Parable of the Renegades
Metal hissed as four segmented pairs of dirty doors retracted away from each other to reveal three people.
Two of them walked out, working together to pull the handles of a big weapon case that ran on wheels between them. The third person, still not yet ready to walk his best, sat on the weapon case like it was a bed.
“Where are we now?”
Viola scouted the confines of their new location. They’d emerged from one of the ten elevators lined next to each other and were now in what appeared to be a wide parking lot with bridges of metal rods supporting its arched ceiling.
“This is how our products come and go,” Davis told her. “You can’t expect all of them to fit through that one door to the armory, don’t you?”
“I guess so.”
“And we won’t have to drag this big case around for long. Not after we load it onto one of the…” His face fell flat after he stopped looking Viola’s way. “…pick-up trucks.”
Every parking spot for a vehicle was vacant. It meant all the armored pick-up trucks for transporting products were already in use.
“Ah… sorry about this, Viola.” Davis slowly turned to her, regretful for what he was about to say. “but it looks like we’ll be walking all the way.”
Viola squinted and forced her lips to curl out a smile. “It’s alright. It wouldn’t feel good for me if you’re having a hard time, so I’ll gladly help you move this,” she said and gave the weapon case a quick pat as they walked it toward the parking lot’s exit.
Davis turned away again, refusing to let Viola see the waterfall of joyful tears streaming down his eyes. What an angel she was to help him shoulder his burden out of the goodness in her heart!
It might’ve not been obvious, but Viola could tell that hiss for attention was meant for her. She didn’t stop walking but moved a little closer to where the blond man was sitting.
“You don’t want to take part in this, looks like.” The blond man said, having figured out the hints on her face.
Viola hushed him with a finger pressed against her lips and whispered, “It’s better he doesn’t find out!”
Part of her reason was that she didn’t want to help transport something whose contents she didn’t know.
The blond man lamented his condition. It wasn’t like him to put a girl through hard labor if he didn’t have to. “If only you and I could switch places...”
“And you should!”
Their attention pulled over to Davis, who traded his happy-go-lucky demeanor for a more despicable one.
“Viola should be the one sitting on the case, not you. But oh! You still can’t walk properly even though you said you could. What did Logen do? Ram you from behind until your legs stopped working?!”
“Davis, please. That’s enough,” Viola interjected, not wishing for any discord between the three of them. “I was the one who suggested he sit on the case, remember? We should let his legs rest for as long as they could before he really needs them.”
“Right. You did say that.” Davis remembered and simmered down.
No one had anything to say after that. The three of them continued to walk in silence toward the parking lot’s exit, which was blocked by a huge shutter door. At least the rolling wheels of the weapon case and their footsteps kept the atmosphere away from silence.
But then one of them dared to break the ice to the wrong person.
“So… Davis…” The blond man spoke up, eliciting Davis to scowl with his lower lip pulling down hard on the upper. He also refused to look anywhere but forward. “It pains me to know that things have gotten rocky between the two of us, I can understand what must be looming over you right now, but let me at least have you know that I would rather not wish for any harm to befall your friend.”
“That sentence had too many syllables. Apologize.”
“But Davis, I—"
“Don’t say my name like you know me.” Davis flatly cut him off and walked ahead on his own toward a walled switch that was next to a massive shutter door. “I don’t even know yours.”
“Alright, I know you’re playing coy.” The blond man started to lose his cool, despite the patience he tried to give Davis. “I told you my name mere hours ago. You even repeated it a few times because you thought it sounded nice! If a refresher is what you want, however, I’d be more than happy to oblige. My name is—"
The shutter door slowly rose while emitting a noisy vibration from its tubular motor. From a small gap made ever since the door started its rise, Viola found it strange why there were several pairs of shoes pointing in their direction from the outside. Most of them had splotches of glowing paint in bright neon colors.
“I’m sorry, were you saying something?” went Davis’ voice, hardened by sarcasm. “I couldn’t hear it over the buzzer when I pushed this big red button. Mind saying that again?”
“Yes,” the blond man hissed. “I was trying to say—"
Following another loud buzz that censored the blond man’s name, the shutter door closed before it could really open.
“Oh, what was that?” Davis continued to ridicule him. “I couldn’t hear you over the buzzer when I pushed the big red button again. We can’t have anyone trying to get in here and steal stuff from the armory, now could we? Someone had to take responsibility and shut the door.”
“We haven’t stepped out yet!” the blond man pointed out.
