I turn the corner to see a little kid with white hair getting pushed to the ground. The other older-looking kids start to kick and spit on him as they tease and make fun of him. The group of eighth-graders turns around and they see me looking in their direction at what they're doing.
"Look at the Deviant freak!" One of the boys yell. "Get lost you alien before I break your neck." Alien? Really? Is that the best thing you could come up with?
"Ew. Do you guys know that if he touches you you'll become a Deviant like him? If that happens the Government will come and take you away from your family." The girl says as she backs away from me. That's a new one.
"Get outta here you monster. No one wants you around." The biggest of the guys says as he turns his attention back to the white-haired kid. I could say the same for you. The school has to practically beg your parents to come and pick you up from school.
I think about going the opposite way and minding my own business. I have to deal with these guys every day. Beating up on me, shoving me to the ground, knocking my stuff down, and seeing as how they're in the eighth grade or so there is no way that I could do anything to stop them. There are a couple more minutes before the school bell rings. He should be fine.
"Hey! Look at him! He won't fight back!" One of the eighth-grade boys says as he kicks the white-haired kid in the stomach.
"It's because he doesn't have any powers like us." One of the girls says. She spits on his head and then she rubs his face into the ground. "He isn't going to fight back."
"We don't want freaks like you hanging around us!" One of the smaller boys says as he hits him again. Blood starts to pour down the white-haired boy's lip as he picks himself up off of the ground.
He doesn't say anything as the group of eighth-graders circle around him and starts to beat up on him once again. I find myself wanting the boy to fall to the ground and just curl up in a ball but he doesn't. He balls his fists up and he starts to fight back. I can feel something inside of me spring to life watching him fight back against guys that he clearly has no chance of beating. How can this kid fight back? How is he not afraid of what they could do? I don't know any of these answers but the one thing I do know is that even though he doesn't have any abilities. So in a weird sort of way he is just like me.
Everyone would sit back and watch me get pushed around and they did nothing to help me. Through all of the times, I've had my head pushed into the dirt. Hit in the gut and spit on even though I wouldn't show it or ask it for it, I would always hope that someone would come and help me. But that help never came. So even though this kid looks as if he is completely fine I know that deep down somewhere he is hoping that someone comes and helps him, and that person is going to be me.
I ignore my body screaming for me to go the opposite way, to just turn back and leave the kid alone. No, I won't. You're going to get hurt! That doesn't matter. Those guys will never leave you alone! They never were. They could kill you and no one would care! Then that means I have nothing to lose. When I get close enough to them I jump into the air and I land on the biggest guys back. I punch him in the back of his head and he falls over. I can feel the adrenaline starting to pump through my veins as I start to throw punches at anyone that moves. The white-haired kid and I press our backs together and we try to fight these guys off, but we're eventually overwhelmed and beaten up until the bell rings. When they're done with us all of them kick us in our guts and they leave both of us lying on the ground.
I start to laugh as we get the dirt out of our hair. As both of us get up off of the ground I give him a nod. He just looks at me with a blank face as he scoffs at me.
"No one asked you to help me. I had everything under control." He says as he wipes the dust off of his clothes.
"Yeah. You most certainly did. I'm pretty sure the wind really felt those punches you were throwing." I say as I stick my hand out. "My name is Hiroshi. It's nice to meet you."
The kid looks at my hand and back to me before he shakes it weakly. Almost as if he's still hesitant that I'm going to decide to beat him up or something. Which is understandable. After something like that happens to you you're hesitant to trust anyone.
"My name is Hiroshi. What's yours?" I ask him tilting my head.
"What's it matter to you? You're probably just going to forget anyway. People always do." He responds to me.
"Why is that? Your hair really stands out. I'm sure I'd remember a guy with hair like this." I say to him.
"In this world, people are remembered for the abilities that they have and what they do. Then their names. I already don't have an ability and I haven't done anything in my life except for move from city to city. As far as I'm concerned I don't even exist." He says folding his arms.
"You know, sometimes I wish I didn't exist. I'm a Deviant. So people hate me right off the bat. They look at and treat me like I'm a disease and it does hurt me sometimes. I'm the only Deviant here and sometimes I do get lonely. So it would be nice to have a friend. Even if he is a freak." I say nudging his shoulder laughing. "So what's your name? I promise I won't forget it."
