Parable of the Renegades
Heyo! Jio Kurenai here!
ParaRene's cover art for Volume 1 is finally complete!
So many months of planning and unfortunate setbacks, but it's finally done! *Screams fanboyishly*
Anyways, the design of the title logo actually finalized only recently. Hikarisoul and I decided that with each volume, the title logo's design will be based on the main antagonist of said volume. It only gets me hyped to realize how the future volume covers and their title logos will look like!
That's all for now, hope you enjoy this chapter and get excited about what will happen next!
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Oh yeah, one more thing!
I have a Twitter account now, where I post what I like along with all sorts of news related to this story such as official artwork illustrated by the ultra-talented HikariSoul! Please follow us both!
The San Desquiciado branch of Craneworks Industries was right down the stairs of what appeared to be a subway entrance. A marquee sign above the entrance read, “CWI” an abbreviation of its true identity. There were those who may have figured out the meaning of the three letters but they kept it to themselves.
After all, what happens in San Desquiciado, stays in San Desquiciado.
With an arm slung over one shoulder each, Davis and Viola worked like crutches as they assisted the older blond man in their descent down a dimly lit flight of stairs. Davis played the right crutch while Viola played the left.
Their breathing was stunted and the beat of their hearts was almost audible as they took the first of many steps down. With no railings to grab onto, a long and dangerous tumble down the stairs was the dire consequence if any of them slipped, so they played it safe and went down one step at a time while keeping track of each other’s feet.
“There’s that strange artwork, again.” Viola spotted what appeared to be glowing graffiti on the slanted ceiling above them when her gaze wandered off for a second. It depicted a gradience of orange, red, and yellow strands of hair framing a pair of demoness eyes with upside-down crosses for pupils and eyeshadow make-up. Two elaborate spikes crossed over where the mouth should be. “I’m getting tired of seeing it everywhere.”
The blond man did nothing notable but he shared her sentiment. He had spotted at least one of those marks, as well as other graffiti and splatters made with glowing paint everywhere he went with his two new companions en route to their destination.
“If Mary Glow wasn’t so hot, I’d be sick of seeing her emblems too,” Davis joked, earning himself a perplexed stare from Viola. “Cause you know… her hair looks like fire and her bod is smokin’ -- Ahem -- she’s one of the four Tyrants who rule a section of San Desquiciado and seeing her emblem means we’re in her turf, the western section.”
“So, we’re trespassing?” Viola asked, pretending she didn’t hear the first half of Davis’ statement as she returned to keeping watch on the remaining stairs they were descending.
“In our case, we’re neutral since we aren’t part of a Tyrant’s faction,” Davis revealed. “If we were on Mary Glow’s side, we would’ve gotten here easier and we’d also be under their protection until we get out. On the other hand, it’d be like walking on a mine field with plenty of snipers aiming right at us if they thought we belonged to someone else.”
“Sounds like joining a faction does more bad than good,” the tired blond man said in his opinion, having found another strange topic to stave his worry for his captive wife.
“Sort of.” Davis didn’t blame him on his initial thoughts. “While belonging to a Tyrant’s faction means you’re a walking target in turfs of the other three, the main appeal, aside from having an entire faction backing you up, is the chance that you’ll also have free access or at least a discount to stuff in the turf your Tyrant controls. I think they’ll help you pay or steal depending on what you want.”
“Which means free weapons for the western section?” Viola asked.
“Black market is a more accurate way to put it – whoah!” Davis nearly stumbled on his next step and frightened the other two, but just barely managed to right his balance before a disaster could happen to them. “A-anyway, if you’re looking to buy something shady, imported, or at least hard to find, you might find a shop selling loads of those somewhere around this area.”
A shopping spree for free stuff, eh…? Some drool nearly slipped out a corner of Viola’s lips as she considered the perk she would be granted if she were to side with Mary Glow.
They finally reached the end of the stairs.
It was a descent that should’ve taken twenty seconds on average, but for them took about a minute and a half. Good thing they were able to spend that extra time to discuss and learn a few more topics about the district they were treading in.
Entering through a rusty door following a short walk away from the stairs, Viola and the blond man were greeted by a murky smell that made them think of something flammable and a sight that made Viola shudder.
The San Desquiciado branch of Craneworks Industries was a retail store whose massive space and selection outdid every other peer shop in the district, making it the go-to store when it came to weapons. Warm light on the ceiling shined down on its dark green interior, giving off the unsettling impression that the place was one big interrogation room.
