Chapter 40:

Volume 2, Chapter 8: Skating on Thin Ice

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Heyo! Jio Kurenai here!
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It's been about... two months since my last post. Really sorry for the delay. I want to clarify that I wasn't taking a hiatus, but I wanted to make sure the next set of chapters would have finalized content. I'm very fond of teases and foreshadowing so I want to really be sure that I'm concrete about what I write. The next set of chapters will be a 3-parter, so I hope to publish them within a suitable time-gap.Bookmark here

In other news, I'm happy to announce that all four of my main characters have official artwork! Lucas, Rio, Davis, and Viola... I think their appearances are diverse as none of them seem to share the same color or traits for their hair, eyes, and skin. Bookmark here

While the main 4 is technically done, HikariSoul isn't exactly finished with them yet. Once she is, however, the next characters to be brought to life are the 4 villains introduced as of this volume! I hope they'llbe able to give you their own kind of appeal! :DBookmark here

I posted all my novel's artwork on Twitter, but it didn't take long for them to get lost in the shuffle of tweets. That's why I'm currently preparing an Instagram account so anyone can have easy access to an archive of them. If you follow me @jio_kurenai, I'll be sure to follow you back!
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Feel free to leave a comment below. It can be anything like a random question, a comment for fun, or any constructive criticism to help me improve! If there's anything I like more than writing a story, it's interaction with those who are reading it. I must admit, that's one of the best feelings in the world for me!Bookmark here

Lastly, please give yourself some credit by giving that "LIKE" button a [insert verb that can substitute for "click" here] after reading this chapter! I'm always interested to know who's following me and I'd absolutely love it if we could start a conversation too! Likes and Comments will give points to your Honeyfeed badge, so make me recognize your mark by doing at least one of those two! I'll be singing your name in praise if you do both! ;)Bookmark here

Oh yeah, one more thing!Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

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Three glasses of cool, refreshing water were set on the glass coffee table between them. Davis and Viola sank into their couch and adjusted themselves comfortably as they prepared to listen. The blond man, who sat on the couch opposite to theirs, tried to keep his composure as he revisited the incident he went through before meeting them. Bookmark here

He was accompanying his wife, Lana, at a nearby town for personal reasons when the venue they were at was raided unannounced by a swarm of armed hooligans. All the men were slaughtered and all the women were kidnapped including Lana, but the blond man managed to save himself from an untimely death. The kidnapped women were being transported somewhere by a small number of crew vans, which the blond man followed all the way to San Desquiciado. Bookmark here

As they listened while taking sips from their glasses of water, Davis and Viola each harbored their take on the blond man’s recollection.Bookmark here

While Viola was fine with the lack of fine details thanks to at least understanding the gist of the story, Davis couldn’t get those missing details off his mind. What was the blond man’s method of escape and how did he manage to trail the crew vans? Since he learned earlier that the blond man was from the United Empire, a foreign nation from another continent, it was unlikely that he had his own car in Sarkansas. The chance of fetching a taxi without losing track of those vans was also a slim possibility. Bookmark here

I wonder… Davis trailed his gaze away from the blond man’s face and toward the strange gauntlet on his right arm.Bookmark here

The blond man’s recollection continued. It was somewhere in San Desquiciado that he tried and failed to save his wife from the instigator of the kidnapping – a gang leader named Logen Thayne. Bookmark here

It was the first time Davis and Viola heard that name. For some reason, “Logen Thayne” gave off an eerily familiar vibe. Davis was at least positive that Logen wasn’t one of the four Tyrants of San Desquiciado.Bookmark here

“Following an escape by the skin of my teeth, Logen contacted me through Lana’s phone,” the blond man fumed as he relived that part of his story. “On his behalf, he swore security at his place was going to be kicked up a notch, and made it so that I can forget about returning on my own. However, he promised his doors would be left wide open if I were to deliver him a certain someone.”Bookmark here

“Maybe we can at least look them up for you,” Davis suggested and fished his smartphone out of his front pocket while musing about how much it was going to suck for that poor somebody.Bookmark here

Viola leaned closer and watched him boot up his Facespace app. A little too close. Her bronze curls were brushing against his shoulder and tickling a small part of his neck. Bookmark here

Davis tried not to get excited and asked the blond man, “So, what’s the name?” Bookmark here

The blond man nodded, more than ready to feed him the information. “I was told he goes by the name, Lucas Thorne.”Bookmark here

“Got it.” Synthetic clicks played alongside Davis’ thumbs as they typed the name on his phone’s touchscreen. “Lucas Tho—"Bookmark here

