Parable of the Renegades
The burliest of the seven “rainbow” delinquents started the next round.
Hustling it out in black streetwear doused with splashes of neon yellow paint, he came charging at Davis and Viola with a wide greatsword that made sparks fly as it trailed off the floor.
Davis put on a displeased frown. The fight was just about to start and his opponent was already desecrating the venue — not a good first impression as his opponent.
Nonetheless, he stepped up to the challenge and charged for Yellow, longsword-wielding arm outstretched. He appeared ready for another clash of steel, which seemed like a dubious choice due to how the odds in both weight and mass were in favor of the greatsword.
When he felt he was within range, Davis strafed to his right, just as Yellow cleaved his heavy weapon up, and immediately spun out a counterattack. His attempt was blocked. His longsword’s strike wasn’t fast enough to catch the delinquent while he was recovering.
That didn’t stop Davis from trying. He fought on and followed up with a relentless barrage of two-handed sword strikes that were blocked all the same.
Yellow went smug. If there was anything Davis’ retaliation was accomplishing, it was that he was slowing down with the continuation of his barrage. Just a few more and the longsword should start feeling too heavy for his hands to carry.
Then out came Viola, who slid between Davis’ legs with one of her knees tucked in. Having invaded Yellow’s guard, she sprang out a kick with the squared heel of her go-go boot shooting toward a weakpoint.
Somewhere else on the planet, far from any turf wars or civilization, a carnivorous bird raised its head all the way up, then slammed its pointed beak at one of another bird’s two giant eggs. Its breakfast was ready.
Yellow’s jaw dropped along with his weapon as his eyes crossed toward his nose. Writhing in unimaginable agony, he nearly fell to his knees as his hands covered his family jewels. That left him wide open, and the last thing Yellow saw was a smirking Davis pulling back his longsword into the stance of a baseball batter readying a swing.
Of course, it was the flat side that left Yellow’s skull rattling before it was lights out for him.
Davis swapped his longsword back into its sheath for the greatsword Yellow dropped. Just like its owner and fellow delinquents, the oversized weapon was also splotched with neon paint. Over 70% of its blade had been vandalized yellow, but the vertical indent going toward its tip remained clean.
With both hands grabbing the greatsword’s thick grip and trying to adjust in the process of picking it up, Davis planted his feet, clenched his teeth, and twisted his body hard. There were short delays and straining pulls to his arm and waist muscles, but the greatsword gained momentum off the ground and cleaved the air around Davis as a wide, yellow arc.
The remaining six delinquents, who all tried to gang up on him, backpedaled at the last second in a panic. The gust of razor wind that harmlessly grazed them warned they would’ve been bifurcated into upper and lower halves if it weren’t for the telegraphed warning of the attack.
That was fine. Davis still wasn’t trying to kill anyone, but there was something else he had in mind.
As the six delinquents were in the middle of regaining their bearings from their sudden retreat, Viola appeared before them, leaped, and sprang off Blue’s busty chest before twisting out an airborne kick backed by her momentum. Red took the solid hit to the chest, knocking his weapon off his hand while also sending him on a course toward Orange and Violet. Their collision separated the three a good distance away from Blue, Green, and Indigo.
Davis and Viola moved in between the two trios to prevent a re-group. They were now set to take on three opponents each, another cut to the difficulty.
Red was still down and reeling, but Orange and Violet were able to get back to their feet. Together, they made a mad dash toward Davis with their weapons primed and ready, only to split up before he could try to intercept them. They figured if he tried swinging that greatsword again in this situation, it was likely that only one of them would be taking the lethal hit. That should leave the other with a small window of time to exploit the opening Davis would unwillingly give.
Understanding the tactic they were using against him, considering he and Viola utilized it minutes ago, Davis reacted to their assault by raising the heavy greatsword up before bringing it down and smashing a knee against the vertical line in its center.
A mace from Orange and a segmented broadsword from Violet went for his front and back at nearly the same time, only for a ringing clash to reverberate around the vicinity.
