Parable of the Renegades
Hi! Jio Kurenai here!
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It wasn't long before Rio returned to the biggest room in her house, the main room. That was where she and Lucas were having a negotiation over the contract that was forced upon him, courtesy of her [Fourth Law: Broken Vow].
She came back through a sliding door, sighing in relief after chasing her sister, Yakumo to clear a misunderstanding that occurred due to the worst of timings.
What she saw when she returned was Lucas, grinding his teeth and rolling all over the floor in random directions while clutching onto his left shoulder. It was accidentally dislocated when Rio trapped his arm in a submission hold, (specifically the "Gyaku ude-garami" or "Kimura lock" as it's called nowadays) in order to make him listen to a personal secret as part of a condition for one of her [Laws]. Things would have gone smoothly if only it were not for a distraction from her sister's intrusion.
For a moment, a sudden euphoria enraptured Lucas making him forget the pain in his shoulder. Of course, a moment could only last so long.
"How long are you going to waste time? We still need to talk." Rio urged Lucas, who resumed his erratic thrashing on the floor.
"That's my line!" Lucas complained. "And look at this, you just left me with a messed-up shoulder! If my school sees this, I might lose my only job for a big payday!"
"Oh, I see~..." Rio eyed the deformity, a misplaced bone shaped like spherical lump jutting out Lucas' shoulder like it was trying burst out. "That does look like my work after all~"
"You noticed it only now!? H-hey, wait!"
Rio left the room again, closing the sliding doors along the way. Lucas could only sit and wonder what Rio was up to after just walking out like that without saying anything relevant if only the pain in his shoulder wasn't taking most of his attention.
The sliding doors to the room opened again. Rio returned with Yakumo who held a hand to her mouth, trying to stifle a yawn.
「八雲。治りなさい。」 (Yakumo. Fix him.)
A quick groan came out of Yakumo’s mouth when Rio smacked a palm on her back before turning around to walk away.
「お姉ちゃん。。。どこへ行く？」 (Onee-chan... where are you going?)
「どこかよそで。」 (Elsewhere somewhere.) Rio replied as she left her sister's sight.
「おかしいね。。。」 (Weird...) Yakumo muttered under her breath.
With her older sister going to who knows where now, Yakumo dragged her feet toward Lucas, yawning once more as she closed in. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she really wanted to jump back into bed as soon as possible, and that her mind wasn’t focused. Evidently she forgot that her guest didn’t speak her language.
「はい。。。動くないでください。」 (Okay... Please hold still.)
Even though he couldn't comprehend Nihanese, Lucas, more or less, got the context of what Yakumo asked him to do and held still while resisting the impulse to move.
「しつれいします。」 (Pardon my rudeness.)
Yakumo knelt while holding Lucas' left arm by the elbow. After positioning his forearm to a vertical angle, she rotated it at a steady pace, trying to keep her eyes open to lessen the chance of an accidental mess up. When the arm was at a 35-degree angle, the spherical misplaced bone on Lucas's shoulder slid back in, relocating itself into its original spot with a wet popping noise.
「はい、おわり。。。グードナイト。。。リュカーサン。。。」 (Okay, I'm done... Guudo naito... Ryuka-san...)
Having finished her job, Yakumo let out another yawn as she stumbled her sleepy self out of the room.
Lucas didn’t utter a sound as he waited for Yakumo to leave the room and close its doors. When he could no longer hear any footsteps nearby, he cupped his hands over his mouth, then unleashed a muffled scream with all he could give.
Dislocating a shoulder really hurts, but it hurts just as bad when it gets popped back in. With no intention of thanking the one responsible for fixing his shoulder with a harsh wake-up call, Lucas willed himself to delay his pained scream until Yakumo was a safe distance away.
To think she could treat his shoulder despite being practically ready to enter dreamland at any moment was just astounding. Rio’s younger sister sure was something.
"With your shoulder all better, let us get back to business." Rio returned to the room once more after spending a few minutes away, and Lucas felt that strange sense of euphoria again. He found it odd at first, but there were no doubts now after experiencing it a few times within a day.
"The emotional trigger of your [Influence]... It's some kind of climactic happy feeling, am I right?"