The kid takes a deep breath in and out as he looks at me.
"My name is-
I can hear my name get yelled as I awaken to find myself in a hospital bed back at Revenant headquarters. I must've fallen asleep on the helicopter because I do not remember arriving here last night. I try to pick myself up out of the bed but when I do so my entire body screams at me to lay back down. I let out a groan of pain as my head hit the pillow. I look around me and I see that there are drapes covering the small section of the room that I'm in.
"I could be dying right now and no one would even know it," I say to myself.
"Be quiet you big baby. You aren't the only one here." I hear Eden say. The sound of her voice is coming from the right of me. She must be in a bed next to me. I let out a big sigh of relief. I'm glad that she's okay. "So how're you feeling Hiroshi?"
"It doesn't matter. The only thing that's really important is that both of us are alive." I say as I let out a huge sigh.
"Aww. Are you glad that I'm okay Hiroshi? You don't ever have to worry about me. I'm the leader of the Phoenix Squad. If anything I should be worried about you." Eden says to me. "You didn't have to fight the way you did for me back in Houston."
I look down at my body and I notice that my chest is wrapped in some sort of gauze. I notice the burn marks on my body and right arm and I start to laugh a bit.
"You're right, I didn't have to do that. I could've saved myself these burns on my body and a lot of pain." I say to her. "But in all seriousness, something inside me just wanted to help you. I couldn't just stand there and watch you put yourself through that for my sake. I've always been like that ever since I was younger."
"It's nice to know that you actually have a heart under that tough front you try to put up," Eden says to me. I can hear her get out of the bed from next to me and walk over to where I am. When she opens the sheets and I see what she looks like I immediately burst out laughing.
She has a huge cast covering her entire upper body and a small cast on her knee. She takes a chair from the table in front of me and she pulls it next to me and she sits down.
"So how's your body holding up? I know that you got some burns on you after you copied my flames." Eden says as she glances over me. My face can't help but feel hot as she runs her fingers over the burn marks. "You look like you're going to be fine. My body reacted the same way for a while once my powers manifested themselves. But the more you use it the more your body will grow accustomed to the flames, and they won't leave any more burn marks. You can't fight against them. You have to welcome them and let them consume you. Only then will you be able to use them without any restraint."
"For someone who once hated their ability you sure do seem to know everything about them," I say to her. "Did Jo help you overcome your fear of it or was it something you did on your own?"
Eden sits back in her chair and she takes a deep breath in and out. She tilts her head to the side and she smiles and chuckles a bit. My heart skips a beat for a second after seeing her do that. I must be blushing because once Eden sees me she starts to laugh.
"Jo did help me with that, but probably not in the way that you're thinking. He was more of a cheerleader than an actual teacher at that time. I guess he thought the best way for me to actually master my ability was for me to do it on my own." Eden says to me. "Was I hurt at first? Yeah. This was the man who had saved me and gave my life purpose when I thought I would never be of use to anyone. I wanted to be around him as much as possible but I was forced to watch him teach other people how to master their own abilities."
"You make it sound like you love him," I say to her. When I say that her face turns red and she hits me over the top of my head with her fist.
"What gave you that impression?" Eden asks hitting herself on her forehead and sticking her tongue out at me.
"Whatever. Forget I said anything. I feel like if I pry into it more I'm going to be staying in this hospital bed longer than I need to be." I say to her.
"Smart man." She says putting her hand on my shoulder. "But in all honesty, What makes Jo such a great leader is that he knows how to interact and talk to everyone that he encounters. He just has some way of knowing how to get the best out of the people around him. I can say that I wouldn't be the person that I am now if he had walked me through every step of the process to mastering my ability. I certainly wouldn't have been able to be the leader of the Phoenix Squad if he didn't allow me to grow on my own while helping me every now and then."
After experiencing what Eden said about Jo during our first mission I can see where she's coming from. It baffles my mind that Jo would put so much trust in me when we had just met one another. No normal person would do something like that, and I'm not even upset at how Kevin, Eden, and the rest of the Phoenix Squad were acting towards me when I was first introduced to them. I wouldn't trust me either if I were in their shoes.
