend for himself.

He still couldn't go with it. Just like how he reluctantly chose to protect the blond man from the group of hooligans, Davis still couldn't find it in himself to go on with the beneficial choice if he felt it would leave a bad taste in his mouth. Deep down, he knew they weren't free from danger yet.

Davis grumbled on his hindsight. If only he didn't bump into that man on accident, he could've easily snuck away and pretended he saw nothing when the hooligan group arrived.

“You had nothing to do with me and yet you choose not to leave me to an early grave," the blond man said. Davis broke away from his thoughts and lowered himself so he could listen better. "Many thanks to you, lad. I am in your debt.”

Somewhat pleased with the gratitude, Davis let out a modest laugh.

"Don't mention it. I did say that not everyone in San Desquiciado is a bad guy, didn't I?" He rotated his left shoulder, which he used to support the blond man. Every round elicited a stiff and annoying click. That wasn't something Davis was pleased to hear and feel.

"Pardon me for asking you this," the blond man called for Davis' attention and apologized in advance for what he was about to say. "But when you fended off those thugs with your weaponry, I saw naught a hint of hesitation and you also showed a good level of proficiency in your form."

Davis smiled a little. "I didn't do much, but thanks."

"Aside from the part when you went all barmy with your sword, that is," the blond man trailed off with a bit of unease.

"Ah, yeah. Sorry about that. It's kind of a long story, but let's just say I needed to get a lot of things out of my system."

To the blond man's relief, Davis didn't take it personally.

"I take it you're feeling better now, yes?" he asked.

Davis nodded. "Yeah, totally! My head's all clear now. It no longer feels like something's bouncing inside when I shake it."

The blond man chuckled when Davis shook his head and proved himself right. "That's lovely to hear. Now, there is but one more concern of mine that I wish to settle. I ask that you don't take it the wrong way."

Worried, but also curious, Davis said, "Okay then. Bring it."

"It's a follow-up of my first question. You're very young from the looks of it, and yet I saw no hesitation when you used your weapons, especially when you shot that fellow in the gut. Sort of like... it was nothing new." The blond man's expression went firm, the eyes on his blood-masked face taking a serious shape. Davis gulped in anticipation before the serious question was brought to him.

"Tell me honestly, this is not the first time you've killed someone, is it?

For a moment, Davis looked back without saying anything. Not a breath of air came in or out. Pulling his lips in, he stared at the ground and gravel between his shoes.

The blond man eased the look on his face and slumped with regret, thinking he went too far with his question despite preceding it with a warning.

"It's not something I'm proud to talk about," Davis finally said in almost a whisper. "At the very least, I always make sure it happens here in San Desquiciado." A glimpse to the bright side allowed his voice to regain a little optimism. "So officially, I'm still a law-abiding citizen who never committed a crime... well, that’s what I keep trying to tell myself."

"I'm sorry to hear that," went the blond man's remorseful voice.

"Don't worry about it. I'll get over it soon enough. I always do." Davis said with a revitalized spirit, wanting to move to a less negative topic. "Let's just stop trying to guess how many years I actually deserve to be in prison and talk more on uh..." he eyed the blond man's gauntlet again, but remembering how he appeared to be defensive over it made Davis take an abrupt detour and stutter his next set of words." ...how it is fun to talk with you, kinda - I think your accent is charming.”

The blond man shot him a discontented look, most notably the uneasiness in his dilated eyes.

Davis mirrored the look on his own face and raised his hands to either side of his head as soon as he realized what the blond man might be thinking.

“I-I'm into tacos, not hotdogs," were his frantic words. "But really, you have an interesting way with words. If I could talk like you, my luck with the ladies might take a different turn. What do you think?”

“The possibility is there, I reckon.” The blond man surmised after dismissing his previous expression. “It helped me win the hand of a lady who could’ve chosen any man in the world, but... she did the unthinkable and went for a second-rate like me.”

He tilted himself to his right so he could easily pull out a wallet from his back pocket. Flipping it open, tears gathered around the blond man’s eyes as he gazed upon a small picture.

It depicted a happy couple enjoying a vacation on the beach. It was impossible for the blond man in the picture to not put on his brightest smile as he was cheek-to-cheek and embraced from behind in the arms of a woman whose smile matched his happiness.

Strands of her long platinum blond hair draped over her husband’s shoulders, thick eyelashes fluttered, and her gentle but icy blue eyes gave off a mysterious and captivating gaze. Her face alone had striking features. It was almost as if she came out straight from a fantasy world. For Davis, he was almost guilty for getting an overworked heart and an instant blush after seeing the picture. And he had to feel that way while sitting next to the woman’s husband no less.

“Lucky you.” Davis forced himself to say and looked away from the picture. “So, how’s she doing?”

“Now’s not the time for that,” the blond man wiped away his tears and slid the wallet back to his back pocket. “I’m in need of a hospital. My right arm’s been mangled really bad, and the rest of me isn't doing well either.”

Davis hissed in some air. “Yeah… that’s not gonna be a good idea,” He regretted to tell the blond man. “But you’re in luck, there’s a clinic on the beach just outside the nearby town of Cameron’s Feint. It might not cost you much too.”

He recalled Lucas pointing out how cheap the medical services of the clinic’s owner, Rea Nightingale, were and why he considered himself to be the breadwinner through the prize money he sometimes won in the Underground Arena.

“Then we need to get going.”

The blond man tried to get up, but his knees shook and struggled to keep themselves straight as he did so. Standing up was still a chore to him but Davis was kind enough, albeit reluctant, to assist him and become his crutch again for a little longer.

“We’re gonna have to make a stop before we get out of this district,” Davis said as he and the blond man resumed their directionless navigation out of the alleyway maze. “I get how you really need medical attention right now, but I came here for my own reasons and I’m not leaving until they’re finished. Besides, the clinic is most likely closed around this time.”

“Then why not the hospital?” The blond man asked, still uncertain why Davis recommended they shouldn't go there.

“Trust me, it’s not gonna be worth it,” Davis assured him. “And I’m not just talking about the bill.”

They turned more corners left and right in search for the brightest source of light at the end of a corridor, hoping that was an exit out of the alleyway. Davis didn’t know his way around the maze they were in, but he was confident that he could find the second branch of Craneworks industries from anywhere so long as he was back in San Desquiciado’s open streets. Although the risk of running back into the ongoing turf war was still there, the chances were lower so long as there were hardly any violent noises to be heard.

“If you would permit me to ask,” the blond man tried to keep Davis off the fact that his limping was making them take some time to traverse from one area to another. “For what reason are you in this hellhole of a place?”

“How should I put this…” Davis looked to the sky, which was still fairly dark with countless stars spread across it. “A friend of mine might be in danger, so I’m preparing myself for the worst-case scenario.”

The blond man narrowed his eyes. “I see. You seem to share the same situation as me.”

“Did you say something?” Davis asked, to which the man simply shook his head.

Turning another corner, bright lights of multiple colors gave Davis and the blond man the impression that they wandered their way to an exit. Seems like they actually were progressing to the finish line but made a stop instead of going a few more steps. As soon as they stepped foot out of the alleyway, however, a glimpse of what was nearby made Davis gasp and he pulled the blond man back into the alleyway’s darkness without warning.

"What was that all about!?" the blond man demanded to know after almost suffering a heart attack.

Unfortunately, the complaint went through one ear and out the other. Davis was too busy peeking from the corner they emerged from with eyes that nearly bulged out of their sockets.

Who he saw on the open streets really threw him for a loop.

Why in the world are you here--?!

Gerry Hines
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