Parable of the Renegades
Hi! Jio Kurenai here!
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Dusk was starting to end.
Confiding his prize money with Rea before he parted ways with her, Lucas got himself dressed in his plain gray shirt, bloody cargo pants and shoes as he prepared to leave the clinic and head back to the town of Cameron’s Feint. It wasn’t time for a bus to stop by Moonlight Shores, but at least getting into town was within walking distance.
His shoes occasionally dragged themselves across the pavement as he walked, it was apparent that he needed to get some food in his stomach before getting some overdue time in bed. Eventually, he integrated into the small population that walked all over the town.
Cameron's Feint had a population of about fifteen thousand, and around Lucas, people were most likely armed. Some were obvious such as those who had massive swords or other large melee weapons strapped to their backs. Notably, those who had their weapons on display looked around his age if not older, possibly because they got to live out the fantasies they had from playing RPG video games. And if the weapons were not convincing, maybe their outfits did the deed. Light armor such as trench coat jackets with small shoulder pads was quite popular as it made them look like a heroic protagonist. Fancy uniforms were pretty chic too, with cliques of people wearing the same design or even customized variations of it. He didn't blame them. Being part of an organization can make a person feel cool like they had a sense of superiority.
Most of the older-looking people probably kept their weapons hidden. For example, while a man wearing business attire might appear harmless if not charismatic, a pair of gun holsters could fit nicely underneath it.
This status quo had a notable hole in it though. If the [Renegades] looked just like humans at least on the outside, wouldn’t they have been able to go through the same process of learning how to use weapons as well?
Despite that possibility, everyone kept their weapons in check, only bringing them out for self-defense. Fights were hardly started as the masses could jump to conclusions and classify the one who started it as a [Renegade] whether or not it was true, leaving that person with not the brightest of futures.
Apparently, the [Renegades] have been keeping themselves well hidden. Over the many decades ever since their existence was first revealed to the world, the [Renegades] have continued to live low-profile lives with them being more careful in keeping themselves from being exposed. As a result, there were still no official guides or records regarding their capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors. Until now, they have continued to blend into society; one that has become paranoid over the potential dangers they may bring.
After walking for a few blocks and considering his options, Lucas took a stopover at Retrospect, a restaurant that just screamed for the 1950s starting with its blue and pink neon lights that decorated the restaurant's sign.
As he took his first step onto the restaurant's checkered tile floor, the feeling of stepping into a pocket dimension back in time hit him. The interior was full of color and classic memorabilia with baby blue titanium tables in-between glossy and circular red sofas along with a line of fourteen rotating stools in front of the counter. Most of the available space on the walls were occupied with posters of timeless movies and classic records, which some referred to as coming from the "Golden Age" compared to today.
Speaking of records, a jukebox was situated on one side of the restaurant, playing songs from an extensive library that were all considered popular back then, mostly jazz.
Lucas sat on one of the rotating stools, specifically the one farthest to the right and away from the jukebox. He had no problem with old school music, but the volume was a different matter. The people who sat nearest to it probably loved the blast of music, so turning down the volume was out of the question.
In exchange for sitting away from the jukebox, Lucas found himself sitting next to a group of friends that occupied the rest of the stools. Retrospect had a fair number of patrons at the moment, but that group of friends felt out of place. Every single one of them was dressed in an ivory white longcoat uniform and they looked like they were having a guild meeting. A tavern-themed restaurant should have been built in Cameron's Feint. It would've been a popular meeting place for people like them.
Lucas paid no attention and took his time enjoying his early dinner, a cheese steak sub. He took his time, letting the spicy and juicy flavor of shredded meat, cheese, green peppers, and onions go down the hatch.
While he made no attempt to eavesdrop on the "guild" seated next to him, their discussion was so vocal that trying to ignore them was the challenge.
So, they're going on a hunt. Must be pretty desperate for action if they're going this far. Well, it's none of my concern. I just hope they don't cause too much trouble.
He paid his bill after he finished eating then prepared to return home. From his pocket, he pulled out his smartphone and checked the time, which was currently at 6:30 pm.
Good thing I get to sleep early since I got classes tomorrow, Lucas mused as he exited the doors of Retrospect.
At this point, darkness had already covered the sky. From the drifting clouds, the moon peaked, reflecting the rays of the sun against its spherical form. It cast a dim light that blanketed the town.