*Ufufufu* "It is nice to see you are taking my advice on observation." Rio gave off a slight grin that expressed her praise. "Getting within range of my [Influence] makes you feel good does it not? Well, I gave you a general explanation on it earlier, so I guess I should not be surprised."
As Lucas learned from this moment, even positives were included in the list of emotional triggers regarding a [Renegade's] [Influence]. To him, this actually made matters worse. Feeling odd can be a sure sign that gives the hint of nearby danger, but feeling emotionally positive could lead to the possibility of being exploited because normally, one's guard would be let down in such a situation. As these emotional triggers manifest in affected people, it can only become more difficult to tell that something isn't right.
"You know I was thinking," Lucas mentioned to Rio, who was returning to sit on her side of the kotatsu. "Among all those secrets you revealed to me earlier, two of them were about your [Laws]. It's just that judging by how you explained them, the way your [Laws] work are not meant to be shared with others because it may lead to an enemy taking advantage of them. Does this mean you told me everything the [Renegades] can do?"
Rio rested her chin on an open palm. "I only revealed to you my most obvious [Laws] and you do need to know how one of them works if you do not want to accidentally kill yourself..."
Lucas had to admit that she had a point.
"...And you are asking if I revealed everything there is to know about the [Renegades]? Of course not. There are still some secrets in my head, but I can reveal more now if you want."
"...No, I'm good," Lucas declined without hesitation.
He knew there were more secrets about the [Renegades] that were not revealed to him, but he decided to ask Rio anyway, so he could hear for himself if she was going to tell a lie. She didn't, meaning he could probably trust her when it came to information at least.
He didn't know the details surrounding it, but there were two possible secrets that Rio kept hidden from him - both were first shown in the footage of the incident that revealed the [Renegade's] existence and the crash landing of the Grand Eagle aircraft; the footage of which can easily be looked up online thanks to the power of the internet.
Realizing what the potential consequence of accepting such an offer could be is what made Lucas refuse. If Rio were to tell him another secret related to herself, [Broken Vow] would do its work immediately by adding another black arrow, meaning another task that Rio could assign on a whim.
For Rio to offer him more secrets at that time meant it was possible that half a day, the time limit for more black arrows to be added, had yet to pass. Lucas was uncertain on when the time limit actually started, but the biggest possibility was that it began the moment he realized he was effectively trapped within the Eastern nation of Nihan with no way of escaping without Rio's assistance.
If he didn't know the mechanics behind [Broken Vow], he would've chosen to refuse the contract without a second thought, leading to the end of his life before he could even begin to save it.
Furthermore, Lucas believed the revelation of [Rio's Third Law: Reaper's Embrace] was done to keep him at a safe distance away from her. Getting close to Rio at an inappropriate moment such as a sucker punch attack meant to kill her, may end with her draining every last ounce of his life force should she feel threatened. Then again, such a method is unwise at the moment as the location of Rio's [Stigma], her weak point, was still unknown.
With all those assumptions manifesting themselves in his head, Lucas decided that he will just have to continue observing the [Renegades] carefully to learn more about their capabilities.
It was time to move on to the seven [Renegades] on Rio's hit list. As she decided herself earlier, Lucas will go after those seven himself and kill them in order to erase the effects of [Broken Vow], which manifested itself on his chest as a tattoo-like mark of a heart-shaped symbol surrounded by seven black arrows, representing the tasks he must fulfill.
Rio brought out a rolled-up piece of paper and rolled it over to the other side of the kotatsu for Lucas to unravel.
It was a request to assassinate a specific person. Considering the assassin who was given this task, the worded details were all written in Nihanese, but the upper left corner of the paper depicted a photo capture of a male individual taken at dusk.
Ashen hair, a medium length ponytail, and braids on either side of his head framed his oval reddish face with a square jawline. The picture depicted him walking in a narrow space, dressed in a simple cashmere shirt and a pendant consisting of a small gem in between a pair of tiny feathers was tied around his neck. The photo was taken without his consent judging by the off-side direction his glowing emerald green eyes pointed at.
Rio offered to translate the document as she took the paper back from Lucas.