Other customers were already inside before Davis, Viola, and the blond man entered. They all looked like troublemakers as they browsed and inspected the weapons in front of them. Some went through doors that led to special rooms where they could test any weapons of their interest.
Signs on the walls and aisles depicted a reminder forbidding patrons from using the weapons irresponsibly while within the store:
“VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT… SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN…”
More signs continued the warning, reading, “AND AGAIN… AND AGAIN… AND AGAIN…”
It was an annoying reminder, but it at least let the customers know that trying anything funny, like trying to utilize the weapons within their reach as a means to take over the store, was not the brightest of ideas. The mounted turrets hanging from the ceiling and surveying the entire store with their red laser pointers made sure even those who were illiterate had no excuses.
Everywhere Viola and the blond man looked, deadly weapons of different shapes and sizes were on display. Although there were melee weapons like swords, spears, axes to name a few, the secret San Desquiciado branch of Craneworks Industries was more known for selling firearms. From a lightweight handgun to a heavy machinegun, anyone entering the store for the first time was likely to have the hunch that every type of firearm was available for purchase.
They weren’t wrong, and there was more to that.
Explosives like grenades, tear gas and rocket launchers were a few more examples of the dangerous weaponry that passed Viola’s wandering gaze as they walked in further.
“We won’t stay very long, so just keep following my lead and we’ll be out of here soon enough.”
Davis saw the plight Viola was in and tried to comfort her. She agreed with a silent and rigid nod. That looked like a small victory for him. Slowly but surely, he was winning her over. He had to be.
They passed the store’s clerk, a rotund man in a baseball cap, plaid shirt, and a full red beard. Tapping his sausage fingers on his phone’s tiny touchscreen, he sat behind a long unbreakable glass counter that also served as a display case for handguns along with firearm magazines and numerous boxes containing ammunitions. Another door marked with a sign that read, “Employees Only” stood nearby from his side of the counter.
He and Davis exchanged a simple greeting with a quick raise of their hands. Then the clerk swiveled his head and eyes to another person, namely Viola.
Unlike the other men Viola had the displeasure of meeting since first entering San Desquiciado, the clerk wasn’t eye-banging the younger girl in her teens.
Apparently, Davis once asked the clerk to act like a creep toward any girl he may bring into the shop. Davis would then respond by getting between them while declaring his intentions to protect his female companion before giving the clerk a warning, hopefully winning the girl’s affection in the process. The clerk was the complete opposite of the persona Davis asked him to portray but was willing to help the son of his boss if it meant a bonus pay from Davis’ pocket.
Davis slowly shook his head in response to the clerk’s gesture. Now wasn’t the time to try out their petty scheme. Viola was unsettled enough. As for why Davis would ever try to bring a girl to an illegal weapon shop in the middle of a dangerous location… the logic behind its conception was already forgotten years ago by none other than the schemer himself.
At Davis’ request, the clerk lifted a foldable section of the counter he sat behind, giving the trio access behind so they could enter the nearby door. After leading Viola and the blond man through a hallway of more doors, Davis stopped by the one at the end and dug a hand into his pocket, where he fished out a key attached to a rusty keychain.
“So, what’s in there?” Viola asked, right as Davis twisted the key after inserting it into the door’s knob. The lock clicked and the door opened. Davis stepped in first and flipped a switch on the wall next to the entrance.
Countless rows of white light shined from above in quick succession, and the first thing they saw was what appeared to be long aisles of garages with white numbers painted on their orange shutter doors ranging from numbers 1 to 100.
The three were welcomed to the confines of CWI’s armory. It was a spacious room, enough to fit an entire army of soldiers and served as the storage space for all the weapons not in the shop.
Aside from extra stock of available products, the armory also contained experimental weapons that were still in development and not yet ready to be sold to the public. It also shared its open space with a few other facilities, one of which Viola pointed a hand at.
“Let’s have him rest over there.”
She was referring to the armory’s lounge, a designated break area for employees consisting of two leather couches with a long glass table set between them. Davis couldn’t wait to do that, having grown weary from acting as a crutch. He was certain Viola felt the same.
Through some quick cooperation, they lifted the blond man’s arms off their shoulders and helped him lay down on one of the couches, which had ample space for his height. Although the blond man had no issues with removing his shoes before letting his feet rest close to one end of the couch, he was strangely adamant in keeping his flat cap and gauntlet on.