Both Orange and Violet were left astounded.
Their weapons were deflected by the greatsword – now split into equal halves down the middle and held in one hand each. One half held off the mace while the other was held in a reverse grip against the broadsword.
It had nothing to do with the sturdiness of the iron it was forged from. No, this was actually a feature, and the only person in the scene who knew that was Davis. After all, what normal person wouldn’t know the secrets of his creations?
Davis rotated his hold on what were now great dual blades so their reverse blunt edges could face his opponents. Much better. Now he felt like he wasn’t giving himself a handicap while still keeping the weapons non-lethal.
Orange and Violet were in for the surprise of their lives when Davis took his turn to go on the offensive. They weren’t given much time to breathe as they struggled to defend against the continuous heavy strikes of one blunt edge each while backing off.
Using two swords at the same time didn’t feel awkward for Davis. The spinning flow of his attacks was smooth and fluid, but also vicious. When one sword attacked, the other was already on its way to keep up the pressure. It was like he had already spent a good amount of time practicing with the weapons in his hands. Holding them for a second or two was all he needed to remember their feel and adapt accordingly.
Then Orange and Violet struck back once they realized their backs were almost up against a wall.
The combined efforts of their synergized attacks, however, was blocked when Davis crossed the great dual blades over each other to form a giant “X.” He then uncrossed the blades with sudden force, unleashing a horizontal blow that disarmed the mace and broadsword out of Orange and Violet’s hands while also sending them crashing back-first to a wall.
They tried to get back to the fight following their impact but by the time they took in one breath, Davis closed in on them, unarmed.
A pair of haymaker punches met neon-painted faces so hard that their colors flew off and splattered the walls behind them.
Although Davis’ punches lacked the refinement and form his best friend, Lucas had practiced over the years, the steel material of his vambraces made up for his shortcomings by augmenting his fists with denser blunt force trauma.
That was more than enough to put Orange and Violet out of action.
The concentration in Viola’s narrowed eyes refused to leave her as she ducked.
A scythe, painted mostly green, reaped where her head used to be.
While Viola was distracted, Blue, the only girl in the seven delinquents, pole-vaulted to the air with her bō staff and tried to crush her from above.
Viola scooted away, only feeling the impact of Blue’s attack through a nearby disturbance in the air. Anticipating and reacting to unseen or sudden attacks like that was a basic lesson she had to practice alongside her peers at Shǔxiàng Academy - that, and also because Blue gave a loud auditory cue when she slammed one end of her bō staff to propel herself into the air.
There was no time to rest as a sickle, painted indigo and attached to a long chain, swung at Viola in a wide circle, and tried to dig its pointed tip into her flesh. At the same time, Green swept his scythe at a low angle, intending to clip off her knees.
Those coordinated attacks reminded Viola of one of the many death traps she faced during the unpleasant parts of her training. There was only one way to get past this one if she didn’t want to lose her head or legs.
She jumped and corkscrewed her straightened body horizontally, and the simultaneous attacks passed over and under her without leaving even a scratch on her expensive clothes.
The stunt left Indigo and Green amazed, long enough for Viola to land on one foot and turn her momentum into a spinning hook kick. Her heel slammed into Green’s jaw and knocked him out long before his body gave a thud to the floor.
A thrust came from the left. Viola tilted her head backward to see a bō staff blurring past.
It meant a one-on-one confrontation with Blue. As she dodged and parried the rapid combinations of pokes, thrusts, slams, and staff twirls of her opponent, Viola was reminded of the times she sparred with Shǔxiàng Academy students that had taken a different Path from her’s. Blue’s skills with her staff were comparable to that of a novice student from the Pig, the Path of adaptation.
Watching the two girls fight it out and with no opponent to keep him busy, Indigo saw this as his chance to strike and snuck to a different spot. Earlier, he was using a sickle attached to a chain. That was just half of his weapon. This time, he utilized the other half of the chain, which ended as an iron weight. These features identified his weapon as a kusarigama, which originated from the Eastern nation of Nihan.
