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You are Odd (So am I)

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He hears that often—first rule, do not approach the Black Knight. Do not engage him, do not even acknowledge his presence; he will kindly make it known to your face that he prefers to kick you straight back to your mother’s womb—they said. And often times, his fists do that first even before his tongue can advocate for him. Good kids do not play with the Black Knight. Good kids do not even approach the Black Knight. Good kids study, behave well, stay within their sheltered circle.

And for what feels like forever, he follows suit. After all, he’s a star-student; his record is nothing but stellar; so well-liked that he is with near-perfect academic achievements, beautiful track record of community service caring for the poor and elderly, he whose peers place their hopes and dreams.

He is a rising phoenix out of the ashes that is the slum area of Tirnanog. The hope of the family and friends alike, a simple teenager who wishes to keep everything stellar until an elite university slaps him with a scholarship.

So he can free them all. So he can give back. To his Uncle Oifey, whom practically tearing soul and breaking bones just to raise him after the passing of his parents; to an Aunt Edain he knows, for being the mother he needs after the death of his parents. To the twins Ulster and Larcei who spend their days grilling burgers at any place willing to welcome them. To Lana who decides to don the habit so that nobody has to spare breads for her anymore.

All these times he keeps it as such. Modest, kind and always helpful. Never mind that his soul wails in anxiety each time they send beaded prayers to him—lift us, Seliph, rise from this scorched land…

Well-behaved people do not make history, they said. But he does not want to make history. He wants to survive to help others, so well-behaved it is then. It’s not like he craves for adventures, anyway—looking back into himself in its own is already scary, let alone having to trace untaken paths and unknown roads.

Therefore, it is only understandable that he is confused. Good kids do not engage the Black Knight—this supposed abomination, stain of perfect school for the chosen. Yet there he is, voice coarse but deep akin to a mighty lion of the plains—barking at him.

“That’s my desk, dipshit.”

He blinks.

“Are you gonna move, or should I deck you to?”

He apologizes without moving. “Oh, so you take this class like me. We are both students then?”

At that time he stretches his hand, offering a handshake. Said Black Knight scoffs, hammering his fist against his palm. However said Black Knight cancels his plan, dragging his rusty backpack to the desk next to his, looking sour yet not uttering anything afterwards.

He parts his baguette lunch for him under the desk. When said Black Knight glares at him like he’s this foolish person in the world begging for a death sentence, he simply says he feels like he recognizes that look—the tiredness, the exhaustion, the questioning of oneself—the hunger. He says he knows what it feels to be hungry, feeling like it’s only you against the world.

Said Black Knight roughly grabs the bread, calls him son of a bitch—but blinking again when he, tries to defuse the situation, chuckles.

“If only. My mother is dead.”

Said Black Knight eats the baguette in two big bites before muttering a reply, however.

“… Same.”

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cuz I don’t think that they’d understand…

“Old song,” he mutters casually.

“What of it?” said Black Knight growls back.

“Nothing…” he smiles. “Sometimes you can’t help but feeling how life was better in the past.”

He does not reply.


 

For days ahead he encounters him. He notices these things about the abominable lion—like it is common for him to show up late, to not show up at all, to give a middle finger to a teacher, to shove tough-looking, student athlete kids heads-first against the locker, to actually share lunch with an underpaid exhausted janitor. And he will smile, wave, part another bread, points out that he really thinks Black Knight does not suit him.

“Why?”

“Because you’re not evil?”

Said Black Knight yanks his pigtail, making a gesture like he is about to slam his face against the lockers like he did the basketball captain, the soccer team’s striker, the karate kid from AP history class—or some nameless person he caught tying a kitten into a pole, some other creep he busted for soliciting a neighboring middle-schooler…

“Still not?”

“Being evil to make a point doesn’t sound like enough proof of malice to me…” he chuckles, tidying back the hair said Black Knight just grabbed. He hears this thing about him too—beastly strength, again they said; yet if that is the case, then his footprint on him is not supposed to be… gentle.

“You’re weird,” the blond-haired beast says.

“Thank you,” he chuckles. Only then he notices his eye colors correspond to his hair color—fiery yet bleak; yet that hair is shiny and lustrous like… life.

Perhaps he is projecting, but he swears he thinks the beast is secretly screaming for help; for… life.