“Finally.” Although Davis’ curiosities were once again piqued from the blond man’s strange insistence, he was more occupied with the relief of finally getting rid of all that irritating weight that burdened his left shoulder. “Hmm?” Wet and uncomfortable clicks resounded as he tried to loosen his shoulder with a few rolls. Sharp pains also stung him from trying to move his shoulder, leading to a disappointed click of his tongue. “Ah, dammit. Looks like it’s all stiff.”
As quiet as Davis thought he was, he didn’t go unheard.
Viola’s ears twitched. Her instinct for those who needed medical care whether minor or major picked up on Davis’ complaint.
However, a priority needed to be taken care of first.
“Now then, please tell me where else it hurts,” she asked the blond man, kneeling next to his couch and close to his side.
He slowly rotated his neck to face Viola with half-closed eyes. A sense of nostalgia brought a faint smile to his face. Almost everything from Viola’s words, caring smile, and the situation reminded him of his first meeting with Lana, his wife and the person he was desperate to save from Logen’s captivity.
“To make a long story short, I’m hurt all over.”
He even re-used his response from that time, word for word, because he felt like it.
“Is that so?” Viola asked. “Then take off your clothes, starting with your shirt.”
This time, another blast from his past was no longer appropriate. The blond man jolted himself awake and crossed his arms over said shirt in a tight grip. “Not to be rude or anything, but you might not like what you’ll see. Trust me on this.”
“Hehe, don’t you worry,” Viola giggled off what seemed to be the blond man’s insecurity on exposing his wounds or body. “I’ve examined a lot of guys; a little nakedness won’t scare me.”
She was confident in her words but the blond man wasn’t ready to relent, yet. “I reckon you wouldn’t be prepared for this, but if you insist, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
He unbuttoned his vest. After setting it on the sofa’s backrest, he unbuttoned his plaid shirt but did so with stiff hands that fumbled a few times as he got closer to the last button. He separated the two halves of his shirt, and that led to a now wide-eyed Viola crossing her hands over her mouth.
She couldn’t take her eyes off when it was exposed.
To Davis as he walked away, Viola sounded like she had laid witness to something that had to be seen. He didn’t care to join her. Hell would have to freeze a thousand times over before he’d get interested in looking at another man’s bare chest.
The armory needed all the space it had to accommodate for the many weapons it housed, and different classes of weapons were kept in storage units separated by gaps of thick concrete walls. Davis stopped at unit #79 after walking through what seemed to be an endless corridor of orange roll-up doors with large white numbers painted on them.
Using one of the two keys he took among countless duplicates from the wall, Davis unlocked the unit’s padlock then squatted to slide his hands under a ridged grip at the bottom of the door. A heavy grunt plus a combination of arm and leg strength was enough to lift the door up where it rolled itself into a compact cylinder while roaring like train wheels on a railroad track.
Activating a warm light switch inside the unit led to a handful of moist caking Davis’ face. It was never a pleasure to be greeted by weapons almost anyone would want to stay away from.
Explosives… and lots of them to boot.
Fused dynamite, hand grenades, land mines, and even RPG rockets were just a sample of what the unit housed. Davis had learned how to handle them during his training in the business, but all that exposure never took away the slight paranoia that any one of the explosives in the compact space could go off without warning and trigger a chain reaction that definitely equaled overkill.
His hands shook at the thought of handling explosives as he had always been unwilling to use them whenever possible, but a reminder of the danger Lucas could be getting into allowed Davis to push himself through. He didn’t know how strong or weak a [Renegade] was compared to a human, so he needed to go all out with the greatest power available to him.
He gathered all the explosives he thought to be useful and stored them with utmost care into a protective weapon case also found within the unit. Like a luggage bag for traveling, it had adjustable wheels on its base to make it easier for transporting all that heavy equipment. It was also quite massive, enough for Davis to stuff ten of himself in it assuming they were all curled into a fetal position. The case also had a rectangular handle framing its edges, allowing multiple people to help each other push it in any direction as they pleased.
Before leaving the storage unit, Davis examined one last weapon hidden among the other explosives.
Fixing a grip on the handle of a thick broadsword with a line of circles across its flat surface, it was a bit of a struggle to lift up partially because his left shoulder wasn’t in its best condition. Only when he used both of his hands was he able to lift the sword at a proper level and without losing his balance. Nodding to no one in particular, Davis added the broadsword into his weapon case.
After switching off its light, slamming down its shutters, and re-fasting its padlock, Davis left weapon storage unit #79 and moved on to #22.
There was only one set of equipment he needed from there: a prototype he’d been tinkering with whenever he had to be in San Desquiciado for whatever reason. It looked like the date for its test run had to be pushed a little early.
