Chapter 9:

Volume 1, Chapter 8: The Demanding Contract

Parable of the Renegades

Hi! Jio Kurenai here!

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「ごちそうさまでした!」 (Thank you for the meal!)

Rio and Yakumo said this at their own pace after they finished their dinner.

A translation wasn't needed. Lucas figured this was how one would express satisfaction or gratitude after eating.

However, he was far from satisfied as his stomach continued to beg for more. With the issues he had using chopsticks, he picked up only four small cubes of wagyu beef; compare that to what once looked like countless pieces filling the plate earlier.

All Lucas could have to himself were his three small bowls of rice, fish and vegetable appetizers and miso soup (he learned the name while he was taking it).

Those were all secondary meals though, so it was only natural he would want more. Two of the three meals didn't have much of a distinct flavor, and once again, using chopsticks further hampered the experience.

As she collected all the plates to have them washed, Rio asked her sister, Yakumo for a favor. Of course, they conversed in their native tongue, Nihanese so Lucas was left with no idea of its contents.

"Now that dinner is finished, follow me. It is time to negotiate our contract."

Footsteps echoing on a hollow floor of furnished wood, Rio led a reluctant Lucas back into the main room of the house. The same room where he first awoke.

They sat partially under the blanketed table with short legs and machinery on its underside. Soothing warm air emanated from beneath the table and thanks to the blanket trapping it, a suitable heat source was available in a house that relied on drafts in order to keep the temperature cool. It made Lucas forget that he was still hungry for a moment.

"I like this," he said, enjoying the heat warming his legs. "Since I also live in a mountainous area, I could use something like this if I'm still busy doing something like reading."

"Good for you. We call this a 'kotatsu'," Rio told him before moving on to another topic. "Now then... I am offering you a chance to live despite my policy as an assassin, but to do so, you will have to fulfill a contract. Let me tell you this. I would not offer this kind of opportunity to just anyone."

Lucas listened with anticipation as he felt his chest getting tighter. Not just anyone? What does she see in him? His shoulders tensed as he held a firm grip on his pants.

"To do this, I would need someone with special abilities... I need a [Renegade]. Someone like you."

"Huh?" Lucas sure wasn't expecting this. "A [Renegade]? Me? You can't be serious."

"Oh, but I am," Rio assured him. "Did you not realize your eyes are not something any ordinary human should have?"

"Well... yeah, but... I don't see why that alone makes me one of them--"

"Then stop lying to me and just admit the truth!"

Rio climbed over the table and extended an arm, intending to reach for the hair bangs that covered Lucas' eyes. He tried to fend off her attempts, but every time he tried to shove her hands away, he was shocked with what felt like static electricity. He still couldn’t figure out how that was happening and why he grew a little more tired every time it did. Soon enough, Rio finished the job and brushed away at his bangs. When she looked into what were faded outlines for a pair of irises, she was left wide-eyed in disbelief.

"You are... not lying..." She backtracked herself to her original spot and rested her chin on the butt of her hand as she pondered in disbelief. "How strange... A [Renegade] who does not realize he is a [Renegade]?"

Lucas gave himself a bit of time to recover before he demanded Rio for an explanation.

"Okay, this is getting really weird. If you say I'm a [Renegade], then what else makes me one? You know, besides my eyes?"

Rio left him hanging as she stood up and opened the sliding door that led to the Zen garden outside.

"I need to think."

She sat on the porch outside the room and began to fiddle with a stringed musical instrument she picked up from there. It resembled a banjo, but with three strings instead of four, five or six. Rio played the instrument with a curved, cone-shaped pick that slightly dwarfed the hand that used it and the moment she started, a mellow, oriental tune filled the previously silent atmosphere.

"Hey, if this discussion will have to wait, then at least send me home first before you get back!" Lucas called from within the main room but received no reply. Rio didn't seem to hear him, or maybe she didn't even bother to listen.

He slumped down on the table, resting on one side of his face, wondering when this will all end soon when the sliding doors to his right separated.

「お待たせ.」(Thank you for waiting.)

Yakumo entered the room with two plates in her hands, which she then placed in front of Lucas.

