Chapter 10:

Volume 1, Chapter 9: おしえて。莉桜先生!(Teach us, Rio-sensei!)

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Hi! Jio Kurenai here!

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! A "Like" would definitely be appreciated too!
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A calligraphy brush dipped in black, ink glided over a blank sheet of paper. Guided by a steady hand that alternated between quick and slow strokes, its silky-smooth bristles paved the way for a word written in a fluid manner.

Taking a deep breath, Lucas prepared to concentrate like this was a lesson in school, which he hoped to arrive on time for in just a few hours.

"I have had targets who turned out to be [Renegades] before," Rio stated. "Thanks to that, I have been able to learn some information about them. Keep in mind, this is all based on hands-on experience so there is still much more about them to be learned. At least use the information I will share with you as a starting point."

As disappointing as it was for Lucas to find out he won’t be receiving the complete package, at least it was better than being kept in the dark.

The lecture began with Rio holding up a sheet of paper as she started to explain.

The paper depicted the word: [Renegade]


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<RENEGADE>


The [Renegades] are former humans who, at a certain point in their life, gained abilities that made them different, almost like they left their natural state. This was probably where they got the name.


If a person has eyes of an unusual color, he is most likely a [Renegade], but this is not a useful way to distinguish them because people can always wear accessories like contact lenses to make their eyes look different.
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"So, every [Renegade] was a human that went through some sort of process in order to gain powers? Like a ritual?” Lucas asked.

"There must be a process," Rio said. "But, I am certain it was not a formal ritual of any sort. I believe every [Renegade] became who they are without even realizing it."

"Without realizing it, you say?" Lucas found it odd on how Rio was so certain on her information even though she claimed it was all obtained through something as subjective as hands-on experience.

"Mm-hmm. They became [Renegades] because they were just being themselves."

Lucas extended his arms down, hands flat on the on table to help him lean forward. "So... just about anyone can become a [Renegade] at random?"

"Not really," Rio shook her head. "Think about this. All of us are born with different personalities, which can then be shaped depending on our personal experience, environment, culture, upbringing, biological and social differences. I think at some point, our character will be tested without us knowing about it and those who are suitable are the ones who become [Renegades]."

Those who are suitable?

That left Lucas bothered. If that were true, then there must be something happening behind the scenes. Even after humanity has been living on this planet for who knows how long, there are still many secrets that have been there since the beginning of time, but yet to be discovered.

And then he thought about his eyes. They were usually brown like his hair, but now they were pearly white with a faded outline for an iris. Was Rio correct when she said they were not human? A blind person has white eyes too, right? Then again, their eyes would also look glazed and Lucas could see perfectly fine with his. Strangely, even though his eyes were usually hidden behind his wavy hair bangs, his vision never deterred.

"Okay, since I got the gist of what the [Renegades] are at least, what are the powers they gain?" Lucas asked, feeling like he was ready to move on.

Rio discarded the sheet of paper she was displaying to a corner of the table. "The [Renegades] have several... traits, so it is best that we discuss them one at a time.”

She placed another sheet of paper in front of her and wrote on it with her calligraphy brush. She held the paper up front.

“Let us start with this.”

This time, what was written on the sheet of paper was the word: [Influence]

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<INFLUENCE>

This is the warning of a [Renegade's] presence. With them being the central point, their [Influence] can be imagined as an invisible sphere that surrounds them.
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"Although you cannot see this sphere, you can feel it and be warned that a [Renegade] is nearby." Rio revealed.

Using his index finger, Lucas drew circles on the table, visualizing Rio's explanation.

"Yeah, that reminds me…" he recalled a recent experience. "When I first got within a certain distance to that hoodie guy in the alleyway, I felt this strange weight on my chest. It's as if my heart became heavy, but that feeling eventually left even though he never moved."

"Yes," Rio confirmed with a nod. "Getting within range of an [Influence] will trigger an emotional state in you. Chills, shock, and stress are just a few examples. Also, just as you experienced, if you stay in someone else's [Influence] for a while, the emotional state will fade away because you got used to it. However, it can also come back if you exit then re-enter the [Influence]."