His preparations complete, Davis returned to his two companions on the other side of the armory and it looked like Viola wasn’t finished giving her attention to the blond man yet. As much as he preferred to leave, now that he got what he came for, Davis couldn’t rush a medical treatment and instead came up with a way to be productive without pressing Viola for time.
He parked his weapon case near the couches, the approaching roll of its wheels on the concrete floor letting Viola know he had returned, before walking toward a workspace also within the armory.
The workspace was another facility meant to be used by weapon designers like Davis himself whenever they needed a proper environment for coming up with new designs for equipment. Situated to a wall, it primarily consisted of a steep drafting table with two smaller desks angled to its sides. The right desk had hollow cylinders containing drawing materials and a thick pile of blank canvases. The left desk had a personal computer installed with software and other tools related to design like a 3D modeling program to help the designers preview their creations before actually forging them.
Designing equipment was never an easy job. That’s why the workspace had an open pantry set next to it with a cupboard containing drinking glasses and snacks above a water dispenser for an easy refreshment if need be.
After letting himself enjoy a quick swivel in the workspace’s office chair, Davis got himself ready with a sharpened pencil and a sheet of canvas, which he slid over to the steep table in front of him.
Now that Davis knew what weapons were available to him, the next step was on how to properly utilize them for a trap.
The pencil began to work with no restraint while Davis recalled the events of yesterday including what made him decide to stay up so late that very moment, starting with the bus ride home from school.
He and Lucas were having a friendly argument over a Yotube video Davis uploaded after obtaining the rights from the one who recorded it, which depicted Lucas fighting and barely winning against a horde of their fellow students at school that morning. In exchange for deleting the video before too many people saw it, Lucas made Davis a promise.
That promise was to finally visit his shop at Craneworks Industries and buy a weapon of his creation, something Davis never thought Lucas would do. For the longest time since they’d been friends, Lucas had a notable lack of interest in Otaku culture and the forging of weapons, both of which Davis was passionate about. While he was getting closer to having Lucas join him in the anime/manga bandwagon, getting his friend interested in weaponry had always looked like a fleeting dream.
To Lucas, weapons were just a means to kill whether it was used for self-defense or actual killing. His belief was further emphasized on relying solely on his fists, which while still lethal when used in a certain way, were also less likely to take a life when compared to a sword.
Davis had empathized for his friend’s unwillingness to kill and permanently soil his hands, something that was already too late for himself, but that lack of interest for one of his favorite pastimes still rubbed him the wrong way. It looked like he wouldn’t have to be sour over that very soon. While he didn’t know the reason why Lucas would choose to get himself a weapon now, he was ecstatic that another blight in their friendship was going to be erased very soon.
Now that Davis thought about it, what if Lucas’ intention to buy a weapon was so that he could have a means of defense against Rio, that Nihanese girlfriend(?) who came out of nowhere and the one who Davis now suspected of being a [Renegade]? Whatever the case, his invitation for them to come to his shop after school had been slightly modified for a new purpose.
His invitation for Lucas was going to go as originally planned, but his invitation for Rio was no longer about impressing her with the Nihanese weapons he forged. He was now going to use the invitation to lead her into a trap so he could settle his suspicions for her and the safety of his friend once and for all.
A wolf whistle pierced his right ear.
“She looks pretty, Davis.”
Davis yelped when Viola appeared behind him all of a sudden. She looked over his shoulder at the sketch he made.
Naturally, there was a lot of roughness, but the image was feasible.
The surprising amount of detail in her long and wavy raven hair going down to her bare shoulders gave off a flowing sense of mischief. The locks of hair curtaining her right eye added a sense of curiosity. Then there was the teasing charm of her left eye and smile, which looked fitting for a kitten. All of those qualities harmonized to form a person many would develop a crush on regardless of gender. For a rushed combination of pencil strokes and lines, that headshot of a girl looked captivating enough for Viola to compliment.
“Who is she?” Viola asked.
“Uh…” Davis stalled, debating with himself whether to tell the truth or not. “Just someone I made up on the spot.”
“Really now?” Viola leaned closer to the sketch, placing most of her focus on the girl’s left eye and smile. “You’ve got some impressive skills if you can draw an imaginary person with all that realism.”
“Well…” Davis inched the small wheels of his chair away and tried to ignore how close Viola was to him now. “It’s a must for my line of work. Normally I draw weapons, but I can draw people too.”
“Maybe you could draw me sometime. Oh, I see weapons too!” Viola panned her view a short distance away from the canvas. “Let’s see… swords, a grenade, a handgun, a vampire stake, and a tank?” she said, puzzled. “Uh, why are they all aiming at the girl?”
