Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Ren slammed open the old wooden door of the duplex that is the orphanage, and rushed to the street. He had to stop Cecilia or this would make it the third time this month. Thank goodness, Azel (Cecilia’s playmate) went straight to him.
They were nowhere to be found; around the corner, across the block, the empty parking lot of the supermarket. They couldn’t have gone far. It’s almost like Cecilia intentionally changed location everytime just so he wouldn't find her.
The streets were quiet as always, hardly any cars hovered around. Thank goodness for that otherwise he would never have heard Simon’s loud voice echo from the alley they fought in.
“Tell us where Azel hid her doll!”
Simon was straddled on top of Cecilia, his two lackeys were tumbled over behind him. With a sudden headbutt to the nose, Cecilia knocked Simon off her.
“Cecilia!” Ren shouted worriedly.
“It’s Ren!” One of the lackeys shouted.
“Run!” Simon screamed, holding his bloody nose.
Ren ignored Simon and his crew, and quickly tended to his sister.
Cecilia threw an empty metal can after the bullies and yelled, “Yeah, that's right, you better run!”
Ren kneeled and examined Cecilia’s face, “Are you hurt?” A trail of blood ran down Cecilia’s cheek, and there was a large purple bruise on her forehead. Twas a stupid question honestly, he wasn’t sure why he even asked. The wound where the blood leaked from had already sealed, and the purple bruise faded to her normal skin color. He let out a sigh of relief, and hugged her tightly.
“Why did you pick a fight with them again?”
“They wanted to steal Azel’s doll!” Cecilia muffled against his chest. She tried to push him away, but Ren refused to let her go. “They were mad Nanny didn’t get them anything.”
“Jealousy,” said Ren. “That’s called jealousy.”
“Nooo, they were mad.”
“Jealousy can be another form of anger.”
“I don’t believe you,” Cecilia said sassily.
Ren released Cecilia and began to nitpick at her body for any other injuries. Although he knew all too well of Cecilia’s regenerative capabilities, he did it anyways out of worry.
Five years ago, the incident that took their parents was deemed “The Bloody Holiday.” It wasn’t just the hospital that was engulfed in flames, but all over the world as well. It took the lives of billions. No one knew what caused it, just that it was the spark to a unique generation.
“Daigo!” Cecilia said annoyingly as she slapped Ren’s hands away. “All my ouchies go away THIS fast!” Cecilia stretched her arms as wide as possible. “You know that!”
As soon as Cecilia was able to speak, Ren taught her to call him Daigo. The last word his father taught him.
Ren held Cecilia’s tiny hand, and walked her home. He looked up at the cloudless sky. He still couldn’t believe it was December. Even after five years, this was something hard for him to adjust to. Back home, when their parents were alive, he always played in the snow.
Normally when winter came around-it’s cold. Snow everywhere, leafless trees, a lot of frozen driveways and pipes, but not for Honolulu. In fact, winter didn’t exist. Such a paradise of the third largest island in the Sandwich islands was not allowed to have snow. Heck, Autumn didn’t exist either. The year consisted of only Summer and Spring. They would receive the occasional rain, and cold snaps but storms were an absolute joke. The amount of hurricanes and storms Honolulu avoided in the past caused the locals to ignore every warning in the past millennium.
Christmas was a fortnight away. Even during the Holidays, the streets were deserted. After all, there was no point. Technology had taken over the world. Everyone lived in full-dive VR. That’s where everyone made money, that’s where people made friends, it’s where everyone can live their imagination. People can travel the world without leaving their beds. Everyone could literally do anything they wanted without any repercussions.
“Ren! Cecilia!” Mrs. Lee, a senior lady who lived down the block waved them down. She sat beneath her usual patio table. The elderly made up the majority of the people who weren’t immersed in VR because they didn’t have the patience to learn and adapt to new technology.
“Hi, Mrs. Lee!” Cecilia waved back. She freed her hand and ran over.
“No running!” Ren shouted. A car screeched and stopped dead just a few feet away from Cecilia as she ran across the street. Ren’s heart skipped a beat. Thank goodness hover cars were capable of emergency stops when it detected a certain amount of body mass. Quite honestly, the mental damage Ren suffered from Cecilia’s close-calls were worse than real injuries.
“My goodness, you are fearless, aren't you?” Asked Mrs. Lee.
Cecilia let out a proud and gallant humph. She puffed her chest and posed with her fists on her waist. “Heroes aren’t scared of anything!”
