Chance - Fast-learners Are Not Cool
“Hey.” He waved his hand. The look on his was face was too familiar. It was as if I had seen him somewhere. Even his voice was stirring up something in my head. He extended his hand and shook ours. “I hope that I won’t be too much of a bother.”
“No worries.” Jaden chirped. A bit more joyfully than I had expected him to be. “I don’t think I will ever get bothered by meeting new people. But if you want to bother a few kids our age, the best person to bother is Chance over here.”
“Hey.” I greeted, almost awkwardly. It was because I was kind of expecting him to say that we have met before. But he didn’t. He seemed to be that typical kid who just moved in a few blocks away. To be honest, he sounded like Dylan when he moved in into the neighborhood. “And don’t mind Jaden. He’s good at bothering people.”
“Yeah, he actually is.” Caitlyn butted in. Her smirk gave me the signal that I should support her bullying. Or else her attention would have blasted off at me. “It’s a wonder why you were not even bothered with this guy. I only wanted you to meet Chance, but he just had to be at Jaden’s house at this time. Sorry about that.”
“Well, Jaden seems to be a pretty normal guy to me.” Trevor replied and smiled with a little bit of nervousness. Caitlyn just made a rash comment. He knew that he might get bullied too soon if he went into the crossfire. “I think he’s actually a friendly guy.”
“See? At least this new kid knows how to appreciate me!” Jaden’s voice almost broke with his high-pitched emphasis. But of course, he knew we were just jerking him around. There was never a day that we didn’t, after all. It was just how the way things go.
“It’s too soon to say that.” I said. Then I looked at the blonde-haired kid. His blue eyes seemed to know that I was fixated with how familiar he was to me. “Once Trevor here warms up to everyone, he’ll realize that he’s on the losing side. He’s bound to change sides. And you’ll be avoiding Jaden, too.”
“Yeah, Chance is right.” Caitlyn agreed with a nod. “Anyway, why don’t we go ahead at the local park and check if the other two are there. You know how much Dylan dislikes waiting. And to make things worse, he can be such an early bird when we all meet like this.”
“You two are hopeless!” Jaden exclaimed a bit loudly and almost waved his arms around. Then he went back inside. “I’ll go tell my mom first where I’m off too. Or else I might get grounded.”
Caitlyn and I just laughed at him while Trevor just wondered at our antics. It would have been weird for him at first, but he’ll get the hang of it hopefully. A year of our random bullying sessions would do it.
When we walked away from Jaden’s house, I noticed that even Trevor’s way of walking was familiar. It was as if he had been a long, lost friend. The way he looked at me was almost nostalgic. His voice stirred something within me as if I’ve heard his voice before. But also, at the same time, he was a new guy in town. He’s familiar, and at the same time, he’s not.
“Hey, Trevor.” I called unto him. “Have we met somewhere before?”
“I don’t think so.” He replied. But his tone was dismissive.It was quick and almost sullen. My heart thumped at the sudden cold reply. However, Jaden and Caitlyn didn’t notice it. “Your name is kind of unique. I would have remembered it if we have met before.”
His tone suddenly changed positively. From the look on his face, his first statement was some sort of mistake. Trevor’s eyes darted away as if he made a shameful error. Then they narrowed as if he was calculating something. Then he looked back at me with an awkward smile.
“He’s right, Chance.” Caitlyn agreed with a sharp nod. “If you two met each other before, he would have at least remembered your name. I don’t think I have met someone else with the same name as you.”
“Yeah.” I said softly. It was all I could muster. It was almost a sigh of defeat. For some reason, I knew that I was right. The problem was, I don’t have a clue on how to prove my claim. “Sorry, he was just sort of familiar to me. Even his voice was kind of familiar and the way he walked. I just wondered if we have met before.”
There it was, for a split-second, Trevor smiled. And I felt a wave of awkwardness between him and me. He was sort of playing with me. I was just dumbfounded at the way he was pretending. It was driving me to some kind of paranoia.
“Maybe he walks the same way as one of our friends does.” Jaden suggested, but I didn’t buy it. Then he looked at me straight to the eye. For some reason, he felt I was troubled by Trevor’s familiarity. “Or he was our friend from long before, and we all had amnesia. Then we forgot who he is, and he also forgot who we are.”
“Now that’s too far-fetched!” Caitlyn shook her head.
