Chapter 1:

Volume 1, Prologue: It Turns Out They Exist

Parable of the Renegades

Hi! Jio Kurenai here!

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It all started with the revelation of a secret.

All around the world at the same time, a broadcast began. Every person who sat on the couch at home and every person walking on the streets stopped what they were doing as their eyes directed themselves to the closest source of media. Every television and public big screen on the streets interrupted their current programs to show a single man in a live recorded video. Shot with a dilapidated camera, the video sizzled with static feedback every few seconds, an aesthetic that left viewers unsettled.

He was comfortably seated on an ordinary wooden chair, leaning forward with his hands clasped together. A tattered suit and necktie were what he wore, making it look like he'd just emerged from a recent scuffle. His brown hair was swept back, leaving a few stray bangs hanging in front of his face. Eyes that matched the color of his hair and a clean-shaven face made it easy to spot his slight smile.

"Hi there." He began to speak in a gentle and a bit of a shy voice as he raised a hand to give a slight wave to the camera.

"My name isn't important. I'd like to just state that I'm an ordinary person who does his best to contribute to society and to pay his taxes on a regular basis."

Static feedback buzzed in the video as he wiped a bit of sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief.

"So... I want to take this opportunity to relay an important message to all the people on this planet."

He raised a finger and shut his eyes tight, signaling every viewer to give him a few seconds.

His eyes opened once more. The whole world remained silent because no one had any idea on what to say. Both of the man's eyes, that earlier looked no different from most of the people anyone could meet, have taken on an unsettling appearance. The whites of his eyes regressed to the color gray as his irises transitioned from dark brown to a brighter shade of bronze. Images of black needles with varying length pointed towards his pupils, which remained the same as they were before.

"We are hidden among the lot of you."

He spoke again, but with a tone that no longer sounded pleasant. In fact, his voice was now enhanced by a slight echo.

"Possibly since the beginning of time, we have been living among every person on this planet. You know urban legends such as 'The Devil Tree?' Yeah, my kind was probably responsible for that. Now, I did say 'probably,' so you should take it with a grain of salt."

He stayed silent for a few seconds, continuing to glare at the camera and to that extent, the whole world.

"What's that? Don't you believe me? Do you think my eyes look different thanks to a party trick such as contact lenses? Okay, this is going to hurt me, but I guess I don't have much of a choice. Bear with me now..."

Slowly, he sunk his fingers into the corners of his eyes, cheeks, and mouth... 

...And proceeded to pull himself apart.

Inhuman screams echoed as his flesh was ripped off like the clothes he wore. As he tore off more chunks of himself, bizarre, spiky protrusions on his back and obsidian-like hide underneath his human flesh began to expose themselves. Crimson liquid gushed out and splattered, hitting his surroundings with some of the droplets even reaching the lens of the camera, staining the view before trickling down at a steady pace.

A variety of reactions occurred from all over the world. Some people covered their eyes or turned away, refusing to see more. Some screamed in sheer fright. A few of the spectators even threw up in public upon witnessing the act. Then there was a small fraction of the population who lowered their heads and grit their teeth in frustration, severely disappointed that their secret had been exposed.

As the last of his skin was ripped off, he stood up from his chair, no longer looking human. His entire body structure resembled more of a slender, bipedal demon. From head to toe, part of his limbs, chest, and head was covered in armor-like growths. His head resembled a deformed knight's helmet with predatory jaws, horned protrusions, and a triangular shape. His bronze eyes were illuminating within the slit's dark interior. A long, bulky tail with a speared tip swished left and right shortly after emerging from its obscurity. His new appearance had the finishing touches of bone-like spikes sticking out of his upper back and shoulders with his arms now clawed and resembling gauntlets.

Slowly he edged himself closer to the camera, giving the entire world a personal close-up of his face.

"As you can plainly see - this is no camera trick!" he declared. After a short pause, he continued, the manner in which he spoke had no shred of remorse. "Now, my fellow brethren are against the idea of having the existence of our kind exposed to the whole world, but I'm someone with nothing left to lose." 

Walking back to his chair, he lightly scratched his jaw with a clawed finger. "Hmm... Now that I think about it, my kind does NOT have an official name..." he pondered.

Slowly, he pranced in and out of the camera's view while the world watching him remained silent in anticipation. Seconds later, he brought himself back into everyone's eyes.

"...Since we generally like to give our own spin of logic to the reality of things around us, how about I ask you all to refer to us as something that doesn't always follow the natural laws you do? We are to some extent, still human, but why don't you call us... The [Renegades]?" 

He sat back in his chair. As he held himself still, a fleshy substance slowly grew out of the various parts of his body. Slowly, they expanded, then converged, covering him until it molded his body into a more familiar shape. To end it, hair grew out of his head, every strand working together to form his hairstyle from earlier. His appearance became human once more, but his clothes did not come back and before anyone watching could gawk, the man reached forward in haste and pulled the camera closer to only show his head and shoulders.

"Woah... That was a close one. If anything, I don't want this broadcast to be known as the incident where a man exposed himself to the entire world. Well... actually I do, but by 'expose' I meant revealing the existence of my race to all of you, not my indecent exposure... That one's a serious crime..." 

His face contorted after realizing what he just said to the whole world. In an attempt to dismiss his earlier behavior, he pretended to cough into a fist his made in front of his mouth.

"...Ahem. Best you forget what I just said. Anyway, I think that about covers everything. I thank you for hearing me out..."

He reached forward and shifted the camera to the right, now bringing a big piston engine into its field of view.

"...And to those who are currently on board the Grand Eagle..."

The skin on his left arm flaked away, reverting to its monstrous gauntlet-like form, except this time it was now covered in an odd, pulsating silver aura. He looked into the camera once more with an inhuman smile.

"...I suggest that you pray for a miracle!"

The engine was smashed by the powerful swing of an arm. The broadcast proceeded to end with the entire view of the camera covered in static feedback and white noise.

"Beware the [Renegades]..." 

That was the last of the man's voice to be heard before the entire broadcast faded to black.

On that day, the Grand Eagle, a massive Airplane carrying several world leaders and their subordinates, crashed upon impact with the planet. No survivors were found.

The world has been given a warning. Elusive beings have been co-existing with humans all along.

Now, how does the world intend to adapt?