Chapter 14:

Volume 1, Chapter 10.5: The Reflection of Lucas Thorne (End)

Parable of the Renegades


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AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Hi! Jio Kurenai here!

So based on some feedback, I decided to take out the "recap" aspect of the reflection chapters as someone pointed out that it felt too much like a re-telling of the recent chapters, but in first-person. I will focus more on the character's thoughts from now on and I'll try not to make it too long to the point of dividing it into individual parts so I can keep the story moving forward. Hey, that makes it like... An actual reflection! (Haha)

You don't realize these mistakes until someone points them out, so thanks for the feedback!

As usual 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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Rio Kiyodera… From head to toe, that girl from the eastern nation of Nihan is covered in mysteries.

With the outfit she wears, her manner of speaking, the circumstances of her family, her job and her intentions for me left my head filled with questions ever since I first laid eyes on her. I already felt that I had enough things to ponder about, but the number of questions metaphorically doubled when she revealed what she really was…

Rio is actually an elusive being; the secrets she shares with others of her kind remain unknown to almost everyone living on this planet.

To think all of this started just because I let myself take a chance by allowing my curiosity to win me over for once.

Right after we introduced ourselves to each other after a short and almost one-sided scuffle, she knocked me out cold right when it looked like she was about to leave my room.

Lesson learned. Do not take word from someone who recently slaughtered a group of armed people. Yeah, I'll keep that in mind... As if that couldn't be any more obvious. I must have been too concerned about the possibility of my life coming to a sudden end to notice.

When I woke up several hours later, I was lying on a mattress - a really thin one at that I could actually feel the floor with my fingertips. Of course, I'd be questioning this room's location, but what got me puzzled were its contents. A few examples would be a short table with some kind of engine underneath it and foreign writing on a massive roll of paper on the wall. Almost everything in here was not something you would see every day back in Sarkansas.

I should have felt tense with uncertainty since I had no idea where I was, but for some reason, the emotion I was feeling at that moment was happiness. A really strange kind of happiness.

It wasn't long before Rio checked up on me just moments after I awoke.

She called me "Thorne-San" - I didn't like it one bit. The only time I'm ever called by my last name is at school on rare occasions, and adding an honorific doesn't make it any sweeter. Makes me feel like I'm already finished with my youth.

Even though what came out of Rio's mouth was a harmless question about whether I slept well or not, I was on the verge of lashing out at her. Why wouldn't I be this way? I was knocked out then kidnapped without my consent to who knows where. Despite that, I managed to calm most of myself down before the situation could get any worse as that strange happy feeling I felt earlier was replaced with this strange sensation of killing intent that made itself be known after I ticked Rio off.

All I did was mention her given name. I didn't think about it at first, but did she really have to go that far just because I didn't know it was rude for her?

And it wasn't just that. I remembered that I didn't know my current location. Acting recklessly without knowing your options is a terrible move and it seems that Rio had everything under her control.

I'm saying this because she was apparently relaxed, all dressed so casually in her white sweater and black silk pants. Her katana wasn't even in her hands. She must have been really confident that I wouldn't have a chance of leaving this place unscathed. I decided it was best that I behaved for now.

When she did allow me to ask her some questions, I cut straight to the point. No trick questions came from me as I was talking to someone who learned English as their second language.

I started with her intentions for kidnapping me. It was there that I learned from Rio that although she is a high-school student and around my age, she works a difficult job as an assassin. She claimed that her reputation is high and that her services are expensive because she's capable of taking down anyone around the world in a short period of time - much faster when compared to her peers or so she says.

Then she revealed her policy in which she kills all witnesses while in the middle of a job. She then revealed her intentions for sparing and kidnapping me. I was expecting her to talk about my strange eyes, and I was correct in the end as she brushed aside my hair bangs and let my eyes be shown to her in plain view, but her choice of words caught me off guard. She said she "developed an interest in me..." Yes, that's exactly what I heard... My face became warmer and I was feeling like, "what!? Did she seriously kidnap me just so she could confess!?"