He prepared his next move by spinning a quarter of the chain over his head, making it go faster until it broke out a whooshing melody.
Then he let the iron weight fly with a swing.
Links of its chain rattled the air as it went in a circular motion toward Viola. Indigo determined that if he could get the chain to coil around her neck, that should restrain her and give Blue the opening she’d need to land a decisive blow. Assuming his execution went as planned, it would mean maybe, just maybe, Blue would finally agree to go on a date with him.
Then something from a considerable distance caught his kusarigama’s iron weight and chain while in the middle of their flight.
Much to Indigo’s shock, what was responsible for that was Violet’s broadsword. Even more of a shock, the broadsword had performed a feat he never knew it could do despite his close friendship with its owner.
The horizontal segments of its blade had separated, revealing a pair of elastic rope wires going through all of them. That was what allowed the broadsword, now a bladed whip, to reach out and ensnare the iron weight and chain.
And just like Yellow’s greatsword, the person aware of this hidden feature was not its owner, Violet, but its current wielder and the one who designed and forged it from scratch, Davis!
It didn’t sit well with him that Indigo was trying to sneak an attack on Viola. Naturally, he wanted nothing more than to make that delinquent pay the price, and this one was really going to cost him.
Empowering himself with a battle cry to force a burst of adrenaline through his veins, Davis contracted the bladed whip back into a broadsword while also tugging it with strength he could never attain on his own. Indigo, unable to let go of his chained weapon in time, and astonished at the force used against him, was yanked all the way toward Davis and the orange mace throbbing in his left hand.
Three wide and heavy blows were delivered. A downward smash to the head gave Indigo a concussion, a backhand left swing fractured the orbital bone near his left eye, and a final return swing to the right knocked him off his feet alongside several of his teeth.
The aftermath of Davis’ wrath left Indigo groaning on the floor with his face now a deformed and bloody mess. He passed out from the pain before he could despair over his failure.
Panting, Davis’ arms drooped from the weight of the weapons he held. His forced adrenaline rush, as well as his shifts to different weapon styles, had taken their toll on him.
That was why he was too late to react to the blond man’s distant warning.
A pair of arms shot past Davis’ neck from behind and grappled him into a sleeper hold.
The culprit of this ambush was Red, unarmed, but far from harmless.
Davis gasped for air and flailed his legs to struggle, but Red refused to let him go and tightened the pressure on his carotid artery. Davis then tried to force a release with a stab of his broadsword to Red’s gut.
That didn’t work either.
Davis’ sense of touch had already faded. He failed to realize that the broadsword and mace had already slipped out of his hands and dropped to the floor with a clang.
Red smirked then worsened his hold by leaning backward to lift Davis off his feet, essentially hanging him like how his leader, Mary Glow, loved to do the same to her enemies.
Then after several more seconds of trying to break free, Davis stopped. His body went limp, only twitching a few times out of reflex.
The anguished call for his name faded as everything went dark.
Viola, now pushed for time and emotionally unstable, failed to parry a thrust from Blue’s bō staff. A clean hit to the face forced her to stumble backward with a reminder: Channeling anger the wrong way dulled the concentration required for her fighting style.
Once again, she was given a refresher in that lesson.
Just what she needed.
Blue followed up with a harder thrust.
Clenching her teeth and slamming a foot down, Viola regained her balance in time and weaved in before slamming a startled Blue away with a compacted kick to the stomach. With her flinched opponent now trying to catch her breath, Viola switched targets to Red and rushed toward him.
He saw her coming with an attack and held the dying Davis up as a meat shield.
“《 羊的 Path of the Goat: Phantom Gore Parade! 路径》”
Viola lanced out her hand with its fingers pointed together as a spear, only to re-shape it at the last second into a twisting palm strike…
…that struck Davis clean in the chest.