His mouth was left hanging, and his eyes refused to blink as he froze alongside Viola at the name he was in the middle of typing. Even worse, a familiar image popped up as the only result in the app’s search suggestions.Bookmark here

The confines of the armory had become so dead with silence that a pin drop could be heard – or in this case, a 140g smartphone after it slipped between its owner’s hands.Bookmark here

The blond man couldn’t comprehend what just happened. Neither Davis nor Viola was giving him a response. The two of them had become still, and their faces appeared to be blank. Straight lines formed on their lips as their widened eyes sent haunting stares into his soul. Bookmark here

“Viola,” Davis droned.Bookmark here

“What is it, Davis.” Her voice was just as monotonous and dull as his to the point she didn’t bring the right intonation in her response.Bookmark here

“I think I need to get my ears checked.” Bookmark here

“Why is that.”Bookmark here

“For a second there, I thought I heard the name of my friend who also happens to be your cousin,” Davis said, much to the blond man’s mild shock.Bookmark here

“I see,” Viola acknowledged. Bookmark here

“Did you hear another name.”Bookmark here

“No. I heard the same as you.”Bookmark here

Davis blinked for the first time since he entered his dazed state. “Ah… so both of us are having hearing problems.”Bookmark here

“Can you repeat that name, so we can know what you are really trying to say.” Viola “asked” the blond man, continuing to stare at him alongside the person seated next to her.Bookmark here

The blond man alternated left and right between the pair, a little offset by their robotic behavior. Still, he heeded their request and made sure they heard him properly this time.Bookmark here

“Lucas… Thorne…” Bookmark here

In tandem, Davis and Viola leaned back and reeled their heads up to the bright ceiling. They held their lips tight, and the air whistled as they inhaled all they could get through their noses.Bookmark here

The blond man frowned, apparently puzzled at what was going on between them. “Are the two of you alri—?" Bookmark here

“”WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!””Bookmark here

He was forced to hold down his flat cap as Davis and Viola snapped back and blasted him with a synchronized yell, their faces contorting and exaggerating themselves to different art styles for painting with every passing second - Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Pointillism, Surrealism, etc. - the list went on until they ran out of breath.   Bookmark here

Regaining his bearings from playing the listener and victim to another outburst in the same night, the blond man nervously asked the two with a nervous smile, “So, it’s a small world after all?” Bookmark here

“You better hope Logen’s talking about another guy with the same name!” Davis slammed his hands down on his knees, newfound vigor reviving him from his monotoned state. “I mean really!? Since when did Lucas’ life suddenly become so eventful!? This wasn’t the case for the longest time before, I mean seriously, what the fffffff--”Bookmark here

“WHAT THE FUCK!?”Bookmark here

Davis, who had been holding his lower lip against his teeth to keep from cussing an expletive and making himself look bad in front of Viola, was startled when Viola herself took over his remark. Bookmark here

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“What the f—” She clamped her hands over her mouth after nearly cussing again. “What could Logen want with Lucas!?” Her question carried a load of pressure that gave the blond man the impression he was under a life-or-death interrogation.Bookmark here

“I don’t know!” he denied. “But I’m definitely on point when I say Logen bears some kind of grudge toward your cousin. He sounded ready to explode at the mere mention of Lucas’ name, without a doubt.”Bookmark here

“It’s obvious Logen wants him dead!” Davis slammed his hands on the coffee table, thundering it and spilling some water from one of the glasses.Bookmark here

Despite the sudden noise, the blond man managed to keep himself calm. Bookmark here

“He told me to bring Lucas alive.”Bookmark here

“So he could kill him, himself!” Davis pointed out, his words containing a harsh duh, in their delivery. After a short pause and some time to control his breathing, he mellowed down a little. “Look, I feel for you and the trouble your wife is in. Really. But for me, that won’t be worth selling my friend out.”Bookmark here

“Besides, Logen might not keep his promise,” Viola added, trying not to sound antagonistic.Bookmark here

“Not doing my part of our deal is no different than bringing my chances to zero,” the blond man argued. “So long as I get him what he wants, even if it’s unlikely, he might return Lana to me.” Bookmark here

Hearing those words made Davis gnash his teeth and contort his expression into one he couldn’t pull off on a whim. One of his hands twitched. Bookmark here

They were still in San Desquiciado, which meant all crime was legal. No one was going to feel devastated if something happened to the blond man. No one, except his wife. Bookmark here