When everything feels like the movies
Yeah, you bleed just to know you're alive

Of course that day he has another thing to learn—that said Black Knight may like this song way too much, as if it is the only song occupying his earphones, played on rinse-and-repeat.

He wonders what the beast will do when his phone runs out of battery.


 

He gasps, looking at his own palm.

It’s red, red—liquid red, and the beast whimpers beside him. So much in pain that the beast is to shoo him away; his ferociously beautiful eyes are not even open to shoot that legendary dagger-glare everyone is talking about.

“What… happened?”

“What else?”

“You need help.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Your parents?”

The beast pauses. In silence which feels like forever, he chuckles bitterly. “There is no such a thing.”

“The man who drives you to school everyday?”

“Whatever you call him.”

“And the fights?”

“Someone needs to collect things.”

“… But isn’t that…”

“Yeah?”

He pauses. Unfazed he holds him, disregarding the blood oozing out of his wounds, feeling so confused because seeing the beast in such state somehow makes him so… angry. Angry, angry, angry. Who hurt him? Who made him do this? Why? Can’t he leave? Can’t he escape? Can he take him escape? ….

More importantly there is this growing, growing sadness swelling inside his chest, suffocating him, snapping his veins one by one.

“You need help.”

“No.”

“I’m calling your… guardian?”

“Call him when I’m dead.”

“Don’t say that!”

“Why?”

“Because…”

And I don't want the world to see me
'Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

He cannot let out an answer.

“… Your music is still playing.”

“I know that, dumbass.”

“… Police then?”

“Yes, when I’m dead.”

“… Stop saying that every so often…”

“What is it with you, asshole?”

“Ambulance?”

“A fucking what again?”

“I’m registering you to a nearby clinic so we don’t have to queue.”

“… Oi.”

“Lean on me.”

“As if.”

“Already done…”

“I thought that shirt is costly. You’re one of the good kids after all.”

“Really? I thought that spiky leather jacket is.”

“Ridiculous, I’m not one of the good kids.”

“You are.”

“Oi.”

“… It’s Seliph, you know?” he chuckles with trembling voice. “Weird that we encountered each other without even knowing names.”

“Does it matter? I’ve called you other things.”

“You can always add ‘Seliph’ in between.”

“… Your voice croaks.”

“Probably.”

“… Don’t cry, asshole, I’m not going to die.”

“I hope so!”

“… Hey.”

“I… hope…”

Said Black Knight sighs. “Please don’t cry, Seliph.”

This time he blinks.

“Not you too,” the beast murmurs. “Alright. Call the fucking clinic.”

“You are indeed one of the good ones,” he chuckles again; laughter being premature,  held in his throat but not in his eyes. “You did not even open your eyes. I thought…”

“Then stop thinking.”

“I’m sorry. I’m used to looking at them…”

“… What?”

“Is it bad? They are pretty.”

“Stop thinking, I said—“

“Oh, here you go. Gods—what is your name again?”

Suddenly the beast chuckles. “Fuck this. I’m Ares.”

And I don't want the world to see me
'Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

“… Done. Let’s hail a taxi.”

“Seriously now?”

“Yes?”

“I think people with nice hair are annoying indeed.”

“Speak for yourself—Ares.”

His music is still playing even when Seliph helps him to stand. He grunts. Suddenly the pain he silences all along comes to life, demanding him to feel. To acknowledge that it is there, waiting for him all these times to be regarded as a part of him.

“… Seliph?”

“Yes?”

“… I’m fucking wounded here—why are you giving me such gentle look?”

“I don’t know.”

“Think then.”

“You told me not to.”

“… Alright, don’t.”

Seliph chuckles again.

“… Seliph?”

“What?”

“Testing new name in my mind?”

“You sound like you are dying enough to say these things—Ares.”

“No need to call me. Only us here, who the fuck are you talking to—a ghost?”

“Testing new name?”

“You’re odd.”

“Wine is expensive; name is free.”

He slings his arm over the beast’s shoulder, carrying him to where they can hail a taxi.

“… Hrrgh.”

“You are in pain…”

“I can feel it, so it’s not that bad.”

“This happens often?”

“Who are you—a TV reporter?”

“I’m Seliph.”

“And that’s a taxi. What’s your fucking point?”

“Right, right, a taxi—TAXI! … There, it stops.”

You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't wanna go home right now

“Seliph?”

“Ares?”

“… Ride with me to the clinic?”