"I really don't know what Jo saw in me to have him trust me like that. Even now I still don't see it." I say as I look up at the ceiling. "I can't help but feel like I have this enormous weight on my shoulders. Like he has these gaudy expectations that I won't ever be able to reach. Do you ever feel that way? That may be what's going on in this world may be too much or too big for you to handle?"
"I did at first, and to be honest I had my doubts about what Jo was trying to accomplish. But it's just something about him that gives you hope. How he gives off this air of confidence and this aura that lets you know that everything is going to be alright. That no matter how difficult an obstacle may be that as long as we have the person next to us that we can overcome it and win." Eden says to me. "He puts all of his trust in you and at first it seems overwhelming but you'll eventually see that he's only doing that because he truly believes that you have the capabilities to get the job done."
"The trust that he puts in you sorta makes you want to do your best, I want the same thing that Jo does. To make the world a place where Hybrids, Deviants, and even people who don't have powers can live together in peace and harmony. I know that may sound funny or hypocritical coming from me, but I know firsthand the pain and despair death and discrimination can bring. No one deserves to die or looked down upon over something that they have no control over." I say as I look over to her. "After seeing how your sister treated you for even being associated with me I'm going to make sure now more than ever that as long as I draw breath in this body that I will change the world."
Eden just stares at me as a tear starts to form in her eye. She quickly wipes it from her face and she rises out of her seat.
"I used to think that Jo only trusted you because of the abilities that you had and your fighting capabilities, but now I see what he truly sees in you. Hiroshi, as your leader I'm going to make sure that the world that you and Jo envision become a reality. Even if I have to lay down my own life." Eden says as she starts to head back to her bed.
The words that Crystal spat at Eden start to play through my mind as she goes back to her own bed. I think back to how people treated me just because I was a Deviant but even then I at least had parents that loved me through the early stages of my life. If anything I could count on my family. But Eden, she might as well not have any family.
"Eden. If it makes you feel any better I just want you to know that regardless of what you do or however you may hurt me. I won't ever leave your side." I say to her. There's a brief silence after I say that but I can almost imagine her face turning bright red from her smiling. She doesn't say anything as she climbs into her bed but I don't take offense to it. Sometimes not saying anything is the best way to send an answer.
I lay my head back on the pillow and I close my eyes and I try to drift off to sleep but before I can even start to fall asleep Jo, Vex, Eric, and the rest of the Phoenix Squad burst into the room and they draw the shades back from around both Eden and I. I bang my head back on the pillow as Jo hugs Eden first and then me.
"I am so happy to see that both of you are alright." Jo says to us. "Especially you Hiroshi. The doctor told us how bad of a shape you were in. Bruised internal organs, second-degree burn marks, broken rib bones, I could go on and on." Jo says. "You were out for like a week. I had time to show Vex here how everything worked and get him and his family acclimated to Revenant. We even had some people from his family join Cerberus, Hydra, and Phoenix. Hiroshi you just helped Revenant so much and I cannot thank you enough."
"Jesus, I'm not dead yet Jo. You're making it seem like I'm on my death bed. I'll be up and ready to go in no time." I say to him. Jo nods his head as he and the Phoenix Squad go over to check on Eden. Vex lingers behind and he sits in the chair that Eden was sitting in not too long ago. There's a brief awkward silence between us as we both wait for the other to start talking.
I feel inclined to speak first since I'm the reason why he's here right now but before I can even open my mouth Vex starts to speak to me.
"Thanks for putting up with that stupid test I made you go through. I uh... I feel bad about how bad your injuries are. If I had known what was going to happen after we fought I wouldn't have put you through all of that." Vex says rubbing his neck.
"Hindsight is twenty-twenty. You had no way of knowing what was going to happen. I understand that you were just looking out for yourself and your family. Any reasonable person would've done the same thing in your shoes." I say to him. "The important thing is that none of us died."
