Parable of the Renegades
Hi! Jio Kurenai here!
I decided to write this "Reflection" chapter for two reasons. One: it serves as sort of a recap for the recent chapters, and Two: It is written in first-person from the character in question as a way to dive deeper into his / her thoughts on the matter. Who knows? Another side of them might even be revealed 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!
All I wanted was to break away from the cycle that chronicled my life every week. Even holidays and breaks like summer vacation lacked a certain "spark."
I couldn't find it in myself to take the initiative. I just waited for an opportunity to present itself in front of me. It's because I'm so shy that I only have a few friends and all of them approached me first. Not wanting to miss a chance, I always accepted them without hesitation.
From Monday to Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, I go to school where I still have a perfect attendance record. Now, just so you know, I'm not a terrible student, but I'm also not on the top of my class either. I'd say that I'm around um... the upper middle. Yeah, somewhere there.
I have no intention to earn academic honors or a perfect attendance award, oh no, I'm only trying to keep up with what the school requires for me so I can keep doing something else. To be honest, I don't enjoy doing this.
It happens every Saturday morning before the sun rises. A Battle Royale at the Underground arena. This was a contest with multiple competitors in a free-for-all brawl to win a cash prize depending on how long the last man standing survived elimination (by knockout) since he first stepped into the arena, a domed cage.
Although these were sanctioned fights, the cage can get really occupied that illegal moves like biting, eye gouging or getting hit on the crown jewels may slip past the watchful eyes of the officials occasionally. They need better staff or technology if they want to really lower the risk of anyone dying.
Speaking of dying, while injuries are a no-brainer, there have been less than ten recorded deaths in total among every kind of fight held in the Underground Arena. In fact, I've heard that there are more reports on people accidentally getting killed on boxing, football and even cheerleading!
As of now, this is how I make money and it is also where I learned how to fight. You could only imagine my results from the first few times I entered this.
Whenever I prepare to fight, a strange phenomenon occurs: I lose my shyness.
I couldn't explain why. Maybe it's because I couldn't see the faces of the spectators who actually got up so early just to watch this brutal entertainment. Maybe I'm feeling nervous instead as my eyes dart in random directions to scan the other fighters already slugging it out.
But it is when I get struck for the first time that any kind of emotion that hinders me gets beaten out and replaced with something else. A raging inferno within that continues to burn bright until the very last of its embers have been snuffed out.
I guess I understand that quote now. "When the nicest or the shyest lose their patience, the devil himself will shiver."
As this was a contest with multiple competitors, I did not have to fight everyone in order to win. The winner is always the last man standing, the one who signals for the contest to end before another fresh fighter enters the arena. I always took advantage of this loophole by keeping myself on the defensive to conserve my energy and made sure that my back remained in contact with the steel chains of the domed cage's wall so long as someone else's unconscious body wasn't already occupying it.
For as long as I could remember, getting beaten up was something that happened to me on a regular basis. And I cried... a lot.
Still, it was good to know that almost everything has a bright side because eventually I started to tolerate pain to an unbelievable level that even I couldn't believe it.
It only got better as I grew older, my stamina and endurance became my greatest strengths. I could take countless hits to the head, body and limbs and tolerate the accumulating pain without losing any vigilance.
On my latest attempt in the Battle Royale, I entered at number twenty-one and no one had yet to be eliminated.
As usual, I stuck to my guns and kept myself on the defensive, only fighting when I was forced to, or if the closest fighter to me was exhausted and just needed one final push.
It was clear that my strategy works wonders. Time flew as I fought when I needed to, I wasn't aware that more than an entire day had already passed. Still, I have limits and I had to run out of steam eventually.
And then there's the issue of a fresh fighter entering the Battle Royale every thirty seconds. Thanks to most of the other fighters beating each other up, I only had a two threats left, the second one having just entered the brawl.
With not much energy left to launch an assault. I stood still and focused solely on counterattacking. I would throw a weak punch while taking advantage of my opponent's momentum, using his strength against him to make up for me not having much left.
Even if I fail to dodge or defend, I won't let a lucky punch be relished without trying. Normally, people in such situations are beset by fear and lose their cool or their judgment, but remember what I said earlier? For some reason, once I get struck for the first time in a fight, all emotions that hinder me get replaced with rage - The good one. The rage where you can turn your anger into adrenaline and not start blindly flailing about.
When I get hit, I take that as a last ditch effort to take advantage of the limb that hit me. Breaking an opponent's fingers on the exact moment of his fist making an impact can be difficult, but possible when you can react immediately.
When I became the last man standing for the first time in this attempt, my exhaustion reminded me of its existence and I stopped becoming proactive. The flames inside me died out, I could barely raise my hand as I signaled for this Battle Royale to stop.
I couldn't believe what the announcer said. I survived elimination for twenty seven hours this time, a record I never thought I could break.
