Chapter 40:

Volume 2, Chapter 7: Shǔxiàng

Parable of the Renegades


The instructions given to Davis were simple: lie on his stomach, which he did on the couch after removing his shoes, weapon harness, and other pieces of equipment he had on his person.Bookmark here

His side of the work was done.Bookmark here

Viola, after slipping her feet off her go-go boots, did the rest.Bookmark here

A tingle raced up Davis’ spine when she snaked a leg over him and slowly settled herself on top of his lower back, eliciting him to squirm a little from the warmth of her supple thighs straddling him. The sensation went on for a little longer as Viola adjusted her position until it felt about right.Bookmark here

Thoughts of pudding danced into Davis’ mind. When willing them off became too much of a challenge, he resigned to keep his mouth shut and just barely managed to keep any indecent sounds from coming out of it. He also had to force his libido down before he could poke an accidental hole on the couch. He barely succeeded.Bookmark here

This was all her idea, he kept telling himself.Bookmark here

Davis’ t-shirt and Viola’s leggings were the only layers preventing any skin-to-skin contact between them, but the thin fabric of their clothes (more so for Viola’s) might have rendered that aspect obsolete.Bookmark here

He could only imagine the expression he was pulling considering his situation. Preferring not to know how it actually looked like, he buried his tensed face into his right arm which he used as a pillow.Bookmark here

As for his other arm, which was suffering from a stiff shoulder, control over that limb was handed over to Viola who gently angled it behind his back.Bookmark here

“Just relax, Davis,” Viola cooed as her hands felt around the stiff muscles of Davis’ shoulder. “You’ll feel better after this.”Bookmark here

The sweet tone of her voice played a big role in helping the giddy Davis do as she asked. He didn’t ask for this to happen, but there he was, about to be the lucky guy on the receiving end of a shoulder massage from a cute and curvy girl sitting on top of him. Once again, staying up that night out of concern for his friend, Lucas, was so worth it. Davis was in for the time of his life.Bookmark here

But sometimes, life throws curveballs.Bookmark here

Anguished cries rocked the couch as a vicious struggle between two people occurred on top of it. A male tortured soul was trying to throw off his female tormentor, who restrained him as she crushed and grinded his shoulder muscles and bones into dust.Bookmark here

Of course, that was just an exaggeration. The one suffering the “torture,” however complained like it was such, much to the chagrin of his “tormentor.”Bookmark here

“Oh c’mon! I know I’m being gentle! Now be quiet and hold still!” Viola ordered, getting more assertive in both her attitude and endeavor to hold Davis down. She tested for more stiff parts on his shoulder by pressing a finger to the muscle fibers in search for those that felt rock-solid to her.Bookmark here

*OWOWOOOOOOW!!!*Bookmark here

To Davis, those parts were tender. A light touch provoked him to wince and tear. He tried and failed to hide those weakness signs from Viola, who didn’t need good ears to hear all that whimpering. At least she saved him from humiliation by keeping it all to herself.Bookmark here

The intensity of her shoulder massage, however, didn’t drop in intensity, and it overwhelmed Davis to forget that his lower back was supposed to be enjoying the sensation of a girl’s thighs all over it.Bookmark here

His right hand, scratching a wall for a mildly annoying screech (specifically the leather couch’s backrest), Davis vented out his physical agony alongside his verbal one while Viola pressed and kneaded her thumbs hard into his shoulder. He looked toward the man with metallic blond hair, who was lying down on the couch opposite to them and trying to rest despite the unintentional noise coming at his side.Bookmark here

Davis couldn’t believe he’d be thinking this, but he really wanted to switch places with him that instant!Bookmark here

“I know I carried him – fffffhh! – by myself for a while,” Davis hissed while Viola’s therapy continued to aggravate his nerves. “but how come your shoulder – ffffhh! – seems fine?”Bookmark here

“It’s because I always keep myself in proper condition,” Viola didn’t hesitate to inform him, hoping another conversation can help Davis ignore the good kind of pain he was going through. “About five times a week and for about fifteen minutes in the morning, I exercise and do a lot of stretching poses.”Bookmark here

Upon hearing all that, everything within Davis kicked themselves into excitement. The previous showcases of Viola’s sense of fashion, her flexible figure, and now her morning routine, filled his head with simulations.Bookmark here

They were of Viola in an extravagant sports bra and matching yoga pants as she contorted her body into different poses before gradually shifting herself to another.Bookmark here

It worked in Davis’ favor like killing two birds with one stone. His thoughts were now inspired with some eye candy, which also kept him distracted from the pain Viola was putting him through – that is until the therapeutic pain spiked up to a level too intense for him to ignore.Bookmark here

*WAAAAAHHHH!!!*Bookmark here

What a shame. It happened just as the Viola in his fantasy was in the middle of flexing herself into a mermaid pose (look it up!).Bookmark here

Davis snapped back to the real world to find that around the time he was fantasizing, Viola had straightened his arm and was now rowing it while appearing to push her fingers against the stiff, but sensitive muscle of his shoulder toward it.Bookmark here