Mrs. Lee laughed with joy and pet Cecilia’s head.
“Ren, you be sure to keep this hero in control, okay?” She stroked the dried up blood on Cecilia’s face. “I’m surprised Cecilia is still here. I was so sure the magic academy would have sent her an invitation.”
Cecilia looked confusingly back and forth at Mrs. Lee and Ren. and said, “For the last time his name is Daigo!”
With a soft chuckle, she gave Cecilia a hug. “You’re right, that is Daigo. Well, I wouldn’t mind it if you two didn’t go to the academy. You’re always welcome to visit. Now run along, I’m sure Nanny must be worried about you two.”
“For better or worse,” Ren said grossly.
“Bye-bye!” Cecilia waved to Mrs. Lee.
It was a silent walk back to the orphanage. Cecilia’s tiny legs had to work double time to keep up with Ren. At some point she began to skip and hop instead. Every line on the ground she came across, she treated as a large ditch. One of those games where you lose if you step on a line.
For the most part, Ren’s mind was focused on the magic academy that Mrs. Lee mentioned. It wasn’t only Cecilia that was granted an unexplainable ability from the Bloody Holiday. Tens of thousands of other people obtained a power of sorts. Since science failed to explain the how’s and the why's, naturally it was deemed as magic.
The academy was called “Fortissimum Magia,” and was made public only a year ago. Everyone that was gifted with magic was invited for the sake of understanding this new found power.
According to magazines and pamphlets, it was a proper dormitory school. Everyone was provided shelter, clothing, education, food, etc. In return, they were to use their abilities for scientists to observe and study.
Which concerned Ren, because they both had magic. Yet, they never received an invitation.
Once at the orphanage, Cecilia made one great leap and slashed her hand through the air in front of her as if she had a sharp weapon.
“You were a worthy foe,” she stood up and sheathed her imaginary weapon to her side.
Ren’s heart melted at Cecilia’s roleplay. Her wild imaginations always washed away his worries, even though she’s the cause of them. He looked up at the orphanage, a worn-down wooden duplex with four square windows.
“Daigo,” Cecilia latched onto his arm while looking up at him with scintillating eyes. “I want to listen to that story about the Spartans tonight.”
Ren smirked, “Okay.”
He turned the rusted knob and opened the door. There stood the three bullies in tears in front of Nanny.
“Then she punched me, and pushed me!” Simon sobbed.
Nanny, the matron of the orphanage glared at the entrance; at Ren and Cecilia. She had wrinkly brown hair that were slowly eaten by gray, a white frilly apron, and victorian-style cotton dress.
“Ren! Cecilia! Come here!” She yelled angrily and pointed at the ground in front of her.
They both walked forward, Cecilia more audacious than Ren.
“Why did you attack them again?” She asked furiously. “How many times do you have to hurt them until you’re satisfied, huh? What if you bruise them on the day people are here to adopt? Or worse, before open house!?”
“But Nanny! They were going to steal Azel’s doll!” Cecilia argued.
“I don’t want to hear any excuses, especially from you,” Nanny said in a nasty tone.
“It’s true!” Cecilia stood her ground. “They were picking on Azel, and--”
“Hush! Just because you think you’re better, you think you can do whatever you want with the other kids?” Her figure towered over Cecilia who only stood at about three feet. “You...witch…” She said disgustedly.
Cecilia shrunk before Nanny, and grew timid between her knees. Her brazen face fell apart and she began to whimper.
“Hey!” Ren pulled Cecilia behind him. “She’s not a witch, you old shrew. Learn to talk to kids or I’ll make you!” He glared straight into Nanny’s eyes with his head held high.
“You should be grateful that a saint such as myself even let you two stay in this orphanage despite your barbaric behavior,” she snapped back. “That’s why your parents didn’t want you in the first place!”
“Don’t you dare talk about Mom and Dad like that!’ Ren threatened. He pulled Cecilia over to the door. “For your information, our parents died in the Bloody Holiday! They didn’t desert us!” With the final word, he slammed the door and stormed off with Cecilia in hand.
“Daigo…” Cecilia said, worriedly. “What about Azel?”
With no answer whatsoever, he led Cecilia away from the orphanage. He didn’t know where he was going, just aimlessly strayed wherever his feet took him. He clenched his fist, disgusted by the countless times Nanny sided with the bullies. Everyone was too scared to tattle-tell on them, and because of that Nanny never made food for them as punishment. He and Cecilia had to roam the city at night for loose change and leftover food from trash. The bias treatment, the crappy food, the old broken and moldy duplex, Ren realized how blessed he was before.