Thanks to my record, I earned some good money this week, it should keep me and my adoptive mother well-fed for a while, but lo and behold, the money was presented to me as solid cash in a pair of steel suitcases and they sure weren't light. I've won money here before, and I got my cash in checks. What were they thinking!?
I had no choice, but to rest and regain my strength before I could leave this armpit of a venue. The sooner I could find a better way to earn money of around the same amount, the better.
It is an unwritten rule in the city I live nearby, Cameron's Feint, located in the south eastern state of Sarkansas, that being able to fight meant as much as knowing how to read, write, move and speak. Ever since the incident decades ago when the [Renegades] were first revealed to have been existing alongside us since probably the beginning of the universe, Nations all over the world began to adapt by teaching their countrymen their own ways of defense.
If a nation had no military, navy or air force, then they probably uncovered their past to teach techniques of warfare, used by their ancestors, in the present day. Medieval Chivalry in some of western nations and Bushido or Ninjutsu in the Eastern nation of Nihan are just a couple of examples I know. There are definitely more disciplines that I'm unaware of.
Cameron's Feint was built some time after the [Renegade] incident, and with no official discipline of the past to uncover, the city's residents adopted what they could learn from somewhere else.
A hybrid of western and eastern techniques from the residents here. I think it's a good thing. At least the art of self-defense coming from here won't be too predictable.
After every grueling attempt I make at the Underground Arena, I always stopped by the clinic at a beach called "Moonlight Shores" for some treatment for my injuries.
Before I could enter, steel suitcases containing my prize money in each hand, I was pushed off the platform the clinic stood on and had an unwilling meal of the beach's white sand. The one responsible for doing it just so happened to be my best friend, Davis Crane.
I've known Davis since childhood. Just like all my other friends, he approached me first then the next thing you know I was always hanging out with him. His family runs a blacksmithing business and with the revelation of the [Renegades] to be lurking somewhere all over the world, their business was booming. They make all sorts of weapons and with Cameron's Feint containing people who use all sorts of weapons, they are constantly researching on foreign designs to add to their selection.
Davis in particular is quite proficient in keeping up with his family's craft, but there is one defining factor that motivates him to keep improving: His obsession with anime and manga, popular forms of media from the eastern nation of Nihan. With all the over the top designs for swords, guns and who knows what, Davis often spends his free time recreating iconic weapons that appear in his favorite series. Too bad they don't have powers like how they were originally designed to be, they're just fancy looking gear as far I'm concerned. Still that doesn't deter him and he one day hopes to make it a reality.
He may be my best friend, but that doesn't mean I won't let him off scot-free when push comes to shove, literally in this case.
Davis pushed me off because he was busy helping someone who pretended to drown for $50. I struck at him with one of the steel suitcases I was holding, but apologized later after I shoved his face into the clinic's wall three times for good measure after I caught him and his accomplice (whom he doesn't even know personally).
Now why were they pulling this off? Well, inside this humble clinic is a woman who many tend to refer to as "The Nymph." She cool and composed with her eyes almost appearing to be devoid of emotions and gives the harshest of warnings when she realizes that you tried to fake an injury or illness just so you could to see her. Of course that was the consequence of the phony patient who pretended to drown so he could get some mouth-to mouth respiration from her.
Her name is Dr. Rea Nightingale, a former Olympic swimmer and now a chiropractor and herbal medicine pharmacist. Quite the odd combination, but what I can I say? Her specialties have helped me out a lot. Herbal medicines does wonders for the body I can't explain and her knowledge on anatomy helps her readjust any misaligned bones I ended up with from my fights in the Underground Arena. Of course, she can do general treatment too.
With her ashen-brown hair and her choice of attire, consisting of a lab gown that does a terrible job of concealing her hourglass swimmer's figure and revealing navy blue one piece swimsuit, it's no wonder there will always be at least one guy every day who tries to pretend there is something wrong with him in exchange for her attention and a free show for their eyes.
I once questioned her about it. She told me that while she is officially Moonlight Shore's doctor, she also unofficially serves as its lifeguard as well, being always ready to spring into action when someone on the beach is drowning... Or at least pretending to drown.
She also claims that her overall appearance puts all of her patients at ease. Um, I think your face alone is good enough. Just ditch the transparent lab gown for another one with greater opacity because that is just overkill. And one more thing. "All of your patients", you say? Girls must be questioning their preferences when they see you.
Despite the fact that she stares daggers and is quite serious when dealing with a person's health, she's actually quite the playful type on the inside. I can tell because the closest person to her and the usual target of her antics just so happens to be... Me.
Dr. Rea Nightingale is also my legal guardian. She was the one who brought me into her care and raised me since I was four. Before I met her, I was lost for a few days, having no mother and no place to call home. The memories of that still haunts me to this day that I would prefer for it to be shelved to the back of my mind.
