Chapter 9:

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

Parable of the Renegades

Hi! Jio Kurenai here!Bookmark here

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A calligraphy brush that was 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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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

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

The paper depicted the word: [Renegade] Bookmark here

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<RENEGADE>Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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

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

Lucas extended his arms down, hands flat on the on the table and leaned forward. "So... just about anyone can become a [Renegade] at random?"Bookmark here

"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]."Bookmark here

Those who are suitable? Bookmark here

That left Lucas bothered. If that were true, then there must have been something happening behind the scenes. What kind of people are chosen to be [Renegades] and how? Even after humanity has been living on this planet for who knows how long, there were still many secrets that had been there since the beginning of time, but have yet to be discovered.Bookmark here

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, Lucas had always been able to see perfectly fine with his eyes even though they were usually hidden behind his wavy hair bangs. The explanation as to why that was possible was another mystery he never bothered to understand. Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

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

“Let us start with this.”Bookmark here

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


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<INFLUENCE>Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

"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."Bookmark here

"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]."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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<STIGMA>Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"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. A weapon may make things easier. Do you have one?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

"Oh, that street fighting job, right?" Rio set aside the paper she was holding, balled her left hand into a fist, then lightly tapped it on her right open palm.Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

"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]."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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?Bookmark here

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

"Eh?" Lucas wasn't expecting that.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

"Endurance is one superhuman quality most, if not all, [Renegades] share. They can continue to fight for very long periods of time even after suffering injuries that are normally fatal to humans," Rio continued, which made Lucas flashback to the twenty-seven hours he spent fighting in the Underground Arena’s most recent Battle Royale. Maybe her suspicion on him was correct. It brought him chills when that thought came to mind. Bookmark here

"It always takes more time for me to defeat targets who were [Renegades], even after I find the location of their [Stigmas]. I almost cannot call them, assassinations," Rio then admitted.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

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

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<LAWS>Bookmark here

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

As character is what makes a person a [Renegade], it is also character that defines the mechanics of their powers. A [Law] works as a special condition that may lead to consequences or effects upon being fulfilled. 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."Bookmark here

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

"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 cautioned him. "I explained about [Influences] earlier, because [Laws] only work within them-- at least for them to be activated that is. Most [Renegades] with devastating [Laws] have [Influences] with short ranges and it also goes the other way around, but there might be those with exceptions."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

*Ufufufufufu...Ahahahaha!*Bookmark here

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

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

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

"Take a good look at your chest."Bookmark here

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 a hunch she had was right.Bookmark here

On the upper center of his chest was a mark. A black symbol that resembled the outline of a heart. Surrounding it and trying to breach through three layers of circles were five arrows, their pointed edges all aimed directly at the heart.Bookmark here

"What..." Lucas shuddered. 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?!"Bookmark here

"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~"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

"I was expecting you to say that after the first lesson,” Rio raised her voice, almost loud enough to be a shout as Lucas resumed trying to scrape the mark off his chest. “Actually, it is better you realized it only now.” She then tapped the corner of her eye socket. "See my eye? It is not wearing a contact lens. While it is true that a native of an eastern nation can have blue eyes, it is also 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), and my family has never been stained with foreign blood!” She snickered, her shoulders and head throbbing. “And did you forget so soon? My eye was always glowing, especially in the dark! You saw it when we met again in your room, right? Or perhaps you were too frightened for your life to remember. Well, now you know for sure." Then Rio's uncivil expression transitioned into one of slight discontent. "And did you just call me by my given name again? Your continued display of bad manners is starting to annoy me."Bookmark here

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. All he did was turn his chest a pale red.Bookmark here

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

"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."Bookmark here

Adjusting her sitting position, she returned to the current topic and wrote on another blank sheet of paper. "Once again, I call it my [Fourth Law: Broken Vow]. As the name implies, it is the fourth [Law] I discovered ever since I became a [Renegade]."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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【法『Rio's Fourth Law: Broken Vow』法】 Bookmark here

〖1. 〗 Within Rio's influence, the following must be accomplished in order within half a day (12 hours). Otherwise, the effect will be voided and the conditions to 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 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 from the attacker, 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.〙 The victim must understand every secret told to him. 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.Bookmark here

〖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 fully convinced that the victim will no longer attempt to complete her tasks, the black arrows that remain will strike the heart 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. A mocking smile was pasted on her face. "So, what do you think?"Bookmark here