Having just finished a hearty meal, Lucas was ready to call it a day. He and Rea lived in a two-story house in the nearby suburbs off the outskirts of Cameron's Feint. Walking there from the town itself shouldn’t be too much of a problem especially after refueling himself, but he decided to use that for something else while waiting for the bus instead.
The next bus won't be leaving until 7:00, meaning he had thirty minutes for a little exploration even if it was going to be a little boring. Having lived near Cameron's Feint all his life, Lucas knew almost all the ins and outs of getting around town. While walking back into the small headcount of a crowd that hardly flocked the streets, his current lifestyle came into question.
Go to school, study, hang out with friends if he had time, participate in the Underground Arena for income on the weekends and get treated at the clinic. The same cycle every week in the same town. When will things ever change, even for a short period of time? When will he find it in himself to take a different course?
Then he remembered one example of a cycle breaker - those family reunions with Rea’s relatives. With Rea's work keeping her occupied at the clinic and her family having tight schedules as well, these family reunions or vacations happened only once or twice every few years.
With Lucas always lacking the resolve to make the first move and his step-mother's family being quite busy with whatever they do, they were full of mystery to him - especially that one person around his age who had piqued his curiosity in his childhood. He never even tried talking to Rea about them, being uncomfortable in trying to do so. Come to think of it, Rea mentioned one of them had moved to town a few days ago. He pondered why she did not specify who.
Lucas' lingering thoughts were interrupted as he passed one of the several gaps in between the structures of the town, he heard a vague rabble of voices and hissing metal.
Did the "guild" find their target?
Should he see and confirm for himself? He had nothing to do with it, this should not be of his concern. If he could just ignore it and be on his way, he could go home and continue the same cycle of his daily life.
Lucas walked past the alleyway, but suddenly stopped in his tracks and reflected.
Continue the same routine, or for once, witness something he does not see every day?
Finally, he came to a decision.
It was difficult at first, but once Lucas forced that first step into the murkiness of the alleyway, continuing forward no longer felt difficult. He searched for the source of the noise. After turning a few corners left and right and feeling an odd sense of his heart getting heavier, he found it.
His hunch was right. The "guild" did find their target - an individual hiding his face under a slashed dark hoodie jacket. A slim backpack with a single strap was worn over one of his shoulders.
Peering from behind a nearby dumpster big enough to hide him, Lucas spied on the commotion while trying his best to ignore the pungent smell of trash trying to breach his nose.
"Finally caught in the act!" a member of the "guild" announced. His comrades behind him had their weapons in hand, which were variations of western swords. "Rumors around school had it thou art possibly one of them [Renegades]! Am I wrong!?"
The one in the hoodie remained silent.
"Do not think thou can just act like thineself doth not know. We know the appearance underneath thine hood and we have been keeping our eyes on thine behavior since the rumors started! At first, we decided to remain cautious and nothing else so long as thou doth not hurt anybody, but ever since last week, thou hast been following the fair maiden into her apartment every night at exactly 6:00 pm! Thou even kept a slight distance from her. Thus, the two cannot be together!"
"Oh, this could be good," Lucas whispered to himself, his fingers clenching on the dumpster's edge. "Um... What's with the 'thou's?'"
"Indeed, that’s right!" Another member of the guild joined in. "And our daily observations state a pattern exists too! Every night you're always showing up outside different rooms at specific times! At 6:05, you're outside room #306. At 6:17, it's room #413 and at 6:22, it's room #421! When you're finished, you go back through this alleyway, following the same path as now!"
"I think I'm starting to realize there's another pattern." As he watched the odd drama unfold before him, Lucas noticed something.
"An observation most worthy of praise, my brother!" The first member who spoke earlier, most likely the leader of the group, gave his comrade a pat on the back. "Do not deny it! Thou must have learnt the schedules of the residents living in those apartments. Thus, thou hast taken advantage of thine knowledge to commit the act of voyeurism on them!"
After hearing all the archaic dialogue, Lucas felt like the "guild" was too immersed in their mannerisms. "Yup, that speech pattern is old fashioned. I know some people learned medieval warfare, but c'mon, isn't the speech pattern thing just overdoing it?"
The leader's hand balled into a fist as it shook with fury.