It was drilled into his memories, the day their parents died. The first time he held Cecilia in his arms. How happy and snug she looked nestled against his chest. He remembered the promise he made with his father, the promise to look after his baby sister.
Easier fucking said than done! What was I supposed to do? Where do I go for help? We’re not even home, we’re on some island. I don’t have any money, I don’t know anyone here, I don’t...I don’t...what do I...what...
Ren yanked his arm away from Cecilia’s and began punching a nearby crosswalk pole. He even banged his head against it. The pain didn’t matter, the bruises didn’t matter either, he just needed something...something.
Cecilia rushed in and held down Ren’s left arm with her tiny body. Ren tried to throw another punch at the pole, but couldn’t. Cecilia kept his arm captive with every ounce of strength she could muster. Her tear dripped over his red knuckles, and the wound disappeared within seconds. A nice trait for Cecilia’s healing powers to help those around her.
Everyday was a reminder that Ren wasn’t the only one suffering. Cecilia was a victim too, just a baby. It was best she didn’t know anything about the Bloody Holiday. All they had were each other. If he broke down, what would happen to her?
Ren reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag of coins. Just barely enough for a small snack. They would have to split between the two of them. It would be a miracle if he could find something on sale, or a buy-one-get-one free.
Cecilia pulled herself away from Ren’s hand while they waited at the crosswalk.
“I’m a hero!” She boasted. “I can walk by myself.”
Ren snorted, and forced a smile. In a way, she resembled the heroic optimism that he had before they landed in the orphanage. “Come on, let’s go.”
In his opinion, she was the lucky one. She didn’t have memories of the Bloody Holiday. It was probably the reason why she never stopped protecting the other orphans despite always being treated unfairly. Nah, there was something more. Despite everything around her, she never stopped smiling, or laughing. She was supposed to have died at the night of the “Bloody Holiday,” yet here she was.
The automatic doors of the supermarket opened up and a gust of cold air rushed out. He kept his eyes peeled for anything that would at least get them through the night. To his fortuity, hallelujah! His prayers were answered. Beneath some glass heaters, a buy-one-get-one-free section for musubis that were about to expire the next day.
“Yes!” He exclaimed. He picked one in each hand and weighed them in hopes that one had more rice than the other. There was a variety too, which made it hard to choose. There was the normal musubis which was smaller, but also cheaper. Then there was one with egg and furikake mixed in it, but more expensive. He had to make a choice, the cheaper one would leave some leftover change for another time, or they can satisfy their taste buds tonight.
“Which one do you want, Cecilia?” There was no response.
He looked around him, she was not by his side. He turned around, she was nowhere in sight.
He stuffed the cheaper musubis in his pocket, and dropped his bag of change in the self-register. He ran down the isles, but she was nowhere to be found. He called her name, only for his echo to fade. There was no one here, aside from the one cashier at the front of the store.
“Excuse me! Have you seen my little sister? About this tall, brown hair?”
The cashier shook his head lazily, “As far as I know, you’re the only one that entered the store today.”
He ran out of the mart, and immediately heard the distant scream of Cecilia.
At the other side of the parking lot was a group of black suits, four of which restrained Cecilia.
“Let her go!” Ren yelled as he charged at them.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out two rocks. He had hoped he would never have to resort to it, but now was as good a time as any. Just like how Cecilia has regeneration magic, he had his own. He squeezed the rocks tightly in both hands, visualized what he wanted; a weapon, a sharp weapon, something throwable, a dagger. As if billions of tiny ants crawled throughout his body, that creepy feeling all flooded into the rock he held. Light emanated from his hand and morphed sporadically until it settled into Ren’s desired shape. The light shattered out of existence, and left behind a stone-shaped dagger.
Ren threw the dagger which impaled one of the guard’s legs. Surprised by the sudden creation of the weapon, their grip on Cecilia loosened, and she escaped.
“That kid has magic as well!” An old man from inside a limousine shouted. “There’s two of them! I’m rich! Capture the two of them, and all of you can expect a large bonus!”
Ren forced his way through the bodyguards. This time, he created a sword and long spike. He stood in front of Cecilia, and swung his weapons in a wide arc to scare the guards back.
With a swing of his blade, Ren cut open a guard’s cheek when he tried to rush him. Another guard stepped forward, and Ren threw his sword at him. Unfortunately it wasn’t the sharp end that hit him. The butt of the blade bounced off the guard’s nose. It still hurt plenty as the weapon was made from stone. It was, at the very least, enough to stop the guard in his track.