His legs kicked hard back and forth against the couch’s seat cushion while his free right hand changed its reaction against the couch’s backrest. This led to a puzzled Viola raising an eyebrow.Bookmark here

“Huh? Why are you tapping out? I’m stretching your arm and regulating the flow of blood in your shoulder, not putting you in a submission hold – I never was good at those anyway,” she mused, all while keeping a secure hold on Davis’ arm.Bookmark here

He couldn’t listen and wordlessly begged Viola to release him already from the excruciating pain she was putting him through.Bookmark here

As the “torture” continued, Viola colored herself surprised when she found Davis’ animated mannerisms to be rather… stimulating. It was too tempting to ignore. Her eyes shifted themselves into slants and her tongue stuck itself out of her lips, moistening them with a slow but thorough lick.Bookmark here

“Do you really want me to stop?” She asked in a deeper version of her voice.Bookmark here

Davis unclenched his eyes at the new tone. It tempted his blood to rush down once again to his lower half, which hurt against the surface of the couch. “Uh… please?”Bookmark here

As if the magic word was spoken, Viola loosened her hold on Davis’ arm, giving it some room to bend and alleviate itself from the pain. But then…Bookmark here

“Break’s over,” Viola declared coldly.Bookmark here

“But it just started!” Davis whined.Bookmark here

“No buts!”Bookmark here

Against his will, Davis’ arm was stretched into a painful pose again but now had the painful addition of Viola’s fist trying to twist its sharp knuckles into the muscle fibers of his tenderized shoulder. The furious rubbing both tickled and hurt. When Davis didn’t know whether he should be laughing or crying, he somehow did both.Bookmark here

“Aww… what’s wrong, Davis?” Viola lowered herself closer and gave his ear a naughty whisper. “Is it painful?”Bookmark here

The caressing breeze of her breath and the arousing tease of her voice put him in a world of ecstasy… that only lasted for a split second.Bookmark here

The pressure of Viola’s knuckles increased as they bored themselves deeper, and Davis was once again brought back to reality. Keeping his mouth shut was becoming too difficult.Bookmark here

“Must I repeat myself, Davis?” Viola taunted him. “I asked you, ‘is… it… PAINFUL!?’”Bookmark here

Judging by another increased level in pressure, the answer was obvious.Bookmark here

“YE—mmphff!!”Bookmark here

Before Davis could scream his answer, his words were smothered back in by a hand clamping itself over his mouth.Bookmark here

“Shhh…” Viola whispered as her hand fixated itself into an iron grip with the potential to crush a person’s face. She slowly forced Davis’ head to crane over to the blond man, who was lying down on the other couch and still trying to rest despite the noise. “You shouldn’t try to wake him up. It’s rude.”Bookmark here

So Viola is into this kind of stuff!?Bookmark here

A mild discomfort warned Davis that now wasn’t the right time to be pondering. Strange spots were starting to squiggle into his vision. His lungs were struggling to expand. Even though Viola meant to smother only his mouth, she ended up covering his nose as well.Bookmark here

“MMMPHFF! FHMMMRRPH!!”Bookmark here

Davis was suffocating. His struggling wasn’t helping him escape, and there were no signs that Viola was going to release him anytime soon.Bookmark here

“Tell me, Davis. Who’s your goddess, now?”Bookmark here

That question, spoken as another naughty whisper from Viola, and combined with his lack of oxygen, brought in all sorts of reactions that Davis experienced for the first time.Bookmark here

“Say it!” Viola demanded even though she was still gagging him. She raised one of her arms and drove its elbow straight into Davis’ tenderized shoulder in the manner of delivering a final blow to a dying enemy.Bookmark here

“MMMRRRRRRGGGGHHHHPHFF! FRRMMMMRRHHHMMMM!!”Bookmark here

Davis struggled with eyes glazed full of tears as everything within him was being pushed into overdrive. Everything was going to culminate in--Bookmark here

“Okay, we’re done,” Viola said, reverting to her normal voice.Bookmark here

And just like that, Davis was freed.Bookmark here

“What… just happened?” He rasped, his chest trying to expand against the couch as his breathing and other bodily functions slowly returned to normal.Bookmark here

Not long after letting the question sink in, Viola realized what she did, and that left her blushing pink. What did Davis think of her, now?Bookmark here

“I’m so sorry!” She sprang off the couch and landed nearby on her feet, frantically bowing several times as she apologized to Davis in a manner like she was about to cry. Her hands slapped themselves against her cheeks. “I… I don’t know what got into me. You were acting so submissive that I just suddenly felt like I had to play along!”Bookmark here

“And you were a natural.” Davis sat up, a corner of his mouth drooping. “I mean, ‘Who’s your goddess, now?’ is probably going to stick with me for a while.”Bookmark here

“Can you please forget I actually said that?!” Viola pleaded, her cheeks puffing up as they gathered a lot of heat. “Anyway! Your shoulder should still feel a little sore, but the stiffness should be gone now. Give it a few hours, and it’ll get better on its own.”Bookmark here