“Yeah, thanks for stating the obvious. Want a cookie?” Davis said and pushed the big red button for the third time.
The shutter door started to rise again. Once more, Viola saw several pairs of shoes (now joined by more that she didn’t see the first time). As the gap between the door and the ground grew taller, she also saw standing pairs of pants, shorts, and even skirts, too. Like the footwear, those other articles of clothing were also decorated in glowing paint.
“Alright, you happy now?” Davis turned around to face Viola and the blond man in particular while mockingly raising his hands. “Go on. Try saying it again. What’s that name you’re so proud of?”
“It’s… uh…” the blond man almost said it, but suddenly stopped and looked at what was ahead. Viola shared his view.
More of the outside was revealed alongside the slow rise of the big shutter door. Above the pants were upper-body clothing like t-shirts and jackets. Then there were arms… that carried weapons.
“What?” Davis tilted his head to the left, wondering why his two companions had gone wide-eyed and frozen stiff. “I’m not gonna push the button this time.”
“Davis…” Viola shuddered.
It elated him to hear her say his name, even if it wasn’t as sweet as he hoped. “You rang, Viola?”
She pointed a hand forward, but it wasn’t meant for him.
Davis turned around, not expecting anything special--
--and would’ve shat his pants at the many faces of glowing war paint with animalistic eyes staring them dead. Good thing he already had his time in the bathroom.
Also, he should’ve expected this. They were within Mary Glow’s turf, after all.
A small group of the Tyrant’s delinquents had been waiting outside, biding their time to invade the weapon shop through the back entrance. Who knows how long they’d been there? One thing was for certain; the time they'd spent waiting didn’t leave them in a good mood.
That was made more crystal clear when one of the delinquents, a shirtless male splashed with mostly cyan war paint, rushed in hollering (he was cranky, all right) with a battle-axe that boasted a design Davis recognized. Its broad carbon steel head and fiberglass shaft had been redecorated with a neon cyan paint job to give it that Mary Glow look.
Davis had an ample window of time to react, and following a clash of steel that sent a jolt down his arms, his longsword found itself in a deadlock with the delinquent’s battle-axe.
“Get to safety!” he issued an order to Viola and, by extension, the blond man.
Although he didn’t get any kind of answer from them, Davis assumed they heard him and were probably heading for the elevator back to the armory. He didn’t want to put Viola in harm’s way. Yes, that amazing moment of her self-defense against Austin and Sage was still fresh in his mind, but those two older teens were unarmed and unprepared for a fight.
This was a different matter. If Viola were to suffer even a scratch from those neon-painted weapons, who knows if that paint contained a substance not meant to enter a person’s body? Davis wanted to kill himself if he allowed that to happen. In a metaphorical sense, of course.
That being said, knowing he was fighting for Viola’s protection was bound to give him the strength he needed. The thought of her thanking him later with more than just a simple ‘thank you’ was going to be too sweet.
Now, if only that boost of strength could come sooner.
Seething through his teeth as the delinquent’s opposing pressure forced him down to one knee, Davis saw that even with both his hands working together (one at his longsword’s grip and the other near its tip), the axe’s rounded blade was still inching closer to his face!
His opponent had been hitting the gym. That explained why this delinquent was so proud to go shirtless; a sight Davis would rather not be seeing up close.
When he realized strength wasn’t going to help him win, Davis’ body changed tactics, almost naturally.
With a sudden clock-wise shift of his longsword and a vicious desire to stop looking at the muscular chest of another man, Davis deflected the delinquent’s battle-axe and made it slide down his longsword’s blade until it hit its handguard. This threw his opponent off balance, granting Davis the chance he needed.
He saw how the back of his opponent’s neck was exposed.
Placing both hands on his longsword’s grip and invigorating himself with a battle cry, Davis kicked himself up, raised his arms to their limit, and brought the sword down. It was a swing imbued with the might of countless hours spent from testing the weapons he forged.
But at the last second, he rotated his longsword by 90-degrees and struck the delinquent on the head with its flat edge instead. Seeing stars, the delinquent wobbled in place until Davis slammed a foot into his stomach and kicked him back outside.
Davis couldn’t allow any more outsiders into the parking lot and give them a chance to raid the armory.
He pushed the big red button on the wall switch. Its motor stopped momentarily before humming again.
The thick and heavy shutter door reversed its movement and began a slow descent to become an impenetrable wall, but before it could block out any unwanted visitors—
Two more delinquents; a boy and a girl in bright magenta paint slid under the door’s narrow gap. While still in the middle of her slide, the girl chucked a dagger behind herself. Davis barely avoided the projectile weapon by a few strands of hair.