And no one could tell her anyway. Bookmark here

So screw it.Bookmark here

Metal hissed with a gleam as Davis sprang forth, yanking his longsword out of its scabbard. A lack of mercy took over his eyes. Bookmark here

“Davis, no!”Bookmark here

A furious step up caused a web of cracks to spread beneath his foot and across the glass surface of the coffee table. It was the only obstacle between Davis and the man he now saw as a threat. Bookmark here

The blond man’s eyes doubled in size. The sudden hostility made him forget about his own protection as the tip of Davis’ longsword lanced for his throat, only for it to stop a few feet short from impaling it.Bookmark here

Davis wasn’t hesitating. He was dead serious about killing the blond man and would’ve done so already if it weren’t for Viola, whose arms and legs restrained his like the coils of four snakes. Bookmark here

“Let go!” Davis barked and tried to shake her off. Bookmark here

All she did was slow his movement. He still proceeded toward the blond man, now dragging himself closer inch by inch with Viola holding on to him for dear life. Bookmark here

He’s too relentless! Viola grunted and struggled to reinforce her hold, knowing she was fighting against the desperation of someone who only wanted the safety of his friend. She wanted to protect Lucas too, but also felt that killing the person after him wasn’t their only option. Bookmark here

Before Davis could overpower her and break free, Viola quickly adjusted her position and locked eyes with him. Unlike the friendly staring contest they had moments ago, she trembled when Davis’ green eyes stared back at her. Bookmark here

鶏的 Path of the Rooster: Endearing Gaze 路径 Bookmark here

Viola muttered the technique’s name in her head and hoped the effects of the special liquid she dropped on her eyes still lingered. This hostility of Davis needed to stop now. She tried to quell it with hypnotic suggestions that told him to calm down like slowly counting to ten or to regulate his breathing.Bookmark here

The blond man could only watch, petrified at the sight of two friends now in conflict because of him. He silently apologized over and over again, knowing and understanding what their feelings were amounting to.Bookmark here

Then out came breaths that were slow and heavy. The struggle Davis was exerting began to lessen at a steady pace until there was no more tension. Viola was able to relax a little. She was glad to know a technique from a Path she was terrible at was working in this crucial moment. Bookmark here

On the contrary…Bookmark here

I know what you’re trying to do, and it’s not working, Davis told Viola in his thoughts after a short moment of trading stares. The sorrow in her eyes showed how hard she was trying to stop him from committing attempted murder. But fine, I’ll let you win. I’ll do it for you. Bookmark here

Davis took a deep breath and tried to speak as calmly as possible. “You can let me go, Viola. I’m alright now.”Bookmark here

“Are you sure?” Viola cautiously asked him.Bookmark here

“Yes… I won’t attack him,” Davis swore to her, all while not allowing the blond man to escape his sight. Bookmark here

Gradually, Viola uncoiled her limbs on Davis until he was freed. As promised, Davis sheathed his longsword and backed off until he returned to sitting by Viola’s side on their couch.Bookmark here

But then his hands clawed his knees, wrinkling a part of his pants between their fingers. Bookmark here

Some of his hostility remained. Bookmark here

Weakened but still palpable, it sent wordless warnings to the blond man and Viola, who almost found it hard to believe that the person she originally saw as silly was also capable of making her blood run cold. Bookmark here

“So, we’re at an impasse.” Davis hunched forward with his fingers interlocked in front of his mouth and seethed at the blond man. “You know I’d rather not say this, but you should leave your wife behind. Otherwise, Viola and I will have no choice but to cut ties with you now.” His steeled glare made it clear he wasn’t playing around. “I’d choose my next words wisely if I were you.” Bookmark here

That warning compelled the blond man’s breathing to turn erratic. Everything within him ached as he tried to consider his next move in this dilemma. Davis looked more than ready to abandon him, and while Viola appeared to be more reluctant, no evidence was needed to show that she had already chosen to side with her cousin’s best friend.Bookmark here

With no clear answer coming to him in his time of need, the blond man lowered his head and let his mouth run. This was his one and only chance. Bookmark here

Every word came straight from his heart.Bookmark here

“All my life, I never did see myself as a somebody. Though it pains me to admit it, I’m just another person in a crowd. I’m expendable, mediocre, and pathetic. It was thanks to Lana that I was able to keep on living.”Bookmark here

Davis groaned reluctantly and fanned his hands. “Oh great, a sob story. What a cheap way to—”Bookmark here

Another hand landed and clamped on his shoulder, hard enough to cut him off. Davis looked to his left.Bookmark here