As they discussed the topic, Lucas came up with a juvenile theory. [Influence] as the name suggests, is indeed the mark of a [Renegade's] presence. However, that presence can still be hidden in a way. Otherwise, people may have realized that something was amiss long ago if they felt a sudden emotional state in their everyday lives. These negative feelings that Rio placed as examples can be disguised as being natural when timed properly.

If an [Influence] triggered nervousness, most would feel it in critical moments. An upcoming exam, a job interview or any moment involving anticipation. A [Renegade] with such an influence can easily blend into a crowd where that emotion is appropriate, and no one would suspect a thing. Perhaps several [Renegade's] taught themselves to hide with this method.

"If [Influence] is like an invisible sphere, how would the [Renegade] know its range?" Lucas asked.

A moment of silence passed. Rio was deep in thought as she noticed something odd regarding Lucas' question. It left her in a bit of unease. 「Is he actually quite perceptive, or is he naive? she asked herself. Well, either way, he will find out soon enough.

"They must have tested them with unsuspecting people to tell how far their [Influence] can reach."

She answered in a slight skittish manner and tried to stay calm. Lucas appeared to be satisfied with it.

It might be the latter. Rio determined in her head. Then I will be looking forward to his reaction.

With the basic idea of how [Influence] works now covered. Rio moved on to the next topic as she wrote on another sheet of paper.

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<STIGMA>

The [Stigma] is where everything related to a [Renegade] originates from. Resembling a colored tattoo somewhere on their body, it is the true source of their [Influence]. It has a slight glow and pulsating behavior, making it resemble and function like a heart.
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"From the way you put it, that seems to be the weak point," Lucas observed.

"It was obvious, but good job~" Rio applauded with slow clapping, which Lucas wasn't flattered by. "But know this, even though the [Stigma] is the weak point, I am certain you will have a lot of difficulties destroying it if you use your bare hands and lack the right amount of strength. You need a weapon. Do you have one?"

With that statement, Lucas was left uncertain of his chances. The Underground Arena, where he honed his skills in combat, didn’t allow weapons in order to lessen the chances of fighters getting killed. This is what led him to take on the path of solely relying on his fists (metaphorically speaking) as his weapon of choice.

"Well, actually no, since my job bans weapons," Lucas admitted.

"Oh, that street fighting job, right?" Rio balled her left hand into a fist then lightly tapped her right open palm.

Lucas gave the back of his head a light scratch. "Even though that's the case, I do have a friend who helps out in his family business. They work as blacksmiths."

"I see. Then it looks like you are in luck. You better find a weapon that is suitable for your taste. As of now, with the way you fight, you cannot defeat let alone kill a [Renegade]."

Lucas pondered over which weapon would probably be best suited for someone who fought hand to hand when Rio decided they discussed enough on their current topic.

"Anyway, it is time to move on to the Renegade's capabilities," she said.

Lucas tried to keep himself from shuddering when he found out what would be the next lesson. The [Renegades] were considered a threat that should be eliminated without hesitation. Just how strong are they when compared to the average human?

“Actually, under normal circumstances, they are just as strong or intelligent as an ordinary human," Rio said.

"Eh?" Lucas wasn't expecting that.

"If a [Renegade] possessed something superhuman like maybe strength, that would be a rarity."

"Really? That's kind of a relief," Lucas said, letting out a sigh.

"Every [Renegade] is hard to kill though..." Rio added.

A now disappointed Lucas reminded himself that from now on, he should not get his hopes up too early.

"...They can continue to fight even after suffering injuries that are normally fatal to humans. I took more time to take out targets who were [Renegades], even if I found the location of their [Stigma]. It almost was not an assassination," Rio admitted.

"Oh? So you can admit you're not perfect at your job," Lucas stated without thinking. Even though he wasn't trying to be mean, Rio still took a bit of offense from it.

She pouted and darted her face to one side. "Hmph, I will be looking forward to the look on your face soon because dealing with the most dangerous ability of a [Renegade] is up next."

Moving on, Rio held out the next sheet of paper with a side of glaring. The word written on it was [Laws].