"That's true. Jo told me since you got me out so quickly that you guys missed a huge assault from the Government. From the looks of it, it seemed like if you had gotten caught in it none of us would be alive right now." Vex says as he takes something out of his pocket. "All of my brothers and sisters were so worried about me when they saw how beat up I was. They didn't leave my side until I had made a full recovery. I had told them that if it wasn't for you, that I wouldn't be alive. So they wanted me to give this card to you. It isn't much but it's just their way of saying thank you for protecting me."
When he hands me the card I immediately open it up. It doesn't have too many fancy designs or anything like that. It just has the words Thank you on the inside and it has all of their signatures on the inside of it. I nod my head and I put the card on the side of my bed next to me.
"You know they didn't have to do that. I was just doing my job. Jo deserves all the credit." I say.
"Jo is a remarkable guy, but he wasn't the guy who fought to save me and my family. It was you. So thanks again Hiroshi. I look forward to working with you in the future." Vex says as he gets up and walks out of the room.
Jo walks over to me after he's done talking to Eden. She has the entirety of the Phoenix Squad bubbling all around her as they touch her forehead and fix her head pillow. They give her food to eat as they all laugh together. If I didn't know any better you would've guessed that they were a family visiting a sick relative.
"I'm sure they're all worried about you too," Jo said to me as he sits on the foot of my bed. "Those guys look at her like a big sister or even a mother to some of them. Some of the guys I recruited before you were orphans who had never known the love of someone older than themselves. No guidance and she's given them that, even if she doesn't know it."
"You chose a really good leader Jo. I'm just happy that I was able to contribute to this mission the way that I did." I say as I take a deep sigh. After I say that I see Eden point over to me. When she does the entire squad turns around and looks at me.
I can feel the tension start to rise in the air as they all start to walk towards me. I sit myself up in my bed to face all of them. They all bow to me at the same time as I jump a bit.
"Thank you for saving Eden's life. We're grateful for that."
"We're sorry for how we treated you when you first showed up. We were just looking out for Eden and her safety."
"It's only natural for you guys to look out for Eden and her safety. That's your squad leader. I'm sure Hiroshi here understands that. Right?" Jo says nudging me. I can tell that he wants me to say yes. But every bone in my body wants to yell and scream at them. But I contain my anger and I swallow it.
"It's okay. I forgive you guys. I just hope that we can get past what happened back then and we can start to work as a team now that you know that you can trust me." I say to them.
The entire team bows to me again and they all go back to looking over and taking care of Eden. I let out a deep sigh as Jo gets up from the foot of my bed.
"Small steps. Those are the ones you gotta take in order to build a relationship with a tight-knit team like this. You just took the first one. I can tell they don't absolutely despise you now." Jo says laughing.
"Thanks, Jo. That makes me feel a lot better." I say sarcastically as I throw the covers over my head.
"I'm only messing with you Hiroshi. If I'm being realistic those guys really do appreciate what you did for them. In some of their eyes, you saved the only person that has ever shown them any sort of kindness. They may not show it right now, but I know that they trust you. Remember what we talked about before you went out on your first mission?" Jo asks me.
"Yeah. That your words only carry so much weight. That I'm going to have to show them that they can trust me over you saying that they can." I say to him.
"See? You got it." Jo says. "Now, I want you to get as much rest as you possibly can, and that means no going out anywhere. I don't want you hurting yourself more than you already have. We're going to need you to be at full strength for our next mission. Remember, I still have two more people that I have my eyes on. I'll be back in a couple of days to check up on you again."
After Jo says that he leaves out of the room. For the next couple of hours I toss and turn in my bed and I let my thoughts run wild. I look for ways to entertain myself but after a little while, I start to get bored. I can hear Eden snoring in her sleep next to my room. So I cover my ears with my pillow and I close my eyes to try and go to sleep. But before I can even do that I feel someone tap on my shoulder. I jump a bit as I turn around to see who it is. It's a female. I don't know her name but by her clothes, I can tell that she's a part of Edens team.
"What's the problem? Does Eden need an extra pillow or something? I'm sure there are some in the closet behind her." I say as I turn around. She taps on my shoulder again and I let out a huge sigh as I turn back to face her.