Unfortunately, he was more of a bonus than the dagger’s actual target. A crackling spark from behind told him what the girl was really aiming for.
The wall switch, which controlled the shutter door through its big red button, found itself pierced and jammed, leaving it a mess of black smoke and exposed multi-color wires.
The shutter door stopped moving, leaving behind a 1-meter gap to the outside about the size of an average toddler.
The boy of the delinquent pair attacked Davis, who was in the middle of catching his breath following his narrow dodge from the girl delinquent’s attempt. He wielded a familiar magnum spear, and just like the other weapons so far, it had splotches of paint that matched its wielder’s color to give it that Mary Glow aesthetic touch.
A spear was going to be a challenge to block or dodge in his state. Davis wasn’t confident he was going to succeed.
The urgent call from a familiar voice alerted Davis to take action, but that wasn’t enough to avoid a lancing thrust. Numerous sparks flew as the spear’s tip grazed him.
For once, however, luck was on his side. The magnum spear connected with his left shoulder, which, unlike the right, was protected by a steel pauldron.
《 蛇的 Path of the Snake: Smashing Cobra 路径 》
At the same time, something else that rivaled the spear in length zipped over Davis’ right shoulder from behind. It rammed the delinquent in the solar plexus, forcing the wind out of his lungs and sending him flying so hard that he would’ve left a dent matching his shape on the shutter door if its material wasn’t so dense.
What transpired left Davis speechless. He was saved, not by another weapon or a fist, but by a living creature – an actual cobra!
Having done its job in fending off Davis’ attacker, the cobra went back the way it came, flicking its forked tongue and hissing as its cold scales slid over Davis, who was now riddled all over with goosebumps. He didn’t dare to move or breathe out of paranoia that the slightest disturbance would provoke the venomous snake into biting him.
When it left his shoulder, Davis looked back.
He didn’t miss a second of how the cobra retracted into one of Viola’s blouse sleeves, making popping and clicking noises as its length shortened.
Then its body of copper scales transitioned into a limb of human flesh with fingers.
In other words, the cobra was literally Viola’s arm!
Not only that, the female delinquent responsible for breaking the wall switch was also found unconscious by her feet.
Viola was right. There was no time to marvel at what seemed too drastic to be considered a technique. The rest of the delinquent squadron was taking advantage of the small entrance they had by crawling under the shutter door like cockroaches.
At first sight, it looked like there was no end to these guys. Most of them even looked the same. Their only distinguishing feature was the single colors of glowing paint they had splashed upon themselves.
As Davis twisted the grip of his longsword in anticipation for another fight, calming footsteps approached from behind until someone stood next to him.
“I thought you didn’t like fighting,” Davis mentioned to Viola, who bladed herself into a stance with both arms angled downward.
“And I still don’t.” Her eyes changed shape from round to slanted, giving off a hostile impression no one would expect from her at first. “but I’ll get my hands dirty any time if it means I can help keep us safe.”
Despite the predicament they were both in, Davis couldn’t help but get fired up with a boost to his morale. From the way he heard it, Viola was serious about doing something she’d prefer to avoid. There were no doubts about her skills either. He already saw what she could do, and it made him feel like the luckiest man on the planet to have someone like her fighting by his side.
“Davis, can I trust you to watch my back?” Viola asked, just as the first wave of delinquents stood up from their crawl with their neon weapons lighting up the scene with more of their comrades still to follow.
“I’ll give it my best shot.” A nervous drop of sweat trailed down Davis’ forehead. He pressed his lips together while rummaging a hand into a pouch on his weapon harness. “No, I’ll do it as if my life was on the line.”
Viola took a second to go back to her usual cheerful self and chuckled. “Yeah… don’t go that far. But if you insist, I’ll make sure you don’t end up giving it.”
The first wave of delinquents rushed in, intending to swallow the duo in their numbers while going for the kill. As if they were in sync, Davis and Viola darted off in opposite directions with Davis going left and Viola going right.
Two against too many to count in a few seconds was an unfair match-up. That’s why they went for a divide-and-conquer strategy. It wasn’t something they discussed before the battle started. It was simply the best answer they had for dealing with a crowd. Davis did have one piece of advice for Viola, which he whispered before they split up.
“Shield your eyes.”
