Chapter 23: Out of The Cocoon

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Now that Kenny was high on adrenaline, Jered slowed down. The blustery winds tapered off into a sweet breeze. They were almost at their destination anyway—not that they needed to get there. “Can you see them?” he said with an anticipatory edge, pointing forward. Kenny flung his eyes from Jered’s finger towards the road ahead. A black SUV was racing onward with music blasting out of its trunk’s speakers. “That’s Carter’s car. Victor and Lloyd must be there as well, hmmm.” his foot pressed down, and the Jaguar hummed delightfully as it regained its former speed. 

“J-Jered?” Kenny froze, “Oh my God, Jered… I-I wanna get out, please!”

“…”

“I beg you!! T-This is not fun!”

Jered wore an apologetic smile, “You need this, Ken.”

“Need… this? No! No! I-I don’t—”

“Just look… look at how terrified they’ll be.” he cast a ‘Low Conceal’ on the Jaguar. A pulse of mana enshrouded the car in a mimetic mantle. It didn’t turn completely invisible, but it was enough for the surprise factor. It didn’t take long before both vehicles were perfectly aligned, spearheading forth at the same speed, on the same lane. Carter didn’t notice the new addition coming from behind until it was too late. 

A bump rocked the SUV, but it held strong. “What the f***!” Carter whipped his head to the side, snarling at the Jaguar. He could swear the driver was familiar, “You m***********! Where did you even come from!” in a fit of mindless rage, he swiveled the steering wheel to his right—much to Victor and Lloyd’s terror. The SUV bashed against the Jaguar, or at least it tried to. Jered protected the car with a strong burst of ‘Low Telekinesis’. 

“Jered! Stop!” Kenny was on the verge of passing out. Poor fellow. There he was, all dolled up for what he believed was going to be a chill night out, yet it had barely been 15 minutes since they departed that he already had experienced his first heart attack—and was currently well on his way for a second one. He wanted to cry. “Pleeeeeeease!” another collision reeled him. Jered had the Jaguar’s bumper constantly glued against the SUV’s door, trying to steer it off-road.

It was a tough task. Still, after a nauseating war of attrition, the Jaguar, with Jered’s spellwork auxiliary, bested the SUV’s sturdy carapace. “S***, s***, s***, s***!” Carter was wigged out. He lashed the helm left and right, but the vehicle had already gone out of control. His expression crumpled in sheer fright as his SUV spiked through the road’s guardrail and flipped over the steep, rolling down in a volley of fragments against a tree. The windshield was cracked, the hood was bent inward, and the passengers were most likely—hopefully—in a bad shape, if not dead.

“Oh no… we… we… we killed them…” Kenny covered his mouth, his face blanched. 

Jered drove closer to the crash site. A faint cloud of smoke was billowing up from the SUV, and he could see some movement inside. “I don’t think they’re dead… not yet,” he unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out of the Jaguar. “Come with me, Ken.”

“You… you… what did you just say? J-Jered… you’re scaring me… w-was this the prank you talked about?”

“Huh? No… the true prank is about to start now,”

“…”

Jered skirted around the car and opened the co-pilot door, “You can’t back down now, Ken. Come on, let’s go,”

“No!!” Kenny scurried back, but there was no more space to retreat to, “W-Why are you doing this,” and then tears flowed down, black from the eyeliner. 

“I’m doing this for you, Ken,” Jered crouched down, his eyes softening. “I’m your friend… and… I couldn’t stand those guys pushing you around like that. Are you scared of me?”

“I… I… ughh!!” Kenny groaned, sniffling. “W-We need to call an ambulance… t-they might still be alive…”

“No.”

“What…”

Jered stood back up and ambled towards the wreck that used to be Carter’s SUV, “We’ll get into a lot of trouble if we let them live. They saw us.” 