"Yes? What is it? I'm trying to get some sleep." I say to her. The girl can't be more than sixteen or seventeen years old and she's in this squad? She has some guts so I take a deep breath in and out and I calm myself down. "I'm sorry for getting upset at you just now. I've just been cooped up in this bed for like a week. I haven't seen sunlight for so long. I'm just in a bad mood. What is it that you need?"
"Well, you pointed it out already. I know that you haven't been anywhere in a while, so for saving Vex for us I wanted to do something for you." She says as she sits down on my bed. My eye twitches as she runs her hands across my face.
"Hey, hey. If you're gonna thank me give me some food or something. We're not going to do THAT." I say as I push her away from me.
"What? Oh my god. You didn't think that- Oh my goodness ew no! I have the ability to teleport. But in order for me to teleport myself and other people, I need to have a feel for them, and the easiest way to do that is by touching their face." She says to me as she gets up out of my bed. "So where would you want to go? As long as you can think of the location I can get us there in no time at all. So do you know where you would want to go?"
After she asks me that my mind immediately goes back to the dream that I had. I don't know why but for some reason my gut is telling me to head back to where I went to middle school. Call it a hunch or anything like that but that's where I'm going to go.
"Hey, have you ever been to Sacramento?" I ask her. She shakes her head no and I get up out of the bed. I put on the fresh pair of clothes that's been laid out for me and I give her the exact address of the school. When I put my hand on her shoulder before I can even blink we're in front of my old middle school. My head starts to spin as I take my hand off of her shoulder.
"We only have ten minutes at the most, so do what you wanna do before the time is up. I know that Jo wants you to rest as much as you possibly can." She says as she goes and finds a staircase to sit down on. I nod at her and I put my hood over my head as I walk around the outskirts of the school.
I can hear the sounds of kids playing on the playground as I sit down on a bench. I can feel a wave of nostalgia wash over me as I see a couple of my old school teachers come out of the building. Everything seems to be pretty normal. At least for now. I can't spot any Deviants anywhere on the playground, but as I continue to scan the field for them I find one boy huddled in the corner with his face to the gate all by himself. He's wiping wood chips and dust from his pants and shirt as he wipes what looks like a tear from his face. I can't help but see myself in him. I get off of the bench and I walk over to where the boy is. When the boy sees me he freezes and immediately starts to back away. I put my hands out to calm him down. I take my hood off of my head and I kneel down to his level. He looks over my face intensely and after a little while, he seems to realize who I am.
"Wait, are you the Hybrid Killer?!" The boy says loudly. I put my finger over my mouth to let him know to quiet down.
I nod my head, yes and his face turns from an expression of sadness to one of complete joy.
"What're you doing here? Do you know that the Government is looking for you? Your posters are everywhere!"
"I'm just out taking care of some business. I saw you over here by yourself and I wanted to make sure that you were alright." I say to him. He shakes his head no as he points to a group of kids playing with their powers.
"Can you tell them to let me hang out with them? They won't listen to me if I ask them, but almost everyone here is afraid of you. I'm sure they'll listen to what you have to say."
He says to me. I shake my head no as I look over to the group of kids.
"You're a Deviant like me, right? Do you know what that means? That means that you're twice as strong as any of those kids over there. On the outside and on the inside as well. No one is going to truly accept you for who you are unless you show them that you are someone that should be respected. You won't gain anything If I tell them, you have to gather the strength that you have inside of you and do it on your own. Someone very smart taught me that." I say to him. He wipes the last of the tears from his eyes as he stands up.
"Everyone laughs at me when I say that I'm going to grow up and be like you, the only thing they think about is someone who murders people, but I know that what you're doing is for the sake of Deviants everywhere. That's why I want to be like you." He says as he runs over to the group of kids.
I can hear a pair of footsteps approach me from behind as I stand up off of the ground. I can see the outline of his body as he towers over the top of me.
"So who are you today? Leo? Or The Deviant Killer?" I ask him. Leo starts to chuckle as I turn around to face him.
"You're still the same old Hiroshi. Helping out people who really didn't need it." Leo says as he points over to the boy. When I turn around I can see that he's playing with all of the other kids. It warms my heart a bit to see Hybrid and Deviant kids getting along.
"So what brought you here?" I ask him. He takes a deep sigh in and out as he sits on the bench.