“Well, it explains why we were all able to easily get along with him.” Jaden defended his exaggerated claim. “Am I right, Chance?”
“Sorry Jade. You are my best friend and all, but I wouldn’t be buying that kind of story.” I chuckled. He just crossed his arms and kept on walking. “That sounds stupid.”
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s even possible.” Trevor added. Then he got a nasty stare from Jaden. But of course, he didn’t really mean it. We all knew that Jaden can be very playful, especially with people who doesn’t really know him. He would always try to mess them up. “I wonder why Chance thinks I’m familiar.”
“I actually have no idea.” Caitlyn shrugged. “It could be your hair. Or the way your voice pitches. Or maybe even the blondness of your hair.”
And when I looked at her, she wasn’t moving. Her mouth was still open as if she was about to say something. Jaden had his eyes close, and Trevor was just about to take another step. However, none of them were moving. None of them were talking, either. I waved my hands in front of Caitlyn and almost pricked her eye, but she didn’t flinch.
When I looked around, even the birds in the air were hovering above us. Their wings stopped flapping, and they were not gliding in the air. A car was passing by and was also frozen in place. From afar, I could see a group of girls playing with a jumping rope, and they were hovering in mid-air.
Then I felt a person standing right behind me. The breathing was kind of slow and tender. It was almost gentle and light. However, I didn’t find the courage to look who was behind me. The presence of the person was just there.
“Can you feel it?” He simply asked. His voice was familiar and was almost identical to mine. It was cold but comforting. Almost as if I was talking to myself. “I know you could feel it, Chance Valentine.”
“I don’t feel anything.” I replied stiffly. My breath was short, and I might not be able to say another complete sentence. And when I looked at the skies, it suddenly turned dark and was slowly turning to a bloody color. “What the hell?”
The hair on my arms stood as I saw the clouds started forming a circular pattern as if it was gathering into a powerful storm. My throat went dry. I wanted to take a step backward, but I couldn’t get the strength I needed to. It was as if I was drained of the power to do anything.
“I know you could see that.” The person behind me said. It was as if I was in some sort of delusion. But I felt that what I was seeing was real. The crimson sky was twirling around as if a black hole was trying to it. “We must stop it.”
“Stop what?” I almost shrieked. My voice wavered in fear. But deep down, I already know what the person was pertaining to. The sky seemed angry with its deep red color and the way it was violently gathering into the middle.
“The darkness.” The person behind me whispered. His voice was firmer than before, even if it was just a whisper. It was then I realize that the person behind me was a boy. And probably he wasn’t far from my age with the way his voice pitched. “We must stop the darkness.”
Then the view before me suddenly changed. Blood was suddenly everywhere, and I saw lifeless bodies in front of me. My fingers twitched, and my eyes were trying to shut close. But my mind was trying to process the image. Instead, my sight was glued to the corpses as if it was to mentally torture me.
The first person I recognized was Jaden, who had a massive hole in his chest. Beneath him was a pool of blood. His eyes were still wide open, and was in shock. Blood dripped down from the corner of his mouth, and was laid lifeless on the floor.
A few meters away from him was Anya, whose head was cracked open. Dylan was draped over her body as if he was protecting her. There was an enormous gaping wound on his neck as if it was bitten off.
Next were my parents, who were reclining beside each other. Both of them also had gaping wounds on their necks, similar to Dylan’s. A metal rod ruptured my dad’s chest, and it went through to the other side. That moment felt like it was there forever, and I barely had the energy to move.
“We must stop that, Chance.” The boy behind me said again. “We can stop it.”
“Yes.” I croaked. My voice was shaky, and my knees wobbled. It was a sight I was not prepared for. My lips were dry, and I had no guts to look further. “How can we stop it?”
But before I could hear an answer, I was back with my friends.
“Or it’s the blueness of your eyes.” Caitlyn continued on.
“Chance, are you okay?” Trevor suddenly asked me. And I was snapped out of my thoughts. Even Caitlyn and Jaden stopped from their walking. They all looked at me with questioning eyes. A hint of worry was on Jaden’s. He always seemed to be one who can understand me the most. “You looked like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I’ m… I’m fine.” I lied. “I just thought I left the toaster still plugged in. Mom would kill me if I forgot to unplug her appliances. You know how annoying moms can be.”
“Well, you seem sort of pale if you asked me.” Trevor added.