“You told him to choose his next words wisely,” Viola reminded him, a neutral expression defining her face. “Let him finish. Then you can say what you want.”Bookmark here

Thankful for Viola’s intervention, the blond man looked deeper within himself as he continued where he left off.Bookmark here

“Lana was sought after by many men, all of them wanting to win her hand. There were those who were popular, wealthy, successful, intelligent, witty, athletic, courteous, dashing, maybe some possessing most or all of the above. Whatever the case, I saw myself lacking the audacity to compete with any of them. So rather than experience utter humiliation, I simply gave up and tried to walk away.”Bookmark here

He lifted his head and faced the two in front of him, the whites of his eyes turning pink and watery. His old wounds also began to ache.Bookmark here

“But then, I was stopped. I was heaven-struck when I saw both of Lana’s hands tenderly clasping mine. She left the world shaken when she turned away every one of her suitors and chased after me instead. At first, I was in a state of disbelief. She and I were not childhood friends, and we never dated during the little time we had known each other, but it soon became clear from all she exuded that she only had eyes for me. The only natural action I could take after that was to break down into a sniveling mess of tears.” Bookmark here

Said tears began to leak down from the corner of his eyes. The blond man tried his best to give Davis and Viola the most joyful smile he could now that he reached the final part of his story.Bookmark here

“In the end, I did fall into humiliation, but I didn’t suffer alone. I can still remember all the derogation and rubbish those outraged suitors hurled at myself and Lana, but she was ready to take the backlash alongside me. She held me tighter, and I shielded her in return. I may have taken the brunt of everything, but knowing I had won Lana’s heart helped me to pull through.”Bookmark here

Wiping away his tears, the blond man looked back at Davis and Viola with the most hardened expression he could manage.Bookmark here

“My wife was offered the world, yet she chose and accepted me - a poor sap who knew he didn’t deserve to stand beside her. Tell me. Can I simply abandon someone like that?”Bookmark here

He had nothing more to say. His time to talk had been spent the best way he could. All he could do now was brace himself for Davis and Viola’s response. Bookmark here

Viola shed no visible tears, but the half-hearted curl of her lips meant she was touched to some extent.Bookmark here

Davis kept his head lowered and clutched his empty glass. Then he stood abrupt, spun around, and hurled the glass as far as he could across the armory, where it crashed and shattered on the cement floor.Bookmark here

“Davis?” Viola reached a hand out toward him, worried about his mental state. Bookmark here

“Out of all the sob stories anyone could tell me…” His pitch and tone fluctuated every few words. “…yours just had to be the type I hate to hear the most.” Slowly turning around, Viola and the blond man saw that while Davis was still gnashing his teeth, his eyes were also pink and gushing with tears. “Damn you,” he said to the blond man.Bookmark here

Despite the derogatory words, it came to Viola that Davis didn’t say it completely out of spite. Bookmark here

“Looks like you got through to him.” With a weak smile, she sadly congratulated the blond man. A small part of her felt happy for him while the rest ached with increased worry for her cousin.Bookmark here

“Alright.” Davis wiped a forearm over his eyes. “I still don’t want to hand my friend over, but I’ll give you a chance. This coming afternoon, I’ll arrange for a private meeting between you and Lucas. But know this,” his eyes narrowed down into the recent glare that daunted the blond man like the first time he did it. “That’s the farthest I’ll go with helping you. Once you and Lucas start talking, you’re on your own. Are we clear on that?”Bookmark here

After a short moment of silence, the blond man lamented. “Yes. I understand.”Bookmark here

As much as it pained Davis to hear the blond man respond like that, he managed to keep his foot down on the matter. Bookmark here

“I want to make sure Lucas tells you, ‘no,’ but my friend’s decisions should be his own. Whether he chooses to go with you to this Logen guy or not, Lucas will have my support. All 100% of it.”Bookmark here

Playing observer to the negotiation, Viola couldn’t help but beam in appreciation not only for Davis’ concern for her cousin but also for his sensitivity to give the blond man a chance for things to go his way despite being against it.Bookmark here

You’ve got quite the friend there, Lucas. I hope you don’t take him for granted.Bookmark here

“I think all of us are good to go,” she said after taking a glance at Davis and the blond man. “What do you say, Davis? It’s your call.”Bookmark here

While he couldn’t predict what was going to happen next, he also knew at least in his case that nothing good was going to happen from staying put. Bookmark here

Standing up and mentally preparing himself, Davis announced his decision. Bookmark here

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“Time for us to leave.”Bookmark here

Lord Claude
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Hikarisoul
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Gerry Hines
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