Her recuperating patient caressed his left shoulder and like it had a mind of its own, assured it that it was free now and everything was going to be okay. He tried rolling the shoulder again and was glad to know its movement had become more fluid. Not only that, the weird clicks that both sounded and felt annoying, were gone for good. It still hurt to move though, just as Viola said.Bookmark here

That aside, Davis might’ve learned something new about himself. He couldn’t explain why the experience of a girl treating him like a pet didn’t feel so bad. In fact, he was more than welcome to go through that foreplay, again.Bookmark here

Guess I understand you better, former prez.Bookmark here

“I’ll now treat the injuries on your face.”Bookmark here

Viola, wanting to forget her recent behavior as soon as possible, went for her purse, which she left nearby on the long table between the two couches.Bookmark here

“And uh… how’s that gonna go?” Davis asked, a little anxious on how this next phase of his treatment was going to fare.Bookmark here

“Just sit back and relax as you are now,” Viola instructed and started pulling small objects out of her purse.Bookmark here

She was preparing something by the way her shoulders were moving. Davis couldn’t tell exactly what since her back was turned against him, but the clacking sounds of porcelain told him she must have been preparing some sort of medicine. No need to look over then. He sat on the couch with his legs stretched as far they could. That was relaxing, not like his arm with the formerly stiff shoulder.Bookmark here

The porcelain sounds stopped.Bookmark here

Viola turned around, approached Davis, and he bent his knees to himself when he got the hint that she was going to sit next to him.Bookmark here

“Okay, things between us might have to get a little weird again, but I need you to just do as I say. I promise it’ll work,” Viola said, bringing herself closer to Davis.Bookmark here

A little heat rose up from him. “Alright… What’ll it be?”Bookmark here

Viola met his gaze with a competitive look defining her face.Bookmark here

“I want you to face me in a staring contest.”Bookmark here

The heat on Davis went red hot.Bookmark here

“Wait, what!?” he exclaimed. “How’s that going to fix my face?”Bookmark here

“We can talk about that later,” Viola said, tilting her head up to the ceiling and pinching a small jade bottle that released droplets of liquid into her eyes. “For now, I want you to look deep into my eyes and nothing else. Try not to blink as long as you can.”Bookmark here

Oh God, oh man. Is this really happening?Bookmark here

Davis prepared himself, shutting his eyes and letting them soak in all the moisture they could take. While doing so, he nearly yelped when a strange warmth landed on either side of his face.Bookmark here

His blush had nothing to do with it.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. It’s alright,” Viola gently said before Davis could open his eyes too soon. “It’s just my hands. I’m only making sure you’ll look at nothing else except me.”Bookmark here

Almost every part of Davis twitched with anticipation.Bookmark here

Oh God, oh man…! Oh God, oh man…! Holy shit, this keeps getting better!Bookmark here

“Are you ready?” Viola asked. Davis bobbled his head, excited. “Then 3…2…1… go!”Bookmark here

At the signal, Davis flared his eyes open and was enticed by the other pair that stared back at him.Bookmark here

They were hazel and shaped like a rounded almond with curled eyelashes to compliment their allure. Viola truly was a sight for sore eyes. Who wouldn’t make a goofy smile if they stared at her this close?Bookmark here

Half a minute passed.Bookmark here

“You’re doing great. Keep it up,” Viola cheered her opponent on for some reason.Bookmark here

While Davis was too engrossed in their contest to notice anything else, the warmth he’d been feeling on his cheeks moved around. Viola’s hands were doing more than just holding his face; they were exploring it. Slow and gentle as they trailed, her hands traversed over every bruise, bump, and every other facial injury they could feel.Bookmark here

Everything was going well so far. That is until–Bookmark here

“Shoot… thought I could last a little longer!”Bookmark here

-- Davis blinked all of a sudden, right when Viola’s hands were caressing the bumps on his temple. It was too soon for him to do that.Bookmark here

Not good. Viola knew Davis had to blink soon but for him to do so without any warning signs like eye twitching left her unprepared.Bookmark here

“Aww, you almost had me there.” Viola tried not to panic and praised her opponent’s effort. “C’mon, let’s go for another round!”Bookmark here

“Sure, but I’d like to give my eyes a break first,” Davis said, prying Viola’s arms off. “If you could just take your hands off me for a moment, I’ll— Gah!” The outside warmth on his face grew hotter and sizzled right when a strange sight became clear to him. “What the frick!?”Bookmark here

He scrambled backward, his rear scraping the couch’s leathery texture until he almost felt nothing, which warned him that he had reached the edge of its armrest. His breathing labored, and his heart wouldn’t stop slamming against his chest from both the close call and the discovery of what really was warming his face.Bookmark here

“Ahehehe…” Viola’s sheepish laugh unmasked an ulterior motive as she raised her hands up front. “Davis, I can explain—”Bookmark here