"Thou hast already been labeled a freak, yet thou hast dared to sink even lower! I see nothing, but a filthy stalker!"
Lucas deadpanned. "Nobody should be offended if they hear that from you."
The sound of hissing came about as the ringleader of the "guild" brandished a claymore from the sheath strapped to his waist and gripped it tight in his hands.
"If thou art truly a [Renegade] as the rumors say, then thou must be disposed of now! We shall protect our beloved town of Cameron's Feint, share the knowledge of [Renegades] we are about to attain, be hailed as heroes, and perhaps... the fair maiden, Viola, shall notice me as her champion!"
His followers all pointed glassy stares at him as he made his declaration.
Cue the awkward silence.
"Er, I mean us!" The leader corrected himself (not really) as he turned around to face his followers. "Look, I realized I just made a mistake, but it only proves that I'm a human being, not like the fiend that stands before us!"
He even broke character in his rush.
Still, with that being said, the guild focused on the hooded figure in front of them once more.
The excitement was building as Lucas anticipated what was about to unfold. His perspective of the leader rose a little in a positive direction. "That was a bit cheesy, but I guess you guys are at least are doing it for a mostly noble cause..."
But then, there was something in the leader's speech that rang a bell for Lucas.
"...Wait... Did he just say... 'Viola'?"
The leader stepped forward, full of determination. "On behalf of my home, Cameron's Feint, Sarkansas, and the fair bronze-haired maiden I must protect, I, who leads the Knights of Viola, shall vanquish thee! Have at you!"
"And that confirms it,” Lucas told himself, a little surprised even though he shouldn’t be as he continued to spectate.
The Knights of Viola charged like an angry mob at the hooded individual, who stayed in the same spot as he reached into his backpack. Out of it, he pulled out a sword...'s... hilt?
"What? That sword doesn't even have a blade!" a baffled Lucas commented, still unnoticed and unheard from behind the dumpster. There was no mistaking it after he double-checked what he just saw. The weapon was just a hilt, which made it look far from harmful. The most notable feature, however, was that the hilt resembled an animal. It looked like a wolf's head with its mouth wide open.
Letting out a battle cry, the leader of the Knights swung his claymore downwards in an attempt to bisect his target vertically. The blurring motion made it clear that while the sword was brought down hard, it was easily caught in the mouth of the wolf-shaped hilt.
With his odd weapon held only by a single hand, the hooded individual rotated his wrist and swatted the claymore away, disarming the leader while also disorienting him to turn around. After that, he was push-kicked into his fellow charging knights, the accidental bump breaking up their formation.
Every other Knight of Viola took their turn to have a go, but it all ended the same. In quick succession, every knight tried to strike the hooded figure with their weapons, only for them to get blocked then disarmed. Then they would lose their balance from the riposte, and get push-kicked away.
Lucas kept himself fixated on the hooded one's behavior and a curious thought floated within him. Neither the hooded figure’s movements nor the way he fought was graceful. In fact, it looked more like he was undisciplined and savage yet, he was fighting defensively and peacefully, only standing his ground and deflecting every strike that came his way. The kicks he used just pushed his attackers away from him. They were never executed in a way that would hurt the average person by the looks of it.
If he was truly a [Renegade], his earlier behavior was not befitting of a threat that should be killed on sight. In fact, if it weren’t for them stating their intentions, the Knights of Viola would’ve looked more like the real monsters, attacking something they refused to take time to understand.
With their formation broken and their attempts to fight thwarted, the Knights of Viola would’ve been wise to give up their attempts and retreat if only the knight in the back of the line kept his mouth shut.
"You guys!" He said. "I know it looks like we're not winning, but during that time, I felt this throbbing weight on my chest."
"Oh, you felt that way too?" Another knight asked him.
That knight took the words right out of Lucas' mouth. So, he wasn't the only one who felt like his heart got heavier when he arrived on the scene? Something strange is going on.
"So, we all felt the same!" The knight from earlier said. "Maybe we were all nervous when we first encountered the [Renegade], but for some reason, now I'm feeling happy! Like I just hit the jackpot!"
"Hey, yeah! Now that you mentioned it, I feel the same way too!"
"I think it's a sign! It looks like we're backed up into a corner, but I think we'll be able to pull through somehow!"