With the time gained from the first two guards, he quickly reached into his pockets to pull out more pebbles to transform. Ren dashed forward, he had to take the initiative to attack. If they all ganged up on him at once, it was over. He had to keep this fight to a one-on-one.
Ren slashed at the guards, and impaled them with spikes. It was fortunate these people didn’t have any weapons. From what that old man just shouted, he was clearly a slave trader. Specifically a trader of children with magic. He probably wanted Cecilia unharmed which was why nobody held weapons. Which worked to his advantage.
“Would you hooligans hurry up! It’s just two kids!” The old man shouted.
Ren could not let that slide. Since this old man knew they had magic, he was sure to come back for them. He’ll come prepared to use any means necessary to kidnap and sell them. If he got away now, they’ll be forced to leave the orphanage, the only place they had a bed and roof. It was do or die here, either kill the old man or traumatize him so badly he’ll never want to mess with them again. Unfortunately, he was in the car, so Ren did the only thing he could from where he stood. He threw a dagger at the old man and impaled him in the eye.
Ren smirked at how accurate his aim was.
There was a sudden surge of heat that seared through Ren’s chest. It became hard to breathe and his energy escaped rapidly by the second. He raised his hand and touched the part of his chest where it hurt. There was nothing but a sizzling hole. His arms dropped, the pebbles and sword clattered on the ground. His vision became blurry, his legs no longer had the strength to support his weight, and he collapsed.
He knew what his mistake was. He turned his back towards the guards just so he could get the old man. The harmless old bastard that wasn’t a threat. Had he focused on the guards, he probably wouldn’t have been shot.
Was it really a mistake though? Now the old man will never come for them.
“Daigo?” Cecilia’s voice was like a distant soft echo.
He could still see her, even if just her silhouette. Her hands pushed against him, “Daigoooo,” she whined. “Move!” At some point, her voice became a complete muffle.
His vision darkened by the second. It was so cold, he wanted to go to sleep. Was he dying? It was no good, he couldn’t keep himself conscious. He had to stay awake, for Cecilia’s sake. If he could just move his mouth, tell her how she could heal him. If he died now, who would watch over Cecilia?
Darkness engulfed him. Everything slowed. Then, a blinding light chased away the darkness. Ren woke up in a room he had long forgotten. A room filled with toy weapons of all kinds. Posters of old movies and animated films that all had one thing in common-heroes. Brave warriors who’s cape and back is the only thing you see before an army of foes, powerful people who didn’t fight for the sake of violence or glory; but because it was the right thing to do. He was back in his old room, before the Bloody Holiday took away his parents and home.
Everything was muted, no sound at all whatsoever. He sat up from his soft comfy bed, and looked around. The door to his room opened and his parents came in. They wore their usual work attire and lifted him out of bed. They spoke to him, their mouths moved, but everything was still mute.
W...wha...way...wake….ahp? Wake up?
Flames erupted everywhere, he was suddenly back at the burning hospital, his entire vision had a large crack in the center and it shattered into tiny pieces. The flaming face at the staircase laughed at him. Ren was suddenly falling with one-day-old Cecilia in hand into the fire head’s mouth. Everything disappeared after it closed its mouth on them. He was back in the darkness.
Suddenly his body was pulled up and out of the abyss that he sunk into. The next thing he knew, his eyes opened, and cold air flooded his lungs. He had no idea how long he had been out, but it must have been short because he was still in the parking lot of the supermarket. Except, it was much colder than normal. In his hand was something soft and wet.
“Thank--” said Cecilia. She sounded confused. Who did Cecilia apologize to? There was no else here, just Ren and Cecilia...and snow.
He sat up immediately at the fact that there was snow in Honolulu. Upon doing so, Cecilia threw herself onto him and stuffed her face into his chest. He tried to sit up, but Cecilia pressed down against him with all her might. His body felt like paper mache and she like a heavy boulder.
“When I grow up, I’m going to become a hero like you!” Cecilia cried.
Ren was incredibly stupefied. From what he could tell from his surrounding, not too much time had passed during the time he was out. Yet, the amount of snow here made it clear that there should have been a blizzard. The fact that Cecilia was still here meant that she never left his side. There was snow, in Oahu, in Honolulu, a climatically impossible occurrence. He grabbed a handful and crunched it in his hand. It was real.