“YOU WERE TRYING TO BURN ME!?”Bookmark here

Nearby, the blond man grumbled. He tried not to let the volume bother him as he tried to sleep on his injuries and problems. He was also too groggy to get the context.Bookmark here

Davis’ arm trembled as he pointed an accusing finger at the supposed culprit. He couldn’t believe his eyes at how both of Viola’s hands… were enveloped in shining green flames!Bookmark here

“No, I’d never do that!” Viola hushed him. “These flames won’t burn you so long as you stay calm. See?”Bookmark here

Before he knew it, Davis realized Viola had clasped her hands on his face again. She gently pulled him away from the couch’s edge and back to his original spot.Bookmark here

An easing warmth, like that of a motherly embrace, returned to him. It enthralled him how the ambiance of the green flames danced in the corners of his eyes, which remained unharmed even when the flames spread out for a moment to lick them. He had Viola’s caring smile to thank for comforting him before he was given his second exposure to the mysterious phenomenon.Bookmark here

“Oh, woooow…” Davis remarked, no longer frightened. “I see it, but it’s still hard to take in. I mean there’s also that ‘Path of the Snake’ thing you called out a few times,” he said, and Viola gasped. “Gotta say, I’m definitely gonna lose sleep if I try to let all of this slide. Viola, you have to tell me what this is all about! Um… Viola?”Bookmark here

The female hands on his face were twitching. Luckily, that didn’t affect the intensity of the green flames they were coated in. Davis saw why.Bookmark here

Viola looked back at him like she had seen a ghost, except her face didn’t lose its color. It actually did the opposite and became flooded with pink, overheating and steaming.Bookmark here

“Y-you… heard me call out my techniques?” she stammered. “I-I mean, of course you did, but you didn’t have to remind me about it!”Bookmark here

“Why not?” Davis asked, an easygoing expression defining him.Bookmark here

“Because it makes me look silly!”Bookmark here

“‘Amazing’ is the more accurate word,” Davis insisted. “Hearing you felt empowering. It was like watching an epic scene from my favorite anime. To me, there’s no way what you did was anything short of amazing.”Bookmark here

What he said left Viola stunned for a moment, but she relented not fully convinced. Still, the treatment she was giving him needed time to run its course.Bookmark here

“Ever heard of the Eastern nation of Xina?” Viola began elaborating on the true nature of what Davis witnessed.Bookmark here

“Xina?” Davis raised his voice. “That’s like, on the other side of the planet. Yeah, I know about it, but not much to be honest.”Bookmark here

“My parents sent me there as an exchange student sometime after I turned ten,” Viola revealed. “Honestly, going away from my parents wasn’t different than staying with them. They were always busy with their jobs, so they never got to spend much time with me.”Bookmark here

Davis tried to empathize. “I’m sorry to hear that.”Bookmark here

“It’s cool, Davis. Really!” Viola assured him. “Living in Xina was my choice to make, and my parents even helped me prepare everything I needed before I left.”Bookmark here

The grin Viola made showed how much it wasn’t a big deal, something that made Davis feel happy for her. She may have had distant parents, but they must’ve cared for their daughter to invest in something as big as studying in another nation.Bookmark here

“I take it you can speak Xinese, then?” Davis assumed and prepared to listen.Bookmark here

「我当然可以!傻瓜!」
「Wǒ dāngrán kěyǐ! Shǎguā! 」
(Of course I can! You dumb melon!)Bookmark here

Playing innocent, Viola stuck her tongue out a corner of her smiling lips as her eyes looked to the side and up in the same direction.Bookmark here

If his instincts were right, it struck Davis that he’d just been insulted.Bookmark here

Since he had no solid proof and couldn’t rely on the translator app of his phone due to his lack of familiarity with Xinese, he did the only thing he could do.Bookmark here

Shrug it off.Bookmark here

More importantly, the adjustments Viola made to her pitch and tone made her sound as authentic as the language she was speaking even though it came to Davis as white noise. It made him almost forget he was listening to a fellow westerner.Bookmark here

“I originally traveled to Xina because I wanted to learn the secrets of their traditional medicine,” Viola continued. “After applying and making it to a school many wanted to get into, I saw why as soon as my first day of class started. Shǔxiàng Academy is a good school as it is, but the greatest lessons we learned there…” She removed her hands from Davis’ face and started to perform dramatic gestures with them. “…is the mastery of the human spirit! The melding of the heart and mind! And the skills one can only learn through energy, patience, and time!”Bookmark here

Viola brought her burning hands back to herself and blew out the green flames with a quick breath. Then she tapped her right fist against her steep left palm while facing them outward to form a salute nobody would expect in the West.Bookmark here

“Every student of Shǔxiàng Academy, myself included, are devoted to those ways.” She accompanied her hand gesture with a slight bow, her bronze curls moving accordingly. “Everyone else simply calls it, Kung Fu.Bookmark here

An imaginary gong bellowed from an omnipresent location. Only Davis, whose eyes sparkled bright, heard it. Everything made sense now.Bookmark here