The rest of the knights began to share this sudden emotion. All of them retrieved the weapons they were disarmed of and strangely, the hooded figure made no attempt to stop them. He continued to stand in place.
With their weapons in hand once more and their formation reestablished, the leader stepped forth and pointed his claymore at the hooded figure.
"See that, fiend? In the end, good will always triumph over evil! The Knights of Viola are too determined to be struck down forever! Now my brothers! Let the power of positivity ignite your souls!"
They all cried in unison, chanting a battle cry that easily broke the silence in the alleyway. Lucas felt their burning spirits but also hoped they didn't annoy any outsiders who might be hearing them.
The chanting continued, still going strong as the Knights prepared to charge once more. The chanting reached its peak, the knights got pumped up with vigor...
...Then, the chanting began to gradually lose its volume.
"What's wrong! Did thine fighting spirit already lose its fire!?" The leader looked behind to see which of the Knights ran out of steam, but then he saw the truth for himself. The knights were stopping not because they grew tired. No, they were not tired...
...Something was forcing them to stop.
From the shadows, crescents of silver made visible by the light of the moon flashed. Another flash came, another Knight of Viola fell, lifeless before he could hit the ground.
The one responsible stepped into view.
It was a girl. A foreigner.
Long and wavy raven hair with a bluish tint was tied behind her to form an upward bun, chin length side-bangs and an asymmetrical curtain of a fringe framed her heart-shaped face. An eye-patch, slightly hidden by her fringe covered her right eye. Her left eye, lucid, cat-like and azure as a sapphire, displayed no hint of mercy at the people in her way.
Her outfit was not something found in the west, but Lucas recognized it from some of the manga Davis forced him to read.
A short charcoal-grey kimono, tied with a thin indigo sash and patterned with blue sakura petals on its left side. A pair of black skin-tight hot pants covered her upper thighs as she walked forth black shinobi boots.
In her hand was a thin and curved single-edged sword sheathed into a hollow scabbard full of scrapes.
Lucas recognized the weapon and recalled its name - a katana.
The girl shifted herself into a stance. Slightly twisting her body as her left hand held the scabbard next to her hip while her other hand grasped the katana's grip. She bent her knees slightly, focusing her weight on her left leg.
The hooded figure noticed her intentions and responded. His right hand, which he had previously kept in the pocket of his jacket was revealed to be covered in bandages, which he unraveled. When the bandages were completely undone, a limb of dark green thick and sticky liquid was revealed. It oozed droplets, which fell to the ground.
The girl dashed forth in a burst of speed, passing through every Knight of Viola in the process. None of the knights were ignored, however, as everyone graced by the girl's presence dropped to the ground.
Left and right came the sound of a blade slicing clean through flesh as it was unsheathed then re-sheathed in quick succession during the girl’s dash toward the hooded figure.
One by one, the Knights of Viola fell, barely having any time to react as the girl had already taken their lives the moment she passed them. To her, they were nothing but cannon fodder - just another thing in her way that needed to be put aside for good.
The leader of the knights guarded himself with his claymore, but its protection was of no use as the girl had already cut through the metal before reaching his throat.
"This... positive feeling... was... false... hope?"
Those were his last words before he crumpled down, his head rolling on the ground before the rest of his body landed with a thud.
An astonished Lucas broke into cold sweat out of fascination.
I know I need to get out of here... But how will this end?
The hooded figure's right arm revealed one of its capabilities as it stretched, its fingers extending to grab hold of a massive object.
Unfortunately, it reached for the dumpster that Lucas used as a hiding place. With a mighty swing of his arm, the hooded figure hurled the dumpster in the girl's direction.
Despite the incoming projectile of massive proportions, the girl did not lose her cool. She took a stance in preparation and with perfect timing, unsheathed her katana and vertically bisected the dumpster in one strike, allowing herself to slip in-between all the garbage it contained.
With a quick flick to the air, the girl removed all the blood and dirt collected on the blade of her katana before promptly re-sheathing it back into its scabbard.
Meanwhile, the hooded figure had already taken advantage of this distraction and escaped. He ran in another corridor of the alleyway and disappeared into its shadows.
Only two people were left in the scene.
Lucas and the foreigner girl met each other’s gaze and she got into her stance again, ready to strike.
This was Lucas' cue to run like he never did before.
All of this happened because he let curiosity win for once.