That was just the first of many. She followed up with a storm of similar attacks that came out faster and faster until it created many afterimages. All of them hit Davis, who twitched and convulsed from every blow.
Then after one last twisting palm strike, Viola stopped.
There was a raspy gurgle.
It came from behind Davis. Even though he was the one who took all those punishing blows, it was Red who ended up crumpling to the floor.
The technique Viola performed belonged to the Goat Path, the Path of precision. Its students were primarily taught techniques that allowed them to strike targets with perfect accuracy regardless of what may have impeded them, such as if their target was too far away, or even if they were hiding behind something else for protection. Red shielding himself with Davis’ body was a case of the latter.
The Phantom Gore Parade technique was originally designed to attack those who tried to protect themselves with armor. With a twisting motion, a practitioner can transmit the point and force of their strikes to ignore external defenses and instead go straight into their target’s dead center. In the case of a living target, attacking their dead center meant internal bleeding and ruptured organs while leaving the rest of the body unharmed. Viola had used Davis as a medium to transport the damaging effects of her strikes to Red, who was in physical contact with him. Had Viola performed the technique perfectly, Davis wouldn’t have reacted to her strikes.
Davis was set to drop face-first to the floor now that Red was no longer holding him up. Of course, Viola was there to catch him in time and she cradled him down after doing so. He would’ve loved to experience that intimate sensation in her arms, but unfortunately, the sleeper hold he suffered went far too long.
It placed him on the fine line between life and death.
《 蛇的 Path of the Snake: Revitalizing Fang 路径》
A hard pressure point strike to the surface area near his heart forced Davis to awaken from his coma, and he found himself like a fish out of water. Light returned to his eyes as he reflexively gasped for heavy gulps of air to make up for the oxygen he was owed.
But then he saw Blue retrieving the weapon Red dropped.
It was a fully loaded revolver – a gun.
Only one word rasped out of Davis’ mouth, seconds before Blue pulled the trigger and discharged a cracking echo across the parking lot.
Davis shut his eyes tight after seeing how the revolver seemed to be pointing at him. If he was going to die, it was better not to see the bullet coming.
Strange. Those reassuring words came even though there was supposed to be a new hole in his head.
Did the bullet miss?
No, his forehead was feeling something; a small point of heat was searing it.
Davis opened his eyes—
No freakin’ way…
—and there was the bullet, still hot and pressed against his forehead but also pinched between the thumb and index finger of a girl’s hand.
Once again, Davis couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Viola actually caught the bullet before it could penetrate his skull! Such a feat meant her reaction time was beyond human standards, and at least her fingers had to be capable of resisting the bullet’s heat and ripping force!
Viola looked back at him with a gaze full of relief.
Davis didn’t feel the same.
“Your eyes. Are they alright?”
Branches of veins were throbbing on the temples next to Viola’s eyes, which had become hazy and glazed.
“Nope,” Viola cooed. “They’re better than ever.”
It is a known fact that all snakes have poor eyesight, with some considered infamously blind. This is why they compensate for their lack of sight with the uncanny ability to “taste” their surroundings through their tongues, or by sensing radiations of heat through special infrared organs in their faces.
But there is one snake that can make use of its eyes when under special circumstances.
A non-venomous species called the Coachwhip snake possesses a reflex that, in times of danger, constricts the blood vessels near its eyes. This slows the flow of blood, clearing its visual obscurities and granting the snake temporary perfect vision. It can last for several minutes, which is enough time for the snake to find a way to escape.
Practitioners of the Snake Path at Shǔxiàng Academy have studied the Coachwhip and, after generations of research, developed a pressure point technique to temporarily grant humans perfect vision that far surpassed that of the snake’s. Named after the very adaptation it was based on, the technique was called:
《 蛇的 Path of the Snake: Ocular Scale 路径》
Viola gently laid Davis to rest, then began a death march toward Blue. A cold-hearted scowl focused solely on the delinquent and the red revolver trembling in her hands.
Blue rushed her aim in panic and fired another shot.