The bashful look on her face after that told me everything. She just realized the words she used to convey her message were taken another way and she too felt embarrassed. I couldn't face her after that misunderstanding so I hid under the covers, but it wasn't long before Rio forced me out to try again with a better statement of her reason.

Even with the extra chances, it still didn't work out in her favor. She tried again by saying that "she wanted to know more about me". Once again, that sounded like a confession. And then strike three came (sort of) when she said that "she wanted to study something from me". That could have been okay, but I was so overwhelmed with emotion from her last two attempts, that I looked away instead.

After essentially telling me the same thing with three different phrases, she decided to just move on to my next question. She could have just said that she found my eyes interesting or that she wanted to ask questions about them, but no... She decided to move on instead.

I couldn't help, but notice from our conversation. Rio kept a straight and kind of heartless mask of a face when she mowed down the Knights of Viola, but just earlier, she was turning red and blurting out gibberish (or maybe that was her native tongue) moments after she thought she just confessed to me. So she does have another side. It kind of puts me at ease. Even if it wasn't meant to be a confession, I couldn't help but savor the moment even though it left me vulnerable.

I still couldn't believe the answer to my next question, which was about our current location. To answer me, I was introduced to a beautiful garden of bushes, stones and patterned sand surrounded by concrete walls and complemented by the moonlight as Rio revealed that we were currently in her home country, the eastern nation of Nihan. Even though it was all in front of me, I couldn't help, but think this was all a dream.

As I sat next to Rio over the garden's wall, I had a perfect view of the city in the distance below. It told me that Rio and I both lived in houses on the mountains overlooking a town or city. I saw the aesthetic differences between our countries as I eyed the shrine-shaped buildings that occupied parts of the city and the pink flower petals that danced in spirals with the wind. This scene felt like a romantic date, something I really wouldn't mind experiencing if Rio wasn't holding me hostage.

I felt my breath slipping away, but then I was reminded of an urgent matter: I had to be home in time for school the next day or I'll probably be saying "goodbye" to my privilege to compete in the Underground Arena.

Before I could try to run away, Rio stopped me with a harsh warning. With no knowledge on how to speak or read her language and really slim chance that anyone else could speak mine, I was trapped in Nihan without any physical restraints. I had no chance in leaving the nation without Rio's help.

It was then that we struck a deal in exchange for my life being spared and for me to be returned to my home in Sarkansas. My chest tightened as Rio offered to discuss more about it after dinner.

As someone who eats western food almost all the time, I was curious to try eating something eastern for once. Little did I know that getting the food into my mouth was going to become a challenge because I had to use a tool I was so terrible with, that using it was comparable to solving a wire puzzle - I had to eat using chopsticks. I can still remember why I've had some difficulty and why I didn't like using them. Try as I might, I couldn't pick things up with them as the stocks would always cross over in the shape of an "x" and whenever I managed to do so, the food would just fall between the sticks, especially true for the rare times I would eat rice. My lack of skill was clear to Rio as I noticed her focusing less on eating and more on watching me fail at trying to pick something up. Her annoying smile made it even worse.

But still, since I was still under Rio's mercy, I decided I should try to keep myself polite in her eye because maybe she'll go easy on me if I could pull it off... Hopefully. I tried to get on her good side by asking her about some of her national customs like that phrase she said before we started eating. I think it went like, Idatagima... No, that's not right. Uh... Idadakiga... Ugh, I can't remember how to say it.

Anyway, it was at the dinner table that I found out Rio has a younger sister named Yakumo. Until she was introduced to me, I didn't realize she was a girl like her sister. The outfit she came in was a tracksuit so I couldn't tell if her body was male or female and although her hairstyle that framed her handsome/pretty face was short, it looked like it could fit for both genders. Her voice even gave off a deep tone, but it was still fitting for a girl when I found out she is one.

