Chapter 24: We’re in This Together

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Kenny dropped the rock, lurched down, and disgorged his dinner all over the ground. “I-I… k-killed… someone.” he dry-heaved, his face pale, clammy, and smeared with specks of Carter’s blood. He braved a glance towards the corpse laying in a crown of gore, but had to snap his gaze away. A thick copper-ish tang lingered beneath his nose. He couldn’t stomach it. “I’m… I’m not feeling well,” 

“Shhh… go back inside the car, I’ll take care of the rest,” Jered stroked his back in soothing motions, “You did amazing. That was just… wow,” his whisper was strained with awe, excitement, and expectation. What had happened was the turnabout that would have pushed Kenny to change for the better—an irreversible change. He chuckled, slinging Kenny’s arm over his shoulder as he escorted him all the way back to the Jaguar. 

“I… killed him…” Kenny mumbled, staring at his blood-stained hands in a crying daze. “I… killed Carter…”

Jered didn’t know how to console him, “It’s okay… we’re in this together, don’t let it bother you.”

“…”

“I’ll be right back.” he left his friend to grieve for himself with a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and trotted back to the crime scene. He had to get rid of the evidence. The reward screen was still following him around within his peripheral, “I choose… Pharaoh’s Flame.” 

[You can’t use this reward on a spell that is higher than your rank.]

How disheartening. “I choose Vizier’s Light,”

[Vizier’s Light has become Lv.10][The spell’s heat has risen, and slightly less mana is required to conjure it.]

His hand itched to try it out. A slight stirring inside the SUV alerted him. Jered inched closer, and peered through the broken windows. Lloyd’s condition was unknown, but Victor was still alive—well, barely. He was on the verge of passing out. It didn’t matter. Jered yanked the dented door open, and clamped a hand on Victor’s mouth. “Let me feed you some mana,” a blue haze shone through the chinks of his fingers, before it burst out in a blue, scorching wave that swallowed Victor’s head within. 

The jock’s eyes burst wide open, but the scream brewing in his throat came too late. His skin melted, and the blistering air baked his lungs and brain. It was over before his nerves could register high levels of sizzling pain—that wouldn’t have been pleasant. What a lucky fellow. Jered pulled back. Victor’s head was charred, covered in sixth-degree burns. It was hardly identifiable anymore. The backseat had caught fire as well, and Lloyd’s unconscious body was being tasted by the blazing tongues. 

Jered paddled back. The fire was slowly devouring the SUV and belching out ripples of acrid smoke. It was bound to attract people. He had to be quick. With a powerful burst of ‘Low Telekinesis’, he levitated Carter’s maimed corpse and Kenny’s murder weapon, whereupon he tossed them into the blue inferno. 

The SUV was about to go off. Jered stopped the mana supply, thus promptly snuffing out the spell. It partially worked. “Well s***…” the fire was still growing, mocking him by only reverting back to its original red hue. The rolling heat had waned considerably, but that was hardly a positive thing. 

An explosion was underway. 

Jered noped the f*** out of there. “Let’s go,” he cast a quick ‘Repair’ and a ‘Low Conceal’ on the Jaguar before turning it on, “Things are about to get heated,” he chuckled. 

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“W-What…?” Kenny was understandably confused. Then he caught sight of the fire spreading through the woods like a beacon. “Oh lord…”

“Hahaha, we’re going to have a blast!”

“…”

Jered trampled on the accelerator, and the car sailed forward. No other vehicles were nearby. Heh, God was on his side too. He glanced back through the rear-view mirror. The fire had gained momentum, smoke swelling up like a blister about to pop off. There was no doubt that the three jocks had become barbeque. Kenny’s eyes mirrored the ridges of flames consuming the SUV, before it went off with a deep rumble and an outburst of shards. “Sooo… should we go eat something?”

“They… they’re all dead, right?”

“Yes, they were all inside the car. Don’t worry…” Jered nudged his arm in a friendly manner, “… there’s no way they’ll trace it back to us, but we need to get rid of your clothing. Can’t take chances.”

“…”

Kenny stared down at his sleeves, where blotches of Carter’s blood had seeped into the fabric. It was undeniable proof that it was real. His fingers were scraped from manhandling that ragged rock—the same rock he used to bash against his schoolmate’s head. He murdered someone, gruesomely. It was definitive. He couldn’t unmurder him. There was no way back from the dead. He had taken his life, he watched him scream in pain, he watched him take his last breath. He felt dirty. Not only on the outside, but on the inside too. 

He bit his lip, eyes crammed shut, his chest heaving back and forth.

“Ken…” Jered knew he was liable for his actions, and for Kenny’s too. Once he made sure they were far from the explosion, he stopped the car by the sidewalk. “Hey, buddy… look, this is quite a mess, and I pushed you into it… you can blame me, you can hate me, you can sell me out, but I killed for you. And you killed for me. This just proves how deep our friendships runs! I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine. It’s me and you. No more bullies! Your school life, heh, is going to get so much brighter… and it’s all thanks to you. You took control of the situation with your own hands, you twisted fate, and made those jerks pay. Kirby, Sandro, David… all of the guys who are in the same situation as you are going to be free. You freed them. You’re a hero.”