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<LAWS>

A [Renegade's] [Influence] is like their own personal space. Within that space, natural logic gets twisted.

As the character is what makes a person a [Renegade], it is also the character that defines the mechanics of their powers. A [Law] works as a special condition that may lead to consequences or effects. They are always active whether the [Renegade] himself realizes it or not. Every [Renegade] has at least two [Laws].
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"Now, here is the best trick when it comes to [Laws]," Rio said, beaming a sly smile. "Observation. Every [Law] operates solely on conditions. If a [Renegade] had a [Law] that allows him to control an element like water or fire, he would have to satisfy all the conditions needed before he could do so. By studying the [Renegade's] behavior and observing what seems to be strange in the situation, you can learn how a [Law] works and in turn, learn how to counter it or even use it yourself."

"Really? I can use a [Law]!?" Lucas brightened, feeling like the odds were not completely against him.

"You can if you know its conditions. Also, you must be within the [Renegade's] [Influence] in order to do so, but do not expect everything to be on the same level as the original," Rio specified. "I explained about [Influence] earlier, because a [Renegade's] [Laws] only work within them... at least for them to be activated that is. Most [Renegades] with devastating [Laws] have [Influence] with short ranges and it also goes the other way around, but there will be those with exceptions."

With all the information coming his way, Lucas tried to process the explanations in his head. So far, he found [Laws] to be the most interesting. He wanted to know more.

"The explanation’s fine, but an example could help me understand it better. Maybe you can tell me about a [Law] from one of your past assassination targets?" he suggested.

As soon as he finished talking, a chill struck Lucas when he saw Rio tilt her head down. She giggled, almost maniacally. Her shoulders quivered with every bit of laughter that escaped.

*Ufufufufufu...Ahahahaha!*

"W-what? What's so funny?" Lucas asked, tensing up.

"An example is what you want? Then an example is what you get~" Rio looked back at him, her grin reminiscent of a villain who defeated her opposing hero. This was the moment she waited for.

She pointed a hand to Lucas, aiming at a specific part of his body.

"Take a good look at your chest."

Following that, Lucas pulled down the rim of his shirt as he examined himself. What he found made him break into cold sweat, while Rio confirmed for herself that her hunch was right.

On the upper center of his chest was a mark. A black symbol that faintly resembled the outline of a heart. Surrounding it in a circle formation were five arrows, their pointed edges all aimed directly at the heart.

"What..." Lucas shuddered and the look on his face shifted and contorted as he tried to scratch off the symbol, but to no avail. "W-w-what in the world is this?!"

"It is the consequence of a [Law~]," Rio cooed. "I call it my [Fourth Law: Broken Vow]. Translated into English, of course~ By the way, the look on your face? Just perfect~"

That behavior and statement set Rio's words in stone. There was no way she could deny it anymore. Lucas pointed a finger at her and accused.

"Rio... You're one of them. You're a [Renegade] aren't you?!"

"I am starting to get tired of clapping for you when you point out the obvious," Rio tapped at the corner of her eye socket. "See my eye? It is not wearing a contact lens. It is true that a native of an eastern nation can have blue eyes, but it is very rare, and they would most likely have a parent from a foreign nation. However, I am a pure Nihan-jin (A native of Nihan). What is unusual is that my eye glows, especially in the dark! You have seen that, right?" Then Rio's uncivil expression transitioned into one of slight annoyance. "And really now? Did you just call me by my given name again? How rude."

Lucas continued to scrape his nails against the mark on his chest, hoping it would go away, but just like a few seconds ago, his efforts were futile.

"I don't like what this mark is hinting at... Remove it now!" he demanded.

"That I cannot do~," Rio confessed but with no regret for her actions. "The [Laws] of the [Renegades] are absolute. You want that mark removed? Then listen carefully to what I have to say."

She returned to the current topic. "Once again, I call it my [Fourth Law: Broken Vow]. Like the name implies, it is the fourth [Law] I discovered ever since I became a [Renegade]."

Rio began to elaborate on the mechanics behind her [Law] once Lucas refrained from his actions. To his shock, making this [Law] come into effect was not something that could be done on a whim and required some preparation.