Unlike her sister, Yakumo seemed to be more hospitable to her guest / Rio's captive a.k.a me. I felt it was only natural that I should treat her fairly as I complimented her attempt at a self-introduction in English even though it was full of stuttering. She also pronounced my name as "Ryuka" unlike Rio who could say my name properly. She even prepared me a new batch of what was cooked for dinner after I fumbled one too many times to try anything out. Thanks to her, I was able to discover a new found craving for raw salmon and beef so long as it was prepared in Nihan.

When I finally managed to satisfy my hunger, Rio revealed our deal. In exchange for me being spared and for being returned to Sarkansas, I was tasked to do Rio's current assignment. Kill the seven [Renegades] on her hit list.

...Is she... Is she mental or something!? She does realize that she is sending an ordinary student to go on a mercenary hunt for beings that hardly anyone in the world knows about, right? Yes, I have plenty of experience in fighting thanks to the brutal school called the "Underground Arena", but I never killed anyone before, much less got near the thought of doing such a thing.

And get this. The reason why she said I was suitable was because I was one of them. I, Lucas Thorne am actually supposed to be a [Renegade] just because his eyes are "not human". I can vouch that I never met anyone with the same kind of eyes as me, but I don't see why that alone is proof enough. Heck, Rio admitted this wasn't the best distinguishing mark to determine if someone was a [Renegade], a little later.

Somehow, I managed to convince Rio that I wasn't lying when I denied her assumption that I am a [Renegade]. Even if I wasn't the ideal person for the job, I didn't want this to mean that she would determine me as expendable. To my surprise, Rio still decided to push through with our contract, but she also offered me a little assistance; something I couldn't just turn down - She was willing to share me some of the secrets of the [Renegades]. Maybe ordinary humans can fight the [Renegades], so long as they have been equipped properly.

The lessons began with Rio writing a keyword on a piece of paper with a brush dipped in black ink. I was mesmerized with the movements of her wrist as she alternated between swift and slow brush strokes. I recalled that she was already very proficient with handling a katana, at least in my eyes so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. With the words she wrote coming out like art, I guess that complex-looking text I saw on the scroll on the wall was written by her and not simply purchased from somewhere else.

I listened the best I could and always asked questions or pointed out things I noticed as the lessons proceeded. There is a reason why I am capable of holding a spot close to the top in school. (Only so I could continue earning money in the Underground Arena). So to give a quick summary...

【Renegades】 are a subspecies of humans that gained powers somehow based on their overall character: a combination of their personality, upbringing, and experience. In short, people became [Renegades] just by being themselves, but not just anyone can become them.

【Influence】 is a [Renegade's] presence that takes the form of a sphere that constantly surrounds them. According to Rio, [Influence] varies in size depending on who it belongs to, and although it cannot be seen by anyone with the exception of its owner, it can be felt. Outsiders that enter its range will temporarily feel an emotional trigger depending on whose [Influence] they entered. The emotional triggers can range from the positive to the negative with some examples being happiness, chills or nervousness.
I remembered that climatic happy feeling whenever Rio was nearby. That feeling that makes you want to take her down... Rip off the layers that covered her... And ravage her to the bitter end. That is the emotional trigger of Rio's [Influence]. Then again, the Knights of Viola felt like they got a morale boost to the point that they felt could win their losing battle against the hooded figure when they entered Rio's [Influence]. I guess I don't fully understand it yet.

【Stigma】 is the source of a [Renegade's] abilities. I've never seen one, but it is said to take the form of a colored, glowing tattoo somewhere on their bodies and it beats like a heart. Clearly, that makes it the weak point. Rio also recommended that I'll need a weapon to destroy it. Well, that's going to be a problem because I always fought with my hands and legs. Looks like I'll be eating my words when I visit Davis' weapon shop.

【A Renegade's capabilities】 are normally on par with an ordinary human being, both physical and mental. [Renegades] with superhuman capabilities do exist, but are very rare. However, all [Renegades] are said to possess extreme durability and are capable of surviving anything that would normally be fatal to humans.