It was obvious what he was going to do. Kenny’s eyes splayed wide open as he wrestled free from the seatbelt and staggered towards Jered. Murder. That word made Kenny sick. “That’s too far! Jered, don’t do that! Oh God…” he regretted wearing heeled boots for it curbed his already unsteady walking motions. “Jereeed!” he slipped one foot down the broken guardrail, trying to gain a foothold on the steep. Unfortunately, his abrupt shift of weight broke his balance, and he was sent tumbling down. 

Instead of meeting the cold, dirty ground, a set of arms caught him. “Be careful, Ken…” Jered’s voice was a mellow liquor for Kenny’s unprepared ears. Could someone get drunk like that? Kenny was already under the adrenaline’s effects, he didn’t need his heart to beat faster than it already was. 

“I’m fine…”

“Then look at me,”

“…”

“Ken…”

Kenny dragged his eyes up, locking onto Jered’s. It was a stupid idea. In the moonlit woodland road, his friend’s green pools glowed with an eerie glint that made his pulse skyrocket. “W-What…”

“I know, Ken… it’s my fault. I’m sorry. I lied because I knew you wouldn’t have approved, you’re too kind-hearted, even to them. And they deserve it, you’re aware of that…”

“I hate them, yes, but m-murder should not be an option,”

Jered nodded with a grin, “No, it’s a choice. It’s morally wrong, it can get you in heaps of trouble, and it will make you feel like s***. You’re right, Ken. We shouldn’t do this, but it’s because we shouldn’t that we should. Stop grappling onto that useless sense of justice you’ve been indoctrinated with. Stop seeing things in black or white. Stop holding yourself back.” he clutched his shoulders, “What the hell, buddy. STOP. Just STOP. Why are you trying to be a good, obedient idiot? What’s the advantage? Do you get paid to follow rules or something? Live your life like you have nothing to lose, and you won’t ever lose.”

“…”

“I told you, Ken. I told you… we can’t back down now. We’ve come too far to go back. If we do, it’s over. For us. If we let them go, hmm, let me guess. We’ll be seen as the bad guys, predictable. They’ll be treated as the victims. A bucket of s*** will fall upon us. We’ll be sent to juvenile court for attempted murder. Your father’s business will be affected due to the bad propaganda that is bound to follow. And in this whole trainwreck, Carter, Victor, and Lloyd are going back to school, victimizing themselves further, and everyone will be there to lick their asses because that’s how life f****** works. What about us? We’re doing the right thing, even if it’s wrong, it’s still right… not for others, for the school, or for society. But for us.”

“I… I…” Kenny struggled with himself. Hell, he didn’t even know why he was considering it, but as Jered said, it may have been too late to have second thoughts. “I n-need to think, I need to take a breather,”

“We don’t have time…”

“F***! I know! Just… just let me be…”

A grunt roped Jered and Kenny’s attention towards the SUV. Through the shattered window, a battered and bloodied Carter crawled out. “H-Help…” his voice was cracked, whiny, laced in blinding pain. “Help…” his forehead was caked in blood, his right arm dangling, bent at an unnatural angle. Carter’s eyes landed on them—and amidst the curtains of pain—that nagging familiarity turned into recognition. “W-What… you… you… f***…”

Jered strode to him with unsettling leisure. “Carter…” he stared him down with a cheerful smile, “How have you been?”

Déjà vu.

“You… you did this?!” Carter’s body ached with the slightest of movements. “I-I’m gonna f****** kill you!!” he roared, spittle flying out. However, it was just a show. With his current condition, he was all bark and no bite. It was amusing, exhilarating. It reminded him of Kirby getting beaten the other day. The feeling of superiority. And that same feeling was now within hand’s reach, staring back at him with a red face and fury stewing in his eyes—so Jered stomped on Carter’s broken arm. “AGHH!! F***! F***! STO—”

“No… nuh-huh.”

“GOD! I BEG YOU! AHH! KENNY… KENNY! P-PLEASE!” 

Kenny was horrified, “J-Jered?”