“It’s his natural color.” Caitlyn assured him. Then her eyes narrowed, and tried to inspect me closer. It caused me to step back and raised my arms between her and me. “But yeah, you seem more pale than usual. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Caitlyn.” I said firmly. “Drop it off.”
“Sure, sure. Sorry about that.” She replied as enthusiastically as she can. But at the corner of my eye, Jaden was looking at me with serious eyes. I was sure that he would be taking note of this incident. “Anyway, we’re still a block away. Dylan will surely be there by now.”
I wanted to tell Jaden what was happening to me. But surely, he won’t understand a thing. Or worse, he might altogether avoid me. And that was going to hurt. A lot. Then I also remembered what the man in the alley said. If Jaden knew, then he would be involved. After seeing the vision, involving him was the last thing I wanted.
As expected, Dylan was already there. Beside him was Anya, who was fidgeting on her phone. He wasn’t really agitated at the fact that we had to make them wait for almost thirty minutes. When he saw the new kid with us, he knew he had to behave, or else he would have pushed Trevor away. After the exchange of introductions, I was pretty sure he was calm and contented.
“So, where do we go next?” Dylan asked us. His demeanor seemed to be a little enthralled by our new accomplice. It had been a while since we made a new friend. And hopefully, one that will last. “At least we can tour Trevor around our small town. Looks like he’s going to be here for a while.”
“So, where do you live, Trevor?” Dylan casually asked.
“I live by…uh, I think it was Chestnut street.” The kid replied. One of his brows was raised from the uncertainty of his answer. “I think you would see a moving truck in front of there by now.”
“He lives next door to my house.” I mechanically said. Everybody’s eyes lit up so suddenly like there was a birthday gift that was opened. “I was just wondering this morning if they have a kid our age. Looks like you are the answer to that question.”
“Seems like it.” Trevor agreed. His smile was warm and too genuine. I actually was skeptical about that for some reason. “It’s good to know that the kid next door would be a good friend of mine.”
“Likewise.” I replied.
“Well, we still don’t have a good place in mind to hang around.” Jaden complained a bit loudly. “Normally, kids our age would be stuck doing something on their gadgets. I guess our parents should be proud.”
“I have no idea why that’s relevant.” Caitlyn butted in. Then based on her face, the thought actually struck her. “But yeah, I somehow agree with you for once.”
“I guess the Arcade sounds good.” Jaden suggested. Everybody looked at each other. Trevor had no idea what to say, so he was just merely expectant. “Let’s try to teach Trevor a few arcade tricks.”
“I think that’s a good idea. Arcade, it is.” Dylan decided. Then he turned to Trevor with a sly and cunning voice. “Just don’t get too competitive. Chance and Jaden usually sweeps the floor. You wouldn’t want any part of their wargames.”
“Hey! Don’t rob us of a new challenger.” Everyone just laughed at his snarky side-comment.” Jaden exclaimed. “Let him have our usual welcome in the arcade.”
Within a few minutes, we’re already in the arcade on the other side of town. Jaden was pretty much hyped the moment we got there. The rest of us wasn’t really as bouncy as he is. That was simply Jaden being Jaden. Trevor was simply trying to fit in and was trying to make a side-comment here and there. Meanwhile, the vision kept going back to the image I saw from before. And my mind would be still for a few moments before I would catch myself and try to wake up from that awful trance.
Jaden and Dylan started playing one of those shooting games while Anya and Caitlyn were behind them as they played. They were whispering about something, but I wasn’t really trying to eavesdrop on them. Trevor was intent on trying to learn what the game was about based on the other two playing it. I, on the other hand, fell silent. My eyes were darting back forth as if the man from the alley would suddenly appear. Suddenly, Caitlyn sat beside me.
“Are you alright, Chance.” She asked. Then when I looked at her eyes, there was worry inside of it. It was speaking to me as if she wants to know what was going on. But of course, I won’t really budge. Like Jaden, I wasn’t planning to drag her along this weird phenomenon.She was also my close friend, and I felt the urge to protect her. “You seem to be shaken up by something a while ago. What’s up?”
“I’m fine.” I lied, barely managing to break out a small smile. But the worry on her face never left her. “There is nothing to be worried about.”