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【法『Rio's Fourth Law: Broken Vow』法】

〖1. 〗 Within Rio's influence, the following must be accomplished in order within half a day. Otherwise, the effect will be voided and the process of activating it must be repeated.
〘1a.〙 The attacker must make the intended victim admit defeat within his heart. "Defeat" does not necessarily mean being defeated in a fight. The attacker can be either Rio herself or someone else within range of her [Influence]."
〘1b.〙 A black mark signifying the [Law] has taken effect will then appear on the target's chest. This is not a [Stigma]
〘1c.〙 Whenever the intended victim hears a secret, a black arrow will manifest around the mark on his chest. The number of black arrows that can be created this way is infinite so long as the appropriate number of secrets are told within the half-day period since the [Law] first came into effect.
〘1ca.〙 Only secrets told by the attacker will lead to a manifestation of a black arrow on the target, who must understand it. All secrets must be related to the attacker and previously unknown to the victim. At least the critical information about the secret must be revealed.

〖2.〗 Once the half-day time period is up, the intended victim must perform a task for the attacker. They can be simple or complicated so long as the attacker believes it to be humanly possible. Fulfillment of a task will result in one of the black arrows disappearing. When all the black arrows are gone, the effects of [Broken Vow] will vanish and the victim can never be affected by it again.
〘2a.〙 However, if the attacker becomes convinced that the victim will no longer attempt to complete her tasks, the black arrows that remain will immediately strike the mark on the victim's chest, effectively killing him. Only one black arrow is enough to kill.
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"And that is how it works!" Rio said, clasping her hands together while tilting her head to the side with a mocking smile pasted on her face. "So, what do you think?"

"It's very interesting how the mechanics behind [Laws] are strict," Lucas admitted with a nod. "But... WHY AM I THE VICTIM!?"

"It cannot be helped," Rio said, shrugging. "You wanted an example, and I have no intention of using my sister for something that can be dangerous. Besides, we need a contract, and this is just perfect. Oh, and since I just explained to you how this [Law] works..." She pointed a hand once more to Lucas' chest.

He looked again at the mark on his chest and noticed a bit of a difference.

"A sixth black arrow has appeared!"

"We are not finished yet," Rio chirped. "Our contract will be about you killing seven [Renegades] with a bounty on their heads and there are only six arrows on you right now. I will tell you one more secret."

"And add another risk? Not happening!"

With eyes shut and ears covered by his hands, Lucas braced himself in place not wanting to hear anything.

Rio sighed. "The hard way it is then... I will make you listen."

With sudden aggression, she attacked an unsuspecting Lucas with a takedown and forced him to the ground.

The moment they came into contact, Lucas was struck again by a strange phenomenon he recently experienced. He saw only black and white, time stood still for a second and a single heartbeat echoed in his head.

When he regained his bearings, Lucas was too late to react as Rio had already taken advantage of his distraction. She manipulated him from the front by forcing his arm behind his back and holding it in place when an entangling clutch. She then pulled him backward by throwing her weight behind her as she wrapped her legs around his waist to prevent him from escaping. Her hold now complete, Rio cranked the locked arm and forced Lucas into a state of panic as he laid on top of her.

From an outsider's point of view, it looked like two of them were engaged in a suggestive position.

The hold he was trapped in led Lucas to feel a mixture of excruciating pain (more than what it seemed) and odd pleasure. Lucas clenched his teeth to resist screaming while the color red gradually dyed his face. Rio on the other hand, was not the least embarrassed even though their faces were so close to each other. Lucas tried to avoid the alluring appearance just inches away from him and turned his head to the side as far as he could.

That wasn’t enough. He couldn't do anything to avoid the lilac scent emanating from Rio's silky raven hair.

Holy Hell... she smells so good!!!

"Does it hurt? Are you feeling tired? What will you do now?” Rio continued to taunt him. “Even if you are on top of me, I am still the one in control. Now be a good boy and hold still. I will let you go after I am done~"

She still had his arm locked at an unnatural angle, Lucas felt like the slightest mishap could leave him with an injury. Not only that, but he felt his strength fading with every second that passed. It was just like his first encounter with Rio.