“Oh… sorry,” Jered retracted his foot, “I let myself be carried away, this kill is yours.”

Carter’s eyes darted back and forth between Jered and Kenny, his pain nigh forgotten, “W-What the f*** are you saying? K-Kill?”

“You didn’t forget how you’ve been treating Kenny since his first day of school, have you?”

“T-That… come on buddy, it was just a JOKE! For f***’s sake!”

Jered gasped in faux surprise, “Oh my… did you hear him, Ken? Your pain is nothing but a joke to him, tsk tsk…”

“NO! T-That’s not what I meant! F***! F*** you Jered!”

“Aww, how sweet, f*** you too Carter.”

Kenny’s stomach churned, knotted, flipped upside down. He hesitantly faced Carter, the quarterback’s pleading eyes were just another lie that would come back to bite him if let alive—angry, harsh, and painful. And there would be no forgiveness for Kenny, because they never forgave him. It was a joke. He was a joke, and his father would most likely agree with them too. And then he turned to Jered. His friend’s smile was kind, beautiful, encouraging… but it sat beneath emotionless eyes. It was a joke for him too, he reasoned. But knowing Jered, he considered life itself a joke. 

“Tick-tock, tick-tock…” Jered leaned back against a tree, crossing his arms. “Ken, I don’t want to rush you… but we need to wrap this up as soon as we can.”

“I-I don’t know what… to… do…”

“Use that big rock over there, he’s already weakened. There’s nothing he can do,”

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Heh, he said it with such nonchalance, as if he were talking about homework—then again, murder must have been nothing but an amusing team project to him. It was the first time Kenny had seen such a dark side of him, and now he was about to be swallowed in that abyss. “Y-Yes…” he crouched down, scooped a big, jagged rock out of the ground, and trudged towards his downed bully. 

“NO! GOD! Kenny! D-Don’t listen to him! I-I promise we’ll stop! I beg you man!” Carter was not shy with the ejection of his bodily fluids. His eyes were pooled with flowing tears, and a damp patch was growing on his crotch. He dug his fingers into the earth, and with rowing motions of his good arm, he tried to drag himself away. “F-F****** psychopaths! STAY AWAY!” however, an invisible wall stopped him promptly, and then it compressed, weighing down on him. Carter was pinned on the ground, his limbs motionless. “W-What…” he squawked out. 

Kenny edged closer to Carter. He dropped to his knees, clutching the rock above his head. His hands were shaky, hesitant. How many hits would it take for Carter to die? Will he suffer? Will he scream? Kenny’s head was a swirl of questions that had his hands clammy with sweat. Carter’s face was stretched in so much terror a heart-attack was not far-fetched.  

“N-No… please…”

“S-Shut up!” Kenny snapped, his lips pursed inward, tears storming down his face, “I-I don’t want to kill you, but I have to!” he bit his bottom lip, sniffled, and swung the rock down. Carter’s nose split in a burst of gore, a scream tearing through his throat. He wheezed, struggling to breathe, but only more blood bubbled up. Kenny’s hands nosedived yet again, and the rock slammed whatever was left of Carter’s nose into a mess of blood, flesh, and cartilage. The quarterback’s face was sunk in, his life juice sailing up with each hit. Kenny pounded harder and harder, until his screaming tapered off, and his breathing ceased altogether.

Jered smiled, “Well done!” he exclaimed in a congratulatory tone. 

[Quest Completed!][You have been awarded 1000% experience for a spell of your choosing.]
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Title: World of Expertsd | Tags: Cultivation, Second Chance
Synopsis: The online game <> entered the whole world. It's a game about territorial construction and war to reconstruct alternate history. Although it's virtual, it'll change the world. Shi Hao, an ordinary freshman, decided to bravely enter <> in order to gain the approval of his beloved goddess's elder brother. He, however, accidentally got a super skill at the beginning because of a strange game-helmet.

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