"I'm off of the clock for the Government right now. So you don't have to worry about me killing you or anything like that. If it makes you feel any better I can tell you where they're looking for you right now." He says to me. I shake my head no as I sit on the bench next to him.
"A lot happened since that day we fought those eighth-graders huh?" Leo asks me. "We're both hired killers working for opposing sides, who would've guessed?"
"Yeah. The two kids who did nothing but fight make a living killing people. No one could've guessed that." I say sarcastically.
"Yeah, but I kinda feel like it was destined to turn out this way for us. All we've ever known is fighting. You obviously for being the most well known Deviant in the world and me for having to do twice as much as anyone to prove that I'm not someone that you can just push around because I don't have any abilities." Leo says as he rubs the blade of his sword. "Oh yeah. I wanna apologize for what happened on that rooftop a little while back. It wasn't anything personal. It was just business. I had a job to do."
"Yeah, and you were doing a damn good job at it too. You damn near killed me." I say to him as he starts laughing.
"Yeah, that was the point." He says to me. "Can I tell you a secret Hiroshi?"
I nod my head yes as he takes a deep breath in and out.
"When I was offered the job to kill you I didn't take it at first. I'm not supposed to tell anyone who isn't a Government official but I was offered over a million dollars to kill you." Leo says to me.
"Wow. I'm happy to know that my life has a price in your mind." I say to him. But before I can finish talking he puts his hand up to stop me from speaking.
"The alternative was to work for free and have my family killed in front of me. Don't ask me how they knew where to find my family because even I didn't know where to look. I hadn't lived with them for years. But after seeing them put that gun to my mother's head I had to succumb to their demands." Leo says. "On one hand I'm happy that my family is safe and that they're thriving, but on the other, I'm afraid that if I fail to kill you or even if I do, that they're going to kill us all off anyway."
"Leo. We've been friends since middle school. I promise that I'll do everything in my power to make sure that never happens." I say to him. "I'm going to destroy the Government and everything that it stands for. That includes the hold that they have over you and your family. You have nothing to worry about Leo."
Leo nods his head to me as he stands up from his bench. He grips his sword in his hand as the sun starts to set over the horizon, and before I can even react his blade finds it's the way a couple of inches from my neck. I can feel my entire body shudder as he puts his blade back into its sheathe.
"It looks like you listened to what I told you the last time we saw one another. You're giving your life a reason to be truly remembered for. A good cause. Not one of just being a murderer. If anyone of us has to carry that title let it be me." Leo says as he starts to walk away. "If you're truly going to go through with your promise to me you're going to have to get a lot stronger Hiroshi. I believe you can do that but you have to want to become stronger more than anyone else. When the day comes when we meet again, I hope to see you've gotten stronger, because the next time we meet it won't be as friends."
After he says that he vanished from in front of me as the girl who teleported me here comes running from around the corner.
"Hiroshi! We have to get out of here! Government soldiers have found us! Grab onto my shoulder now!" She yells. I waste no time as I grab ahold of her shoulder and we're instantly teleported back to my hospital room. I collapse onto my bed as the girl wipes the sweat from her forehead.
We both look at one another and we burst out laughing. I haven't laughed like this in a while and it feels really good. All of the stress And frustration that I had in my body start to slowly leave my body as the laughter dies down.
"Thank you for that. I really needed that." I say to her. She nods her head to me as she wipes a tear from her eye.
"It was my pleasure. That was fun, to be honest. I had never felt a rush like that before in my life." She says to me. "My heart is racing and my palms are sweating but it's not like in a bad way."
"Yeah. That's called adrenaline. If you hang around Revenant long enough you'll experience plenty of that." I say to her. "But I'm going to turn in for the night. You should probably do the same."
The girl nods her head to me and she leaves out of the hospital room. After hearing the door close I get back into bed. As my head hits the pillow once again Leos words bounce around in my head once again. I need to get stronger. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of the people around me. I go to close my eyes and drift off to sleep but once again before I can even go to sleep I can hear Jo burst through the door of the hospital room. He rushes into my room out of breath and he points at me.
"Hiroshi! I found our next recruit! You're going to want to see this! This is going to blow your mind!"