“That. Is. So…”Bookmark here

He wanted squeal so bad.Bookmark here

“…AAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAAZIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!”Bookmark here

Sheer fascination clouded Davis’ mind. It made him forget his sense of decency and respect for another’s personal space.Bookmark here

“JEEZ!”Bookmark here

Viola smiled bashfully as her hands reacted in time to form a wall between their faces before they could connect.Bookmark here

“Soiie.” Davis’ voice got smothered into her hand, and he backed away after that. “But hey, you gotta admit, who wouldn’t react the way I did? It was all natural!”Bookmark here

A deadpanning Viola raised one of her eyebrows. “Including the part when you suddenly tried to kiss me?”Bookmark here

“Uh, let’s get back to the Kung Fu!” Davis suggested, rolling his eyes away from his earlier actions and pointing two fingers at Viola, giving the theoretical spotlight back to her.Bookmark here

“Right…” she concurred.Bookmark here

“Hey, hey,” Davis jumped ahead to his next question. “What about those green flame superpowers of yours? They came from Kung Fu, right?Bookmark here

“Hey.”Bookmark here

A now slanted pair of eyes and furrowed eyebrows compressed together to form a look that left him disconcerted.Bookmark here

Davis gulped a mouthful of air and came to regret his question when Viola’s response came out stern.Bookmark here

Her hands lashing out, Viola grabbed Davis under the collar of his shirt and yanked him in, her solid grip threatening to tear the fabric apart. Despite another moment of intimate distance, Davis couldn’t find it himself to blush as he witnessed Viola’s deadpanned expression regressing into a displeased scowl. The plan to sway her into a better mood had backfired.Bookmark here

“Don’t you dare lump our ‘techniques’ with ‘superpowers,’” She fumed. “We worked more than blood, sweat, and tears to do stuff like that, you piece of—!"Bookmark here

Before things could get any worse between them, Viola forced herself to shut up. Suppressing the impulse stressed her a little.Bookmark here

“Sorry, that was horrible of me.” She released Davis, smoothened the wrinkles she gave to his shirt, and tried to adjust the shape of her lips into something a little more pleasant. “Calling our techniques, ‘superpowers’ just gives us a really bad vibe, okay? I said the same thing once around the time I started my training, and it made me infamous among the other students for a while. Those were dark days, I tell ya. After going through the same hardships as them, I understood why,” she said softly.Bookmark here

“I guess that makes us even,” Davis acknowledged the mistakes he and Viola made, which helped speed up her return to a better mood. “But you got me even more curious about what techniques really are. Please tell me about them.”Bookmark here

“Sure,” Viola said, her smile partially returning. “We call them techniques because they can be done by anyone so long as they went through the required training, conditioning, and dedication needed to perform them. It’s kinda like learning to wiggle your ears or for some, learning a complicated skateboard trick while going down a ramp. You’re going to get hurt and frustrated the first few hundred tries, but if you master it, you’ll feel like a step above so many people. Shǔxiàng Kung Fu’s vision is to bring out the most of a human being’s limits, but there is only so much we can learn in one lifetime. That’s why the Kung Fu itself is constantly evolving through its generations of students and is divided into twelve ‘Paths.’ Each of them focuses on an aspect of human capability. Oh, and I think it’s cute that they’re represented by animals!”Bookmark here

Rat (鼠)Bookmark here

Ox (牛)Bookmark here

Tiger (虎)Bookmark here

Rabbit (兎)Bookmark here

Dragon ()Bookmark here

Snake (蛇)Bookmark here

Horse (馬)Bookmark here

Goat (羊)Bookmark here

Monkey ()Bookmark here

Rooster (鶏)Bookmark here

Dog (狗)Bookmark here

Pig (猪)Bookmark here

“I chose to walk the Path of the Snake, aka the Path of life,” Viola said while trying to suppress the pride in her words. “Not only was I able to learn traditional Xinese medicine like I originally wanted to, but the Snake Path also taught me techniques that can physically affect someone’s body or my own. Most of them are done through pressure points.”Bookmark here

“Like when you stopped those two guys by making their arms go limp!” Davis recalled, apparently enjoying what he was listening to.Bookmark here

“Yeah, exactly!” Viola brightened up, her bronze curls oscillating as she also got more into their conversation. “I don’t like hurting others, so I simply made them incapable of attacking me.”Bookmark here

“That’s nice to hear.” Davis found a pleasant solace in Viola’s pacifistic fighting style then remembered something almost opposite to that. “There was that part where you stabbed a brick wall with your hand. I saw it, but I still couldn’t believe you actually did that!”Bookmark here

“Well…” Viola raised both her hands and spread them open, showing their mostly undamaged condition to Davis. “Nothing bad happened to me then, but I broke or sprained my fingers countless times before I was able to do that.”Bookmark here

Oooooh… yowch. Davis hissed in through his teeth. He couldn’t fathom the thought of his fingers breaking over and over again. He’d probably die of shock after the first few times. It made him squeeze and stretch his fingers like some sort of pain reliever.Bookmark here