On cue, Viola crossed her arms over her face while Davis blocked his sight with his sword-wielding arm and meant to hold it there until he heard a certain noise. The blond man, who was situated at a safe distance away from the carnage zone, knew what was coming. He squeezed his eyes tight and looked away.
The attacking wave of delinquents did as Davis hoped and roughly halved their group to go after whoever was closest to them. They were so focused on their targets that all of them failed to notice what was hovering in the spot Davis and Viola originally were.
A miniature sphere, which Davis had tossed straight up, was but a moment away from hitting the floor.
The delinquents might’ve figured out what was going to happen next if any of them had the eagle-eyes to read the digital text scrolling on the narrow screen ringed around the sphere.
It read, “SAY CHEESE!!!”
The sphere shattered upon contact with the cement floor, and a nova of light flared. It blinded every delinquent that took even the slightest gaze at it.
Some dropped their weapons while others shrieked and seized their burning eyes from the nasty surprise, but all of them learned the hard way that the sphere was actually a flash grenade. It didn’t matter how hard they tried to shut out the light. Their vision had already been rendered white with occasional flashes of red, yellow, and green.
Those who didn’t drop their weapons hesitated to flail them around out of worry for accidental hits to their nearby comrades. Their hesitation weighed them down even further when they picked up sounds of tempered steel smacking against skulls and combos of strikes that sounded like mini-shockwaves.
《 蛇的 Path of the Snake: Venom Anesthesia 路径 》
Zipping through every delinquent in her way and switching targets on random intervals, Viola attacked the nerves in their limbs with flurries of precise finger jabs that shocked them numb. Before long, everyone she dealt with had arms and legs like jelly. The whole process was painless… other than the part when they had no choice but to take a hard fall to the floor.
Meanwhile, Davis took out every delinquent that tried to go after him with a simpler method - bashing their heads with the flat edge of his longsword. They may have been one of the many obstacles in the way, but it wasn’t in Davis’ interest to simply kill them out of the problem.
Oh, and Viola was there too. It wouldn’t be a good idea for her to witness him doing such an atrocious act, now would it?
The first wave was taken care of before the effects of the flash grenade could wear off. Speaking of flashes, Davis flashed a thumbs up at Viola, who returned the gesture with an open left hand pressed against her right fist - the Snake variation of the Shǔxiàng salute.
They didn’t have much time to catch a break; however, as the second wave of delinquents had already emerged following their short crawl under the shutter door.
Unlike the first wave, Davis didn’t feel the need to use the last flash grenade resting in his pouch as making those cost a lot of money, resources, and time. This number of delinquents was small enough to count without growing bored.
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet…
Now that Davis thought about it, each of them wore splashes of paint that made one of the seven colors in a rainbow.
Seven against two was still an unfair match-up, but there was no point in complaining.
“Davis,” Viola cautioned as they renewed their stances against their next set of opponents. “I’m not sure if we’ll make it out of this unscathed, but I can heal you once we’re done here.”
“Gotcha.” Davis perked a nervous grin at the second delinquent wave who all brandished their weapons with a confident mien. They were smaller in number but appeared to be tougher than the first. “I’ll be counting on you for that.”
“But just so we’re clear, you should still be careful. If you lose an arm or something, that’s it. I can only stop the bleeding.”
“Great.” Davis urged himself to stop worrying. “Then I hope I don’t end up left-handed.”
Heyo! Jio Kurenai here, hoping I've given you the entertainment you deserved!
Just trying out how placing my AUTHOR'S NOTE at the end of a chapter instead of before it would feel. Is it better for you? Please let me know if you have something to say.
I also want to say that recently I've become concerned with my readers probably suffering from burnout after reading long chapters that often test Honeyfeed's character limit. They were long because I've always wanted to provide the entire scenario in one go, but maybe the burnout might not be worth it.
As such, I want to try and make the reading experience less stressful by publishing chapters with about 3K to 5K words from now on, as was the case with this chapter. This means I won't be able to finish this story arc with three more chapters like I tried to promise last time, but I hope this will also allow me to publish more often and help keep the story content fresh between time gaps while also making it easier to digest for one session. Please let me know what you think about this.
Please react to this chapter to let me know how I did for you, and feel free to drop a comment whether it be your thoughts on the chapter or constructive criticism to help me improve! If there's anything I love more than cooking up a new chapter, it's interacting with those who give my work a chance. ;)
I'm also on Twitter and Instagram where I post the latest news and artworks mostly related to this novel. Find me @jio_kurenai
My illustrator has an account on Twitter too! Find her @HikariPrezi