Bringing herself closer to his ear, Rio forcefully whispered the details of another [Law] in her arsenal into her reluctant victim, whose attempt to struggle was silenced with wordless threats that his arm could get mangled if he provoked her.

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【法『Rio's Third Law: Reaper's Embrace』法】


〖1.〗 Within Rio's [Influence], an attacker can drain the life force from another living being while at the same time, inflicting unbearable pain to them through skin-to-skin contact, healing the attacker's injuries and invigorating them with vitality. The more skin is in physical contact, the more efficient the effect will be.

〖2.〗The intentions of those in contact do not matter as the [Law] operates strictly on the love or hate feelings the attacker and victim harbor for each other.

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"This [Law] might seem simple, but there are many conditions on how it will work, especially when outsiders do it to each other," Rio hinted.

Now Lucas understood why he felt so exhausted and experienced so much pain when Rio touched him. Based on what she explained, the effect must have currently been at its weakest since she was only grabbing onto his arm.

"Alright, I get it! Now, can you let me go?" Lucas urged for himself to be released.

"Hmm... Show me you submit~," Rio smirked. "Make it clear that I am the one in control and that you will do as I ask in our contract."

Other than trying to prevent his pained screams from escaping, Lucas stayed silent for a moment. He wanted to refuse. Killing a [Renegade] let alone seven would mean leaving his life hanging on a string. And while that risk will haunt him, he had another risk to worry about.

Rio's third and fourth [Law] had him at her mercy. If he didn't make a decision soon, her third [Law] will kill him by sucking his life force to her and if he told her he refused, then Rio's fourth [Law] will act accordingly and kill him without warning, whether or not Rio wanted it to happen.

He had no choice. Lucas submitted to the superior female, who held him.

"Fine... I'll do it..." he said, even though he had no idea how. "Now let me go! I feel like my arm's about to be pulled out! Please Rio!"

Rio was just about to let him go, but then something in his plea made her lock her hold in again.

"Five more seconds."

"What...? Why!?" Lucas exclaimed before returning to clenching his teeth.

"For the third time, you called me by my given name... In Nihan, it is impolite for anyone, but my closest friends or family to call me 'Rio'!"

"Well, how the hell should I kno-- GRRAHH!!!"

Rio cut Lucas off from his retort as she twisted his arm again in tandem with a slow count.

"1..."

She applied more pressure to her hold, invoking incredible pain in Lucas' shoulder, but not enough to lead to an injury.

"2..."

Little by little, the pressure increased. The pain and agony grew more intense; Lucas started to instinctively grind his teeth together to keep himself from screaming as his feet tried to kick the floor.

"3..."

Lucas could no longer fight back, only endure. He would've blacked out from exhaustion if he wasn't in so much pain.

"4...!"

「お姉ちゃん、リュカーさん、おやす。。。み。」 (Onee-chan, Ryuka-san, good... night.)

Yakumo, Rio's younger sister, now dressed only in a tank top and shorts, gently opened the doors to the main room to let her sister and guest know that she was about to go to bed.

What she saw left her speechless and slightly awake.

Her guest was on top of her sister who had her legs wrapped around his waist. Her arms were curled around his neck and entangled to one of his. And if that wasn't enough, their faces were dangerously close.

Lucas and Rio put their struggle on hold to turn their attention to Yakumo, who took a deep breath then proceeded to slowly close the doors.

「おじゃましました。。。」 (Sorry to disturb you...)

The door made a sound as it hit the wall a few seconds later.

「オイ!待ちなさい!八雲!」 (Hey! Please wait! Yakumo!)

Rio had to chase after her sister to clear the misunderstanding. She left behind Lucas whose experience in Nihan just became worse.

*POP!*

Rio lost control of herself, forgetting that she still had Lucas subjected to a submission hold.

The poor boy was left stamping his feet and rolling all over the floor, trying to keep himself from screaming. He grimaced as he clutched onto his left shoulder, which was in excruciating pain from a dislocation.

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