With Ocular Scale now active, everything in Viola’s sight became clear and sharp. She saw the specks of dirt on the floor, the particles floating in the air, as well as the fine details of Blue’s clothes.
More importantly, she saw the speeding bullet, and it wasn’t coming as a blur.
Viola swiped a hand as if she was trying to catch a fly, then tossed aside what she caught.
Hearing the bullet bounce off the floor gave Blue subzero degrees of cold feet. She fired again.
Getting closer, Viola swiped a hand the same way as before. This time she showed the bullet. White smoke trailed off as it stood pinched between her tremoring thumb and index finger. The two digits then slowly squeezed toward each other… and crushed the bullet flat.
Blue shrieked and nearly dropped the revolver but managed to hold on and force out two more shots.
Both Davis and Viola remained unharmed, with the latter only continuing to get closer. It turned out Blue’s next panic attack had dulled her accuracy and left her arms unsteady, causing both her shots to miss.
Then Blue fired again. Everything inside her had gone still.
This time her accuracy was on the mark, but Viola anticipated it and caught the bullet just like before.
Blue forced herself away from her gripping anxiety and pulled the trigger again.
The revolver clicked. That kind of gun could only fire six bullets in its cylinder, and there was no spare ammo she could use to reload...
…And not a second after hearing the first click, Viola’s walk shifted gears into a sprint.
A desperate Blue hurled the gun as a last resort, but Viola easily slithered and swerved around it like the Snake whose Path she trained in.
Blue reached for her bō staff on the floor, but then Viola revealed the last bullet she caught and held it in front of her eyes and middle finger, which was pressing hard against her thumb.
The bullet was flicked, hard enough for the repurposed projectile to cause a minor dent when it ricocheted off Blue’s skull. That was more than enough time for Viola to get within enough distance.
“《 蛇的 Path of the Snake: Smashing Cobra! 路径》”
Viola yelled the technique’s name. Her arm morphed into a madly hissing cobra while also extending at breakneck speed that far surpassed her last usage of it. Just like the technique’s name implied, the cobra’s head smashed Blue in the stomach, then after a short moment of stillness, imploded a shockwave and sent her hurtling toward a wall several meters away.
Following a hard bounce that knocked the wind out of her lungs and a heavy groan, the last of the seven rainbow delinquents gave in to shock trauma and passed out.
It was all so surreal.
Everything Viola did during their defense of the armory left Davis with many questions. She was a practitioner of Shǔxiàng Kung Fu’s Snake Path, one of twelve styles, but a demonstration of what just her chosen Path can accomplish was more than enough to make him want to see the bigger picture.
What in the world goes on in Shǔxiàng Academy?
It was then that Davis noticed a hand offering to help him up. All that pondering had distracted him from reality even though he was wide-awake, long enough for Viola to return to him after her final standoff with Blue. Her eyes had also returned to normal.
“Uh, yeah! Thanks!” Davis finally responded and took her gentle but firm grip.
“For a moment there, I was worried,” Viola said as her other hand joined in to pull him back to his feet. “You just stared into space and left me hanging.”
“I did? How long?”
“Ehh… five seconds and a half.”
Davis blushed and took a step back. “I didn’t mean to. It’s just—”
“I know,” Viola assured him. “You have questions you want answered, right?”
They walked back to the other side of the armory, where they left the blond man (who was relieved they survived), Viola’s purse, and the weapon case for safety. The distance traveled almost felt non-existent as Viola indulged Davis on what questions were on the top of his head, starting with how her arm turned into a cobra. He’d already seen her do it twice, but couldn’t figure out how.
“What you saw was just an illusion. My arm didn’t transform into a cobra at all.” Viola revealed. “It’s all thanks to special perfumes I use on my clothes and hair. They contain hallucinogens, and anyone who smells it will start seeing my Shǔxiàng techniques as something a little more… dramatic than they should be. Other than that, it’s harmless and will wear off in time.”