“I don’t think you are.” Caitlyn frowned at me. Then she brought her face near to mine as if she was trying to intimidate the answer out of me. She always had this skill to know whether she was being lied to or not. Caitlyn was practically a living lie-detector. And I have always wondered who can ever fool her. “If you keep on lying, so be it. But I am definitely not buying it.
“Come on.” I mumbled and scratched the back of my head. “Give me a break, Caitlyn. I already told you I’m fine. You could at least drop it off.”
“Did Jaden tell you something inappropriate?” She suddenly asked. I was just bewildered at her question. At least she was far from the actual answer. “I could dish him out for you. Just say the word.”
“Wait, no!” I waved my hand and shook my head. “You already know how Jaden thinks, right? He is always and always protective of me. There’s no way he’s going to make me uncomfortable. I don’t think he isn’t capable of that. For all we know, he may just be as worried as you are.”
“You’re actually right.” Caitlyn sighed. “It’s just you look so shocked a while. Like someone was killed right in front of you. Your expression got me all worried. That’s all.”
“Really?I didn’t know a toaster could make me feel as nervous like that.” I chuckled and tried to shrug it off. It seemed that my face did worry everyone else around me. Caitlyn was just the first one to express it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jaden asked me about it later on.
“Chance, I’m here for you.” Caitlyn’s words were reassuring. “If you want someone to hear you out, don’t hesitate to approach me.”
“Hey, don’t take Dylan’s job.” I smiled at her. “Besides, Jaden might get jealous as well if I get a little bit too open with you.”
Then Anya tugged her shirt and asked her to try something on the other side of the arcade. Trevor was still watching the other two, and he seemed to be enjoying the company. I just stayed silent. And I was thankful for moments like those. I realized that whenever I’m withdrawn, I’ll notice how noisy everyone really was. I’d hear their laughs and the sounds they make. Then I would listen to the stories they would tell and even the emotions they would try to hide.
“Hey, Chance. Let’s play some.” Trevor suddenly tugged my shirt. “We didn’t go here to watch someone else have fun. Am I right?”
“Sure.” I replied. It got me a bit perplexed that he would be bold enough to ask me for a match. Besides, I needed to get my mind off of the hellish vision. “You’re right.”
We scanned around and picked a two-player fighting game. The two of us sat beside each other before inserting the tokens into the slot. He seemed to be clueless at the game we were going to play.
I picked my second-best character, and he chose a random one. Trevor ended playing as my best character. It was already an advantage for me because I already knew the attacks of the character. There was already a handicap, and there was no way I would let him take the upper hand, even if he was a beginner.
The battle started, and Trevor took the initiative. His character just kept attacking mine randomly. It seemed that he was just trying to check what kind of attacks his character can pull-off. However, I already knew what to expect, so I just kept blocking most of his attacks. Then he attacked me with a move that leaves his character open. I took the chance and lunged his character into the air. I managed to pull off a successful air-combo, which consumed more than half of his character’s life.
He tried to recover and launch a counter-attack, but I was already anticipating his next move. It left him quite open again, and I just had to take the chance. The next combo I used was almost an overkill and knocked his character out for the first round. It would always give me the thrill of having the upper-hand. I think anyone would.
“Nice.” Trevor exclaimed. There was a glint of excitement in his blue eyes. It was as if he said it with sarcasm. “I’m beginning to like this game.”
“I assume you have never played it yet.” I replied.
“No, I haven’t.” He admitted. “We don’t have these kinds of games back where I grew up. I must say, I’m glad to be able to live here.”
“Well, that kind of sucks.” I shrugged. “That would have been pretty boring.”
The second round started, and he took the initiative. He began with a short combo composed of a few jabs. There was a change of combo, and I took the bait, which left my character open. He was able to do a short combo on me, but he only dealt with minimum damage. I was able to quickly recover and took the initiative this time. However, he could pull off a successful counter attack. It was immediately turned it into a combo. My character was cornered into a wall and pulled off another combo, knocking out my character for the second round.
“Wow, you’re learning fast.” I exclaimed. “Too fast.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.” He replied with a grin. Meanwhile, Jaden and Dylan were already watching behind us. “This is actually fun!”
“Yeah, it’s fun for us too.” Jaden cheered. Then looked at me with a devilish smile on his face. “It’s been a while since Chance got his butt kicked in that game. If he wasn’t my best friend, I would have bet against him.”