「リュカーさん」 (Ryuka-san)

An aroma forced itself into Lucas' nose and he brought himself back up to see two plates and another pair of chopsticks meant for him. One was filled with karaage and the other had tuna and salmon nigiri, the very dishes he failed to sample earlier.

"Yu sutiru... hangurii ies?" Yakumo apologized with a quick bow after setting the plates down. "Dizu... aru fo yu."

"It's okay," Lucas told her with a bit of a smile. "Thank you."

The younger Kiyodera sister beamed her own smile in relief as she exited the room and left Lucas with a new batch of the savory dishes she and her sister finished within minutes.

Yakumo couldn’t pronounce his name correctly. "Ryuka" was how she said it. Judging by how Rio can pronounce his name with no issues, Lucas assumed she must have learned to overcome her accent.

With that afterthought finished, Lucas brought himself back to reality and saw the chopsticks in front of him on the kotatsu. At least no one was going to steal anything away from him this time.

His handling of the twin wooden utensils still needed a lot of practice and there was the possibility that Rio could finish thinking any moment. To speed things up, Lucas used the chopsticks in an unorthodox way by spearing the fried chicken and using his hands to pick up the nigiri, dip them in soy sauce with a little bit of wasabi before he ate them.

At last, he was on the road to satisfying his hunger. Listening to Rio play her music became a bonus.

Ever since this moment, Lucas to his surprise developed a craving for raw fish - so long as it was prepared in Nihan.

Oh, and the fried chicken had a succulent taste too.

As Lucas was close to finishing, the music stopped, and Rio walked back in. She sat herself on her side of the kotatsu, opposite to Lucas.

"I see Yakumo had already finished what I asked from her."

Lucas perked up, surprised. "So, that's what you two were talking about? Thanks, I appreciate it."

Rio smirked in delight. "Well, you gave my sister and I some entertainment at the dinner table, so I felt you deserved a treat~"

Lucas scowled at how Rio made it sound like she was treating him like her pet dog. "...Now I wish I took my thanks back."

*Ufufufu* "So to give you a bit of a background, I, as an assassin, am currently assigned to assassinate seven [Renegades], all from various nations across the planet. In exchange for a chance of me sparing your life, I want you... to kill those seven targets for me."

For a moment, Lucas was silent. Then he allowed his voice be heard.

"I see... Kill seven [Renegades] on your hit list and I get a chance for you to stop pursuing me. I just wanna say..."

A pair of palms slammed themselves on the table, making a mild tremor on the furniture.

"...Are you freaking kidding me!?"

Rio stared daggers with a stoic expression. "Does this look like I am kidding?"

"I... I don't believe it... You're an assassin..."

Rio nodded in response. "Correct."

"...And you're asking me to do your job for you!?"

"You need a lot of training to assassinate," Rio said. "I am asking you to kill them. Any method is fine, so long as we have a corpse to prove it."

"That's not the point!" Lucas exclaimed. "And why are you asking me, an ordinary student to do something so drastic? Is it because you can't do it?"

"Of course I can do it," Rio mused with a small grin that annoyed the person in front of her. "But remember, this is so you have a chance to escape. Since you really want me to spare you, I am giving you the opportunity to make me break my policy as an assassin for once."

*Ugh...* Lucas let himself fall backward, the floor made a *thud* sound when his back hit it.

"Kill seven [Renegades], huh?" Lucas' blank face made it appear like he had given up on life. "How could I take on one, let alone seven, if I don't even know the first thing about them?"

Rio took notice of how he was clearly lost in the dark and an idea popped into her head. "Since you claim you are not a [Renegade] and know nothing about them, I can teach you a little. That way, you will be better prepared for the time you finally face them. What do you say?"

Hearing Rio's offer brought Lucas back to the world. He sat back up and steeled himself. Even if he decided not to go after the [Renegades], there may come a time he would be forced into an encounter with one. With the information on them still considered unknown to the public, this was something he could not allow to slip away.

"Alright, I'll listen to what you know. But this doesn't mean I'm happy to accept your contract."

"Fine with me..." Rio adjusted her sitting position as she prepared to begin her lecture.
"Well then... where should I start?"

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