“But there’s no need to stress about it since I’ve already gotten past the hard part,” Viola chuckled. “Mastering the Snake Path partly required me to have very strong and sturdy fingers. So yeah, all those days of endless crying had to be done.”Bookmark here

“What about the green flames?” Davis asked next, wanting to put his mind off mangled fingers. “Based on what you’ve told me, I don’t see where the Snake Path fits.”Bookmark here

“And you’re right,” Viola confirmed. “Not all healing techniques belong to the Snake, but most do.”Bookmark here

She clenched her hands tight into fists and bathed them in her stare. Holding still, Viola didn’t appear to breathe.Bookmark here

Then a spectacle left Davis in amazed.Bookmark here

Smoke seeped between Viola’s fingers, rising as thin ribbons in the air.Bookmark here

Then she flared her fists open, and shining green flames set themselves alight before engulfing her hands in a burning glow.Bookmark here

“Duuude…” The demonstration left Davis gaping at first, but then his eyes shaped themselves skeptically. “Okay, you have some explaining to do. If you insist this isn’t a superpower or magic, if that exists, what kind of logic lets you create green fire from your bare hands?”Bookmark here

Viola had no issue with the question presented to her and was more than ready to turn her skeptic into a believer.Bookmark here

“You know how we get all hot whenever we get a fever?” she quizzed and was responded to with a nod. “It’s basically that. I was taught how to control my internal temperature in at least my hands. When I make it rise high enough, the natural oils on my skin get ignited, ergo my hands get set on fire. When I combine that with the medicinal powder I prepared and rubbed on my hands, what should be red and hot flames comes out green and warm with healing properties. This technique is called…”Bookmark here

的 Path of the Dragon: Shining Viridian 》”Bookmark here

“Dragon?” Davis muttered in awe as the shining green flames danced before his eyes.Bookmark here

“Now then…” Viola reached her hands out to his face. He didn’t flinch this time when the flames approached him. “I’m not done healing you so let’s continue, shall we?”Bookmark here

The mystical therapy resumed.Bookmark here

While pretending the blush of her patient came from the green flames warming his cheeks, Viola expanded more on the Dragon Path of Shǔxiàng Kung Fu.Bookmark here

“The Dragon is the Path of elements and probably the most difficult one to take. Those who go down that Path learn to improvise, adapt, and harmonize with the natural elements of our planet. Earth, water, fire, air, ice, and lightning are just the ones on the top of my head. The best students understand the elemental flow so well; it’s kinda like they can literally control them.”Bookmark here

Davis found it hard to wrap his head around the Dragon Path’s absurd concept at first. If it weren’t for Viola’s earlier demonstration of wielding fire in her bare hands, he would’ve doubted that a human being can do something like that without outside assistance.Bookmark here

Sort off. Those green flames were warm, not hot. Davis’ face vouched for that. It also seemed like the healing process was going to take a while.Bookmark here

“So… do you like, want a rematch on that staring contest?” Davis asked.Bookmark here

The grimace Viola made gave a wordless answer.Bookmark here

“There’s no need for that anymore,” she regretted to tell him, much to his disappointment. “Sorry, but the staring contest was an excuse for me to use a technique from the Rooster Path.”Bookmark here

“Wha?” Davis lamented, shocked at first. “Oh, okay… So what’s the Rooster all about, then?”Bookmark here

“Anyone who goes through that training become what some would call ‘psychics’ or ‘espers.’ They trained only their minds and almost nothing else.”Bookmark here

Davis twitched in place. “Wait, you mean students from the Rooster Path can do stuff like moving things with their minds?”Bookmark here

“To them, that’s basic,” Viola revealed nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“Really now?” Davis furrowed his eyebrows. “I’m starting to think I didn’t deserve your scolding when I first thought of your techniques as superpowers.”Bookmark here

“Maybe I was being too harsh on you,” Viola admitted but remained mostly firm. “While it’s true that the students of Shǔxiàng Academy don’t appreciate it whenever their techniques get labeled as ‘superpowers,’ some of the one’s I’ve shown you so far kinda justify why you’d call them that. Some techniques -- especially those from the Dragon, Rooster, and Tiger Paths -- are so unbelievable in concept and execution that ‘superpower’ is almost a fitting word. Still, they are called techniques for reasons I’ve already explained. And speaking of techniques, lemme make it up to you by explaining what I tried to use on you during our staring contest.”Bookmark here

鶏的 Path of the Rooster: Endearing Gaze 路径 》”Bookmark here

She explained that the technique involves planting a hypnotic suggestion into a living being’s psyche through eye contact. Those who are still practicing need to use special eye drops and maintain eye contact with their targets while keeping them at a close distance. In other words, it was useless in combat unless performed by a professional.Bookmark here

Davis’ world crumbled as the explanation entered his ears. It really seemed like Viola wanted to share a romantic moment with him when she first brought up their staring contest.Bookmark here