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

"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 that mark on your chest will serve that purpose. Oh, and since I just explained to you how this [Law] works..." She pointed a hand once more to Lucas' chest.Bookmark here

He looked again at the mark on his chest and noticed a bit of a difference. The formation of arrows surrounding the heart adjusted as something between two of the five arrows formed from nothing.Bookmark here

"A sixth black arrow has appeared!" Lucas exclaimed.Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

"And add another risk? Not happening!"Bookmark here

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

Rio sighed. "The hard way it is then, which is fine by me... I will make you listen."Bookmark here

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

The moment her hands grabbed his arm, Lucas was struck again by a strange phenomenon he recently experienced. For a second, he pulsed in his vision and saw only black and white.Bookmark here

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 one of his arms behind his back and held it in place when an entangling clutch. She pulled him backward by throwing her weight behind her and 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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

It hurts so bad, but Holy Hell... she smells so good!!!Bookmark here

"Is it painful? Are you feeling tired? What will you do now?” Rio continued to taunt him. “Even if you are on top of me, I can still be the one in control. Now behave and hold still. I will let you go after I am done~"Bookmark here

She adjusted her submission hold to keep Lucas’ arm locked at an unnatural angle but didn’t twist it enough for him to feel pain. Lucas went still as his breathing became haggard. He felt the slightest mishap on his part could provoke Rio into hurting him again. His strength had faded but was slowly recovering with every second that passed. It was just like his first encounter with Rio.Bookmark here

Pleased that her hostage was now behaving, Rio brought herself closer to Lucas’ ear and forcefully whispered the details of another [Law].Bookmark here

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

〖1.〗 Within Rio's [Influence], an attacker can drain the vitality from another living being while inflicting excruciating pain to them at the same time through skin-to-skin contact. The attacker’s injuries will heal while their strength and stamina will also temporarily increase. Meanwhile, the victim will suffer from a draining effect. The more skin is in physical contact, the more efficient the effect will be. Bookmark here

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

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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.Bookmark here

Now Lucas understood why he was feeling so exhausted and experiencing so much pain whenever 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. Bookmark here

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

"Submit to me~," Rio cooed into his ear. "Make it clear that I am the one in control and that you will do as I say in our contract." She cranked his arm, urging him for an answer.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Rio's third and fourth [Law] had him at her mercy. If he didn't make a decision soon, her third [Law] can kill him by sucking his vitality 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.Bookmark here

He had no choice. Bookmark here

"Fine... I'll do it..." Lucas 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!"Bookmark here

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

"Five more seconds," she droned.Bookmark here

"What...? Why—Grrh!" Lucas begged before returning to clenching his teeth.Bookmark here

"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'!"Bookmark here

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

Rio cut Lucas off from his retort and twisted his arm again in tandem with a slow count.Bookmark here

"1..."Bookmark here

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

"2..."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"3..."Bookmark here

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

"4...!"Bookmark here

「Onee-chan, Ryūka-san, good… night. 」
(Onee-chan, Ryūka-san, good... night.)Bookmark here

Yakumo, Rio's younger sister, now dressed only in a tank top and shorts, gently slid open the door to the main room. Bookmark here

She was about to let her sister and guest know that she was going to bed, but what she saw left her speechless and slightly awake.Bookmark here

Her guest was on top of her sister, whose legs were hugging his waist. Her arms were curled around his neck and entangled to one of his. And if that wasn't enough, their faces were really close.Bookmark here

Taking notice of someone else’s presence, Lucas and Rio put their struggle on hold and turned their attention to Yakumo, who took in a deep breath before proceeding to slowly close the doors.Bookmark here

(Sorry to disturb you...)Bookmark here

A hollow sound came about as the door hit the wall a few seconds later. Bookmark here

KUCHA!Bookmark here

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

Aa! Machinasai! Yakumo!
(Hey! Please wait! Yakumo!)Bookmark here

She chased after her sister, wanting to clear the misunderstanding right away. She left behind Lucas, whose experience in Nihan just became worse. Bookmark here

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The poor boy was left stamping his feet and rolling all over the floor as he tried to keep himself from screaming. Grimacing as he clutched onto his left shoulder, he was given a message that a dislocation was never a pleasure to have.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.