【Laws】 are the unique powers of a [Renegade] that only work within their [Influence] at least for them to be activated. Think of it as a superpower that is constantly active and usable by anyone within the [Influence] so long as they are aware of the specific conditions needed to use it. Apparently, [Laws] used by outsiders are weaker in comparison to the original.
Every [Renegade] has at least two [Laws] and they had to be discovered by them through trial and error. It seems to be an unwritten rule that the [Renegade] assign a number to their [Laws] based on what they discovered first.
One thing to keep in mind is that every [Law's] condition and function is based on their user's character so you could say they are "personality powers". According to Rio, observation is key when dealing with [Laws].

I thought it was strange how Rio knew so much about these secrets when she claimed she learned them all from having some [Renegades] as her targets. I was having a lot of difficulty understanding how [Laws] worked at the time she tried to teach me about them so I asked if she had an example to help me better.

She responded by revealing amidst her devious laughter that a [Law] was already in effect... On me. It was this point that I learned why Rio knew so much about the [Renegades] - she is one of them and the reason why she was teaching me so much was all a set up for the conditions of her fourth [Law].

【法『Rio's Fourth Law: Broken Vow』法】 is the fourth [Law] that Rio discovered from herself. Long story short, fulfilling its strict conditions will make a person your slave that can be killed immediately if you are convinced that they won't do as you say. Now here's the long version:

〖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 to activating it must be repeated again.
〘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. 

This [Law] is the contract that completely chains me to Rio's will. At this point, she had revealed six personal secrets to me, but she wanted me to go after seven targets, so one more was needed - and she forced one more into me when she tackled and restrained me with my arm bent behind me at an unnatural angle.

【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.

In a nutshell, it's a drain touch.

Touching Rio's skin is hazardous to your health, so don't be tempted to get your hands on her unless she's completely covered that is, but don't count on her letting you do it without any repercussions. It seems to be a simple [Law] at first, but since anyone else in Rio's [Influence] can use it, things get a bit more complex. Rio's said the life drain effect will depend on the feelings of love and hate. I can't figure out how that works for now, but so far, Rio was draining my life when she touched me. Immediately after she touched me, for only a second, my view of the world lost its color and the only sound I could hear was a single echoing heartbeat in my head. When I was able to see in color again, it felt like my life was slipping away with every second that passed and based on Rio's explanation, her [Law's] effect should have been weak since the only skin contact at that time was her hands on my arm. I am someone who trained his stamina to be great enough to fight over 27 hours so long as I fought on the defensive, and Rio's third [Law] at its weakest can already leave me drained in seconds. *Sigh* this will be a drag.

Oh, here's a little something I think I discovered. It seems that you can recover quickly from the drain touch as fast as you lose your stamina the moment the [Law] is no longer in effect. And if she was telling the truth, Rio has at least four [Laws] so I should be careful in her presence. Heh, she did tell me that the key to understanding [Laws] is observation. Looks like I'm already putting it into practice.

So now I'm armed with some knowledge on the [Renegades] and I've been introduced to my first target, Ty-Ohni Monroe who renamed himself "Fenris" sometime after a certain incident when he killed at least 190 people in one night - with his bare hands to boot. Even worse, I got the impression that this guy is a natural-born killer because that genocide also happened to be the first time he ever killed anyone. What in the world happens in your head when you become a [Renegade]?

And so, this is the point of my life turning upside down. I wanted a break from my daily life and I got it in the form of a mission to kill seven [Renegades] just so my life can be spared. So I'm risking my life seven times, just so one person will let me live? What a cruel joke.

But thanks to this, I formed an odd partnership with a girl, and I learned a little more about the world I live in... And maybe myself. Could Rio be correct? Am I not so different from her? I don't recall anyone feeling strange when they're near me and I never saw anything strange happening around me. Until I got that black mark that reminds me of Rio's fourth [Law], I never saw a glowing tattoo on any part of me. All that's weird about me is my eyes.

Looks like only time will tell me the answer.