"This is the one you kept calling 'the hooded figure'. His name is Ty-Ohni Monroe, but here, he is referred to by the alias 'Fenris'. He was born as the eldest son in an upper-middle-class family of five consisting of his parents along with a younger brother and sister. The family was very close and conflict between them was always settled peacefully..."
He had both parents and siblings. Sometimes I wish I knew what having a younger brother or sister would feel like, Lucas thought.
"...And then he reached adolescence," Rio continued her translation. "His medical records said that he started to show symptoms of mood swings. One second, he may be extremely happy. Another second later he would turn erratic. In time, his behavior became more anti-social to the point that he refuses to speak first in a conversation. This was most likely the result of a biological change..."
Lucas rested his chin on the butt of his palm. "Oh yeah... I forgot he's actually a [Renegade]... Right..."
"...Last year, around the time he was sixteen years old, he broke into a mansion, where a night party with an attendance of over two hundred guests, which included his family, was taking place. Before the sun rose on the next day, the entire mansion was painted red by the blood of its guests. Fenris killed for the first time in his life, slaughtering at least one hundred ninety-three people including his parents, siblings, and relatives - using only his bare hands..."
At that moment, Lucas' chin slid off from the hand it was resting on, slamming down hard on the table. His thoughts went haywire without a moment's notice.
Seriously!? That escalated way too quickly!
"...The party guests who managed to escape took action by hiring hitmen, the mafia and assassins to kill him, but his [Laws] lead all of them to be killed in strange and possibly illogical ways...
Lucas shook his head and silently pondered on the possibility that Rio was off her rocker.
Hey, are you serious!? This is Impossible! What chances do I have compared to people who kill for a living!?
"...Ever since then, he changed his name and has been on the run, traveling to different nations across the west. He was last spotted in Cameron's Feint, Sarkansas."
The description that Fenris had already committed mass murder within a single night made Lucas rub the temples on his head in utter frustration.
"Wow... just wow... This is a lot to take in. It's just the first guy and he already has a natural talent for killing... And you're pitting me against him!?"
Rio was unsympathetic to Lucas' complaint. "He will not know you are going after him, that is for sure. I think he was too busy trying to escape when he saw me coming after him. You can take that time to observe him, learn how his [Laws] work then make a strategy to counter him. Simple as that."
"Simple as that. Easier said than done..." Lucas said that first sentence in his intentionally futile imitation of Rio's voice before he tried to force himself to calm down. Then he started to question Rio's actions from that night in the alleyway. "Why didn't you assassinate Fenris first?! When you first appeared in that alleyway last night, why did you go through the 'Knights of Viola' instead of just ambushing Fenris himself?!"
Rio chuckled. "So that is what those men in the distracting uniforms call themselves?"
"Look who's talking," Lucas thought, rolling his eyes clockwise.
"Well, I told you my policy as an assassin was to leave no witnesses alive. Had I tried to assassinate Fenris first, his status as a [Renegade] means it will not be a quick job and those knights may have smartphones to alert the police or any authorities. That is why I had to get rid of them first."
"But that just leaves Fenris the freedom to do the same thing! One person is enough to report a scene." Lucas pointed out.
"He will not do it," Rio assured him. "I mentioned in the document earlier that Fenris now refuses to be the first person to speak in a conversation. He will never tell anyone of my presence."
Lucas pondered over the forced task that he now had to bear on his shoulders. If Fenris does not kill him, then Rio's [Law] will. This was going be one hell of a drag. At the very least, he was able to get Rio's permission to be given as much time as he needed. Her [Law] will not kill him so long as she remains convinced that he is working on the task at hand.
Despite that, Lucas wanted to forget that he was just turned into an expendable slave - even for a moment.
"This is so much to take in. I want to sleep and wish this was just a bad dream," he said. "If there's no more information that you want to cram into my head, can I please go back to my home - and maybe future graveyard Sarkansas, where hopefully, Fenris isn't waiting for me?"
Rio slid a hand underneath the blanket of the heated table and grabbed something long and hard, firmly gripping its shaft.
"Sure, but before we do that..."
"Huh? What are you--"
Rio used the scabbard of her katana, which she previously hid under the kotatsu, to land a precise strike at a specific point between Lucas' eyes.
Once more, his vision faded to black.