Then Viola’s eyes sharpened, almost as hostile as the cold gaze she sent toward Blue. Even though she wasn’t looking at him, Davis sensed it from a chill traveling up his spine.
“And the fact that you’re asking me about this means you’ve been putting your nose where it shouldn’t be.” Her tone had taken on a darker turn. Without turning her head, Viola’s eyes shifted to the person walking beside her. “You had a really good sniff off of me when I wasn’t looking, didn’t you?”
“I…I…uh…” Davis stammered, nervous that Viola may have realized what he capitalized on doing when they shared a friendly hug. “Viola, i-it’s not what you think…”
“I was joking, dude!” she brightened up and playfully jabbed his shoulder. “The perfume’s scent might be faint if you aren’t close to me, but it can go farther than you think and is really easy to breathe in. There’s no point if it can’t affect many people at a distance, after all, so you were pretty much under my spell the moment we first started talking.”
Davis sighed internally, then moved on to his next question.
“Many say Kung Fu is all about fighting, but it’s more than that,” Viola revealed as her next answer. “Do you remember what I said back when I was healing you?”
Davis took a moment to recall, and the part he arrived at was when Viola spoke while gesturing flashy poses.
“Something about energy, patience, and time?”
“Spot on!” Viola clapped her hands together. “At least you got down the important parts! Kung Fu actually means, ‘supreme skill one can only attain from hard work.’ I’m talking endless repetition that’ll put you through the wringer and make you want to quit, and Shǔxiàng Academy was serious about making sure my fellow students and I used Kung Fu in everything we did.
“Everything?” Davis asked, his tone rising in pitch.
“Everything.” Viola broke into a half-grin. “The way we trained, the way we read and write, and even the way we go to school, the ‘supreme’ kind of way to do those got drilled hard into us. Just goes to show that Kung Fu can exist in even the most basic things. Fighting? That’s just one part out of many that makes Kung Fu what it is.”
Davis silently processed what he learned, especially the most recent part. It made him wonder about his level of skill in his craft even though he had been practicing it for most of his life.
“Now here’s something I came up with on my own.” Viola continued. “I’m talking about someone who has the makings of a great artist, someone who can handle different tools with expertise the moment he touches them, someone who… makes a reliable partner in moments I needed them the most. Even though they didn’t study in Xina, I think someone like that has attained Kung Fu. Just my opinion, though.”
Davis, understanding what she meant, broke out into a grin of his own. “You know what? I think we’ll get along just fine.”
“Hehe, yup.” Viola chirped. “I think so, too.”
Heyo! Jio Kurenai here, hoping I've given you the entertainment you deserved!
I'm so elated that I was finally able to release this chapter after loads of editing, rewriting, and pondering. I really wanted this to be the best it could be for me, and I hope its quality made you agree. As I've said before, I owe Davis and Viola a lot for their lack of screentime and involvement in Volume 1 even though they're meant to be part of the main cast. I hope I've done enough when it comes to their quirks and personalities during the previous chapters, but this was where I showed what they could do when forced to a fight.
I had planned from the start that each member of the main cast will have their own individual fighting styles without too much overlapping and I hope to make sure they'll stay distinct. As the title implies, Davis almost exclusively fights with weapons which makes him the WEAPONIST, while Viola favors fighting hand-to-hand and martial art techniques acquired through vigorous training which makes her the ANTI-WEAPONIST. Lucas and Rio would be placed in-between, but they have differences that'll keep them from feeling similar.
In other news, I've purchased a new tablet with a keyboard attachment as a writing tool for when I feel like writing in another setting that isn't my room. I normally write on my laptop, but it's too big to conveniently carry around and was made to play games with the best quality I could afford. Oh, and the tablet is big enough to draw on and there's a free app for that, so even though I haven't drawn in years, I thought it would be great if I could try sketching my ideas on a platform with an easy way to undo the many mistakes I make. My drawings still suck, but hey, that's why I hired an illustrator. XD
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