The third round started, and it was the tie-breaker. I was the one aggressive this time and pulled out a confusing set of combos and tried to make him take the bait and leave him open. I was cutting off my combo mid-way and was trying to confuse Trevor. However, he got really good at canceling off my combo mid-way with well-timed blocks. It would always leave my character open for a split-second. At first, he was just going for jabs and small kicks to diminish my life little by little.
After seeing his strategy, I changed mine. I started with a smaller combo to avoid getting it canceled and leaving me open. I didn’t give him any open doors, and I was slowly getting the upper hand. It was then I noticed that his hands were slowly glowing blue. But it wasn’t too bright for anyone else to notice it. And I think I saw a small electric current at the tip of his fingers.
When I looked at his character, he managed to pull off a swift but substantial attack. I knew because it’s hard to pull it off because of the series of commands needed to be used on the joystick. It left me open, and he used it. In just two sets of combos, my character was knocked out again for the second time. I lost.
“I can’t believe it.” I groaned in disbelief. “You won.”
“I can’t believe it either!” Jaden thundered. Then he kept laughing at me. I was just dumbfounded at my loss. “Did you see your face?”
“I have never seen anyone beat Chance at that game.” Dylan said with his arms crossed and his has was of disbelief as well. “Congrats, Trevor. You’re the best newbie I have seen in my entire life.”
“Are you sure you haven’t played this game before?” I asked Trevor.
“I told you, this is the first time I’ve played this game. I’m just a fast learner, and I have always been that way.” He put a hand on my shoulder to make sure I was a good sport. Losing would always tick me off. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was a new addition to the group, then I would’ve been more pissed than I should’ve. “I think this is what they call as beginner’s luck.”
The rest of the day went by so fast. My awkwardness with Trevor was just at first, and I already warmed up to the guy. He may feel really familiar, but that may only have been me. From the arcade, Dylan, Anya, and Caitlyn left us because they had to go home as well. It was faster for them by taking a different route from ours. Soon, we were able to leave Jaden at his house. It was a good thing that he forgot to confront me with what Caitlyn asked before. Otherwise, I would have to cover lie over another to lie just so he wouldn’t worry. And once he discovers the real reason, I’m sure that he would be really hurt.
A few blocks away were my house and his. Trevor and I seemed to hit it off after that, and I discovered that we had a lot in common. It would seem that he also loved being alone every once in a while. Simply to take a rest from all the socializing. Especially with a person as loud as Jaden, it can be a bit taxing a few times here and there.
While we were walking towards our houses, we saw a man in front of us. And the way he looked at me was very creepy. His silvery-blonde hair was combed back neatly, and a black coat was draped over his shoulders. His hands were behind him as if he was waiting patiently for Trevor and me. The closer we get to him, the more his hair became less blonde and became more silvery-white. Most of his dress-code was black, and his eyes were not wavering from me. Trevor stopped and raised his arm the moment he recognized the man’s face.
“I didn’t expect that you would actually be sent on such a dangerous duty.” The man started speaking. I was expecting it was the man from the alley, but he had a different voice tone. Only then I knew that it was a separate person. “You’re obviously belittling me if you would be guarding the vessel alone.”
Then the man pulled one of his hands behind him, and a black flame ignited from his left hand. A long, dark blade suddenly appeared on his right as he shot the black fireball at us. Trevor suddenly raised his other hand, and lightning shot from his palm. It intercepted the fireball and disintegrated in mid-air. Suddenly, Trevor glowed into a bright blue light like the lightning that was fired from his palm. In a flash, he had his foot onto the man’s chest, kicking him a few meters away. Five rods made out of lightning appeared behind him and, with a flick of a finger, jolted towards the man. It caused the man to spark brightly and disintegrated him into nothingness.
It happened so fast. One moment, Trevor was beside me. Then the next thing I knew, he just vaporized the person in front of us. Before I could speak a word, I felt a blade at my throat. The man was behind me and had me as a hostage. But based on Trevor’s eyes, he didn’t flinch when he saw the situation.
“Trevor, help.” I managed to croak. My body won’t move, and I suddenly felt so helpless. I knew I had the power to defend myself, but not this time. It took all my strength not for me to faint and collapse. Even my knees were wobbling, and my throat felt dry all of a sudden.
“His name is not Trevor.” The man behind me stated. “His name is Ventus Antonaidis, from the House of Yeter’ el and Azshara. And he’s Israfil’s best friend.”