Now that he joined Viola in her observation of the canvas, Davis wanted to facepalm after seeing what else came out from letting himself draw freehand.
What the hell is this!? He berated himself. What kind of genius plan is an accurate sketch of Rio surrounded by random weapons!? And I seriously drew a tank!?
“Erm…” he struggled to bring out an answer to her question. “It’s because… she’s so pretty that everyone would want to kill each other.
“So the weapons are really aiming for each other, and not the girl?”
“Eh… Pretty much.” Davis chose to go along with that.
With nothing more in mind to discuss regarding the caricature of the pretty girl Davis sketched, Viola admitted, “If someone like her existed, I’d be jealous.”
Taking another look at the sketch told Davis his mind wasn’t in the right place while he was working on his plan.
Contrasting the attention to details he had placed on his sketch of Rio, the weapons surrounding her on the canvas were crude and simple. Even someone with unsteady hands or a lack of artistic sense could’ve drawn them with the same level of quality. The way they all pointed at her while in a circular formation reminded Davis of the two hollow arrow marks pointing at a heart of the same kind on the left side of his chest. That girl, Rio, had the looks to dominate his mind, but she was also a potential threat if she was who he thought she’d be.
Why is it always the good-looking things that turn out to be bad?
As he allowed his thoughts to run, however, a new idea sparked. As juvenile as the idea of surrounding Rio with weapons sounded, something about its context made it look like the first step to something bigger. The second step was obvious, and so was the third, the fourth, the fifth...
Like the pieces falling to the right places, a new plan began to assemble itself in his head. Davis almost thought it was right to slap himself silly and say, “Why didn’t I think of this, sooner?”
He now knew what he needed to do. The next step was to escape San Desquiciado and get to work on making this new plan a reality, and he needed all the time before the appointed date more than ever.
“By the way,” Viola got his attention with a nudge to the shoulder. “He still needs some time,” she said, eyeing the motionless, but breathing blond man on the sofa. “I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to get out of here as soon as he’s ready to walk again.”
“That makes two of us,” Davis turned his chair a few degrees toward the couches as he seized another opportunity to butter up the girl with bronze hair. “I’m not exactly too fond of this place either. It just so happens that I need some things.”
“Which explains the big case.” Viola shifted her view to the parked object behind the empty couch opposite to the one the blond man was lying down on. “Mind telling me what that’s for?” she asked, eyes shifting into slants.
“Well…” Davis held his tongue between his teeth as his eyes drifted up a corner into space.
Getting an outsider involved in his dilemma was a risky move and there was also the chilling fear of the consequences to follow if Lucas were to find out his beloved cousin was put in danger. From previous experiences Davis went through and would rather not talk about, stoking Lucas’ anger may be a difficult task, but it was no achievement whenever accomplished. He could always lie about his intentions with the big case, but a good one wasn’t coming to mind at the moment.
Viola’s eyes slowly rounded themselves. She was a little disappointed that her question was left hanging. The number of seconds Davis spent in silence was enough for her to get the picture.
“It’s okay, I get it.” Her head and bronze curls drooped. “We just met, so you not wanting to talk to me about anything personal makes sense.”
Hearing Viola shelving her question relieved Davis from his earlier burden, but it was quickly replaced with another. Unchivalrously leaving a girl disappointed made him want to punch his own, already battered face.
“Ah, what the heck.” Viola perked herself back up, much to Davis’ surprise. “Anyway, it looks like we’ll have to stay here a little longer and that’s okay because my work isn’t finished, yet.”
“Really?” Davis asked. “What else do you need to do?”
“You silly!” She teased him with a few painless slaps to his arm. “You can’t hide that stiff shoulder from me. And your face clearly tells me it could use some TLC!” She seized him by the shoulders and turned his chair over so they could see each other face-to-face. Examining the injuries before her, Viola’s eyes sloped into slants again. “So how about we take this extra time to get acquainted, Davis? Tonight, I’ll play your doctor.”
She said that. She actually said that.
Davis would have to be deaf or out of his mind if Viola’s proposal didn’t stimulate him in more ways than one.
It should also be noted that Viola was wearing a blouse with a loose neckline. Under the right circumstances, like how she was leaning forward that very moment, it was possible to see more than the thin golden necklace chained around her neck.
Davis tried to keep his eyes from rolling down.
Oh God… oh man… I see… HER CLEAVAGE!
Well, he tried.