And that really sucked.Bookmark here

He groaned, “So, we had a staring contest just so you could hypnotize me?”Bookmark here

“It was to keep your attention off the flames,” Viola reasoned. “And you broke out of my hypnotism very easily.” A weak chuckle. “Just goes to show, Rooster techniques aren’t my strong point.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, about that,” Davis brought up to her. “How come you know techniques outside the Snake? I thought you’d learn only from the Path you chose.”Bookmark here

“And I did,” Viola confirmed. “I only studied Snake techniques during my training, but I had friends from every other Path. While each of our training journeys was different in the long run, there were some similarities here and there, so we were able to teach each other some of our techniques. It was part of our bond as friends.”Bookmark here

Davis’ eyes widened. “So you’re telling me you can do techniques from all twelve Paths?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Well, yes,” Viola answered after some consideration. “But all non-Snake techniques will never be as good as the one who taught me. If my friend from the Dragon Path were the one healing you, it would’ve taken him only a few seconds. For me, it’s been about five minutes?”Bookmark here

Davis reared back a little. “It’s only been five minutes?”Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s how long it took for me to finish.”Bookmark here

Releasing her patient from her grasp and blowing out the fire in her hands with another breath of air, Viola took out a pocket mirror from her purse and unclipped it open in front of Davis.Bookmark here

His eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.Bookmark here

“Oh God, oh man…”Bookmark here

He traded astounded stares with his reflection, which he thought to be an illusion at first.Bookmark here

It just couldn’t be, but it was. All the bruises, the swelling, and every other blight on his face, they were all gone! It was as if his face was never injured to begin with!Bookmark here

“Viola…” Davis lifted his eyes above the mirror and toward her, his voice brimming with awe. “I’m starting to get tired of saying you’re amazing… but you’re amazing!”Bookmark here

Gasping, Viola prepared to block when Davis began to close in on her like a while ago, but to her surprise, he stopped himself before he could go too far.Bookmark here

“Um, sorry about that.” Davis inched himself away until Viola was given considerable space. “Couldn’t help myself for a moment there. It’s just that in five minutes, you healed something that should normally take days or weeks. I just thought a simple ‘thank you’ wasn’t enough.”Bookmark here

His sincerity struck a chord in Viola. “I really don’t think I deserve that much praise,” she tried to admit. “but if you really want to...”Bookmark here

She cast her arms out wide. Davis, full of glee, accepted the invitation without a second thought.Bookmark here

It was only a part of what he wished to happen, but sharing a hug with Viola was way better than nothing.Bookmark here

It wasn’t the romantic type, however. Davis was hoping for more, but the mild level of tenderness Viola was giving him was just enough to show that she was only being friendly.Bookmark here

Despite his disappointment, he respected her wishes by not hugging her back too hard.Bookmark here

Don’t go down her curves, don’t go down her curves, don’t go down…Bookmark here

He also had to keep himself in line. It was a struggle that required a bite to his tongue, but Davis fought off the urge to slide his hands down Viola’s waist and cop a feel of her sexy figure. He also held his breath and tried not to smell the alluring Sandalwood and Vetiver scent coming from her hair.Bookmark here

Okay, that was too difficult.Bookmark here

That being said, Davis did allow himself to pull off a stupid grin that pictured his elation. Viola couldn’t see that anyway.Bookmark here

The friendly hug lasted long enough for Davis to part away a little satisfied. Some extra time would’ve been better, but it had to end on Viola’s terms before it could turn awkward.Bookmark here

“Now then, I’ve been wanting to ask you something,” Viola said, her gaze slightly off and her thumbs pushing against each other.Bookmark here

Davis deciphered the body language before him and his chest began to hammer like crazy. He tried not to accidentally pull off the same stupid grin he made moments ago.Bookmark here

No way… Is she into me!? Don’t tell me our hug changed her mind!Bookmark here

“Davis,” Viola began, a little shy in the manner she said his name. “what kind of a person do you…”Bookmark here

Oh shit, here it comes!Bookmark here

“…think Lucas likes?”Bookmark here

And just like that, Davis was shattered to bits.Bookmark here

For the second time since their reacquaintance, Viola had subverted his expectations. Even worse, she once again showed more favor toward his best friend.Bookmark here

He choked out a flabbergasted, “what?”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s just that he’s always avoided me ever since we were kids, so I’ve been wondering if there’s something about me that he hates. Since you’re his friend, I was thinking maybe you could tell me what kind of people Lucas enjoys spending time with so I can adjust myself to suit him better.”Bookmark here

The two sentences that made Viola’s confession each affected Davis in a different way.Bookmark here

The first sentence confirmed what Lucas had told him on the bus ride home that day. Lucas had been avoiding Viola during the bi-yearly get-togethers between their families because he was too shy to start a conversation with her, a byproduct of his infatuation to his non-blood related cousin. With Viola’s indirect confirmation, Davis had been given the other side of the story.Bookmark here