Thanks to her, I was back to living a stable life again with a home and food on the table everyday, but there was one issue that drew a line between us.
Ever since the day she adopted me, Rea has been urging me to call her "mom". Honestly, I couldn't bring it in myself to grant her request. I was already capable of thought and speech ever since I was four and I couldn't replace my real mother who took care of me until the night I lost her.
Looking back on it, I would have probably started calling Rea my mother if only she could have given me the time to adjust naturally. With that constant reminder, her desire backfired even though I've been by her side for eleven years - almost three times the amount I spent with my real mother.
Instead of "mom", I would refer to Rea as "Ms. Nightingale", and when I got older, calling her "Rea" began to feel natural and not impolite. For me it was because she only aged by the number. Maybe her fashion and hairstyle changed, but her face remained the same since I first met her. For a woman who is close to reaching the age of forty, she looks around my age. What's her secret?
Still, I will always be grateful to her for taking care of me until now. Maybe our relationship would have been better if she wasn't so stubborn with trying to replace my mom.
I had a chance to learn why later that day. After Davis left to his own devices and I was in another room, enjoying a rejuvenating hot herbal bath for my injuries in the clinic's jacuzzi, Rea joined me without my consent.
She used this moment as an opportunity for us to share secrets with one another as we were both figuratively vulnerable in the small circular hot tub.
As she was not my blood relative and also had the appearance of someone my age, I couldn't help but feel shy and insecure when she took off her lab gown and dipped her swimsuit-clad self into the jacuzzi. I guess that's something that comes along with adolescence, when boys stop thinking girls are gross. Rea even reminded me I should start getting used to talking to girls.
I was honest when I told her that she will always be someone that I treasure. I was even enjoying our conversation when I started joking on how people sometimes mistake us for a couple, but then my turn came when I asked her for the reason why she decided to adopt me.
It was a question I could have asked many years ago, but I only brought it up now.
Maybe it was because I was enjoying the luxury of living a sheltered life again that I decided to sweep it under the rug. Maybe it was because I was still a kid and kids don't need to get themselves involved in adult things until they get older.
Maybe... I felt that there would be some potential for a tragic story and I wanted to keep my emotions in a positive light.
When I asked the question, Rea was starring into space and when she came to, she changed topics by asking me if had eaten since the Battle Royale. I was disappointed, but my stomach convinced me that I'll have to one day confront Rea with that question once the time was right.
So off I went, back to Cameron's Feint to find a nice place to have some dinner.
Now just so you know, it's not because I can't cook - I was just too hungry to do so. I mean I'm no master at it, but I'm also not terrible as well. In fact, I'm the one who often prepares breakfast and dinner at home. Rea used to do it, but then her job took off so much of her time that I eventually had to teach myself. The hardest part was convincing her that I wasn't playing with fire.
I'm also not picky when it comes to ingredients. Expensive ones are definitely welcome, but I made sure that I can make even decent meals on a budget. I know I did good because I had to repeat until I was satisfied. Hmm... Now that I think about it, repeating means I used up more of our stock of ingredients and that means more money spent... Well, it's not a problem now.
So this happened while I was eating in "Retrospect", a restaurant styled after the 50's. I couldn't help, but eavesdrop on to the group of people who sat next to me across a long table. They all wore the same fancy ivory-white uniform and had different variations of westerns swords strapped to their backs or waists. With the way times are now, this is no longer considered an unusual sight, but meeting in a restaurant styled after a 50's diner instead of a guild tavern just contrasted way too much. The eavesdropping was unintentional because they talked too loud especially when someone at the end of one side of the table had a message for someone several seats away.
As I learned later, they were called the "Knights of Viola", and they were hunting down someone who they suspected to be a [Renegade]. When they declared the name of their group, a bell rung in my head. I think I know who "Viola" is.
The knights were quite the odd bunch if I say so myself. They were apparently passionate about their training in Medieval Chivalry. A little too passionate. Not only did they learn to fight like medieval men, they spoke like them too, using words like "thou", "fiend", and maybe "maiden", which was to describe the girl they named their group after.
After I finished my dinner and left the restaurant, I decided to wander around Cameron's Feint to kill time while waiting for the next bus which was supposed to be leaving at 7:00pm (It was still 6:30pm at that time).
While I walking around aimlessly and thinking about my daily life cycle, I heard what sounded like weapons being brandished for battle, coming from the dark alleyway I was passing by.
Looks like the "Knights of Viola" found their [Renegade].
I thought to myself that I didn't have to get involved with this, but then again, I couldn't witness things like this everyday even though almost everyone around the city can be seen toting a weapon.
I took a chance and entered the darkness of the alleyway. Little did I know that this would lead up to a chain of events that I could never expect...