“This… doesn’t sound right,” Kenny grimaced, huffing out a chuckle. “I-I wanna go home…”

“You can’t go back like this… we need to get you new clothes.”

“Hm…”

Jered fixed him with a deep stare, “Ken… no matter what happens,” he said—though it came off more as a warning. “Don’t tell anyone about this. Got it?” 


The entire house was curtailed by a flimsy veil of darkness as the clock ticked away. Kenny had trouble sleeping; it was not the first time, but it was certainly the first time for him to have his heart in his throat like that. He was almost sure a shadow in the corner of his room moved, yet he stayed still.

It was all his imagination, and there was nothing there. The clock’s hands flicked to 01.00 a.m and there was still nothing there, just like 30 minutes ago… or 1 hour ago. Kenny tossed and turned, hoping to find a comfortable spot, but his head was so adrift on the crest of guilt, disgust, and even more self-hate that sleep wasn’t coming that night. He tried not to think, but thinking was all he could do—and it reminded him of what he had done. He squeezed his eyes shut against his pillow, isolating himself from all of his fears. It was his best coping mechanism at the moment.

You killed me,

A cracked whisper fluttered into Kenny’s ears. His heart started thumping so loud he could hear it echoing off in his head like the beat of a drum. The closet’s doors slowly creaked wide open, and between the burgeoning maw of darkness beyond the wooden frame, he could discern a tall, broad-shouldered silhouette. Kenny choked back a gasp, and like a dam bursting its walls, all of his restless emotions poured down his face in a constant torrent. 

The figure stood still in the safety of the shadows.

You killed me,

“Who… who… why…” he muttered between sobs. “What-…” there was no way it was a dream. He couldn’t feel such an agonizing fear in his dreams, neither the burning in his leaking eyes.

An eerie silence was all he got as a reply. “Please…” It was because he knew he was not brave enough to defend himself that he pleaded, “Please… leave me alone…” the words came out raspy and high-pitched. The silhouette stepped forward, and Kenny scuttled back on his bed. Eventually, he ran out of space, and his back hit the headboard. A faint trickle of the moonlight draped over the silhouette. Kenny tucked his mouth behind his hands, his eyes quaking furiously, “No… you’re dead… you’re dead… you’re dead…”

You killed me,

“You’re dead… you’re dead… you’re dead… YOU’RE DEAD! LEAVE ME ALONE!”

You killed me,

“SHUT UP! I’M SORRY! I’M SORRY! LEAVE ME ALONE!”

You killed me,

It ghosted closer and closer.

“NO! STAY AWAY!”

Carter’s bloody, maimed face zoomed in. 

“NO!”

You killed me,‘ 

It crawled on the bed, knee-paddling towards Kenny as it dripped blood and a slimy, black substance. The stench of copper, dirt, and decay bathed his face.  

You killed me,

It suddenly hauled up a rock, and clobbered it on his face.

“NO!!!”

“Kenny!” Liam struggled to hold his son down, “It’s just a nightmare!”

“W-What…” 

“Oh dear, shhh… it’s okay,” Isabella eased herself down behind him, her voice a soft coo, “It was just a bad dream…”

Kenny was disoriented, scared, sweaty. His eyes scampered left and right. The closet showed no signs of ever being opened, and his bedsheets were pristine besides the damp patches of perspiration. “He was here…” it was too real to be a dream. “He was here!” 

Liam and Isabella traded concerned frowns, “Who was here?”

“He… he… Car—” Jered’s reminder swirled to the forefront of his mind. He clutched fistfuls of his hair, rocking back and forth, “I can’t tell… I can’t tell.. I can’t tell… I promised…” more tears slipped down, and he let them flow freely. 

“Ken—”

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“I need Jered! Where is he?”

Liam’s lips thinned into a line, “He’s at his home… why do you want him here, hm? And what does he have to do with your dream?”

“Liam! He’s perturbed, leave him be!” Isabella chided.

“He knows what to do… we did it together,” Kenny mindlessly said.

“You did what!?” Liam’s heart almost leaped out his mouth. His face paled as he ventured the question cautiously, “D-Did you two… ‘do’ it? F***, I even gave him the money to” he trailed off, knowing it was dangerous territory, especially with his wife there. He shook his head, “Nevermind.”

Isabella blinked in confusion. She alternated a look at them, her eyebrows pressing down, “What’s going on… what money?”

“…” a pregnant silence tailed behind Kenny’s next words, “I’m going to Jered…” and that was all the confirmation Liam needed. 

“It’s too late…”

“What’s too late? Liam? Kenny? W-Wait… where are you going at this hour!?”

Liam didn’t even bother to help his wife detain his son. “I need a drink…”


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