The second sentence, while a hunch, came to him as if Viola was the type of person who would be forever haunted if she knew at least one person who wasn’t fond of her. That aspect was something Davis had personal gripes with.Bookmark here

“If you ask me, I say you don’t have to adjust yourself to his tastes. You’re fine just the way you are.”Bookmark here

Viola scowled at him, unsatisfied with the answer she was given. “I guess I should’ve expected this from someone who doesn’t know what faults are since he’s adored.”Bookmark here

“Excuse me?” Davis’ forehead wrinkled.Bookmark here

“It wasn’t on purpose, but while I was on my way to the principal’s office earlier this afternoon, I saw your picture in the lockers of several girls when they were opening them. I figured you were popular.”Bookmark here

“Oh, that,” Davis grumbled, his displeased eyes harboring his reaction.Bookmark here

“Hmm?” Viola hummed out of confusion. “You don’t sound happy.”Bookmark here

“I wish I could,” Davis said. “Do you know what it’s like when you ask someone out, only for them to reject you without a second thought before they go back to staring at your picture?”Bookmark here

That rhetorical question left Viola stunned. “What in the world?”Bookmark here

“You’re right.” Davis turned away for a moment, reminiscing. “I am a hit with those girls at school. But there’s a catch,” he said, turning back completely glum. “When they first saw my picture, they saw me as this stud who’s so cool in everything and stuff. The perfect boyfriend of their dreams you could say. And then they got to know me and realized how far-off their expectations the real Davis Crane was. My hobbies and interests just didn’t gel with them. In the end, they just went back to fawning over my picture because that Davis will never act like me. And as for me? I’m not in cahoots with changing myself to something I’m not.”Bookmark here

“You don’t want to be cool?” Viola asked.Bookmark here

“Of course I do, but I also don’t want to become someone else’s version of me!” Davis moaned. “I mean I tried to the first few times, but all it did was mess me up with headaches. You want my advice, Viola? I say don’t change unless it makes you a better person without taking away who you really are. If Lucas keeps avoiding you for being you, then it’s his loss, not yours.”Bookmark here

While she didn’t know what stance to take on whether to agree with Davis or not, Viola could tell he really opened up to her and conveyed his message straight from experience.Bookmark here

“Thank you,” she murmured. Suddenly, she gasped in another direction. “Oh! Look over there!”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Davis followed her lead, only to see nothing but a blank wall. “Wait, I don’t see anythi--!?”Bookmark here

When he looked away, a pair of warm and soft lips took advantage of the distraction to land a quick peck on his cheek. It left behind a tingling sensation he wanted to feel for a long time.Bookmark here

His eyes threatened to blow themselves up. It was so quick that Davis almost didn’t realize it.Bookmark here

Turning back and burning red, Davis was greeted by a mischievous smile Viola couldn’t help but make when she saw how stunned he was.Bookmark here

“I just thought a simple ‘thank you’ wasn’t enough,” she said, giggling with a fist held to her chin.Bookmark here

It may have not been the kind of kiss he’d preferred, but Davis now knew for sure he had gotten the edge over his friend in winning Viola’s affections.Bookmark here

He tore away from the cute sight that was Viola and huddled to himself. Now wasn’t the time for his emotions to go wild, and he didn’t want Viola to hear the real reason why her cousin had been avoiding her for so long.Bookmark here

At the same time, he wanted to express what he considered to be a playful middle finger to the friend he was going to be protecting the next day.Bookmark here

EAT YOUR HEART OUT, LUCAS!!!Bookmark here

That cry of victory may have been unleashed within the confines of his head, but Davis’ erratic victory dance couldn’t be hidden the same way.Bookmark here

Gawking with bugged-out eyes, Viola pretended she did not see that. The girls at school preferring a picture of Davis over the real deal was starting to feel less unbelievable.Bookmark here

She didn’t have to watch the silliness for long, however. Another person to look at came to her when the blond man yawned on his rise from a nice rest on the couch opposite to them.Bookmark here

“Welcome back,” Viola showered his awakening with a greeting. “Can you stand?”Bookmark here

One of his feet went down from the couch and put its weight on the floor, followed by the other. It took slightly longer than normal, but the blond man was able to get up to his feet unassisted.Bookmark here

“They still aren’t at their best, but I should at least be able to walk on my own,” he said, still groggy.Bookmark here

“At least you’re recovering,” Viola clapped her hands, optimistic. “For now, you should sit down just a little longer.”Bookmark here

“Why is that?”Bookmark here

“Because you need to spill the beans about yourself,” Davis answered in Viola’s place and sat next to her on their couch. “If it weren’t for Viola and me, you’d still be stuck in the alleyway and probably beaten to death. I think we deserve to know your story before we bailed you out.”Bookmark here

It wasn’t going to be a pleasure recollecting the events that recently happened to him, but the blond man wasn’t fond of leaving a debt unpaid, especially one that came from escaping with his life.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Very well,” he said, following a sigh and prepared to look back on some painful memories.Bookmark here

Hikarisoul
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Saint._.Bernard
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Gerry Hines
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