Chapter 126: Whispers Of The Past: Aware Of One’s Own Abilities

“W-what do you mean kill? I clearly couldn’t do that-“ → Johan

“Johan. If what you told me is true, then you must be aware that a simple push won’t make a dozen or so boys of the same age, fall back, crashing on chairs and tables like some puppets blown by the wind. You might not know it, but since young you showed sudden explosive outbursts of physical power. That is because of your strong mentality and bursts of emotions, which in case of danger it will release adrenaline and lower the limits of your body, the same way it happened with the thugs you told me you met on your way back from school before summer, remember? How they took out knives at you but you disarmed them then ran away?”

“Uh, huh…? I’m… strong?” → Johan


I stared dumbfounded at myself, examining the thin and seemingly frail body which was anything but muscular.


“I think you got the wrong idea… Maybe they are simply too weak?” → Johan

“Ah my Johan, you can only see the skin and some bones for now, but you’re not aware that once you start using your muscles, even the veins will start bulging as the blood will start rushing. You’re anything but weak, so you must understand that if you won’t control your rage, bad things will happen in the future.”

“…How do you know that?” → Johan

“Because your father is the same. The bigger the dangers, the greater his potential. He was always able to get over dangerous moments with sudden bursts of power or concentration. However, unlike you, he would always receive a backlash. If he’s focusing too hard then he would faint after the danger passes, while if his body is too stretched, his muscles might rupture. But you have no such backlashes, making you even more dangerous if you can’t control yourself.”

“… So what should I do then?” → Johan

“Discipline yourself. Find the reason for your anger and try to subdue it.”

“And how should I do that?” → Johan

“You will know, Johan. Because you are able to discover anything once you set your mind on it.”


Everything… What? Who does she think I am? Some kind of mighty figure? → Johan


Mothers words made me dazed but I still tried to do as told. Day after day, month after month, I lived normally while trying to understand what irritated me, what made me snap, what made me feel this boiling rage inside me every time something happened which was going against my judgment. Then another day while I was at the dojo, the master made us gather and said:


“Alright, today we will do sparring. The first to fight will be Johan and Dean. Put on your protections.”

“Ah!”

“…Eh?” → Johan


Everyone shouted in approval while I remained stunned for a moment. Dean was the biggest from us all and also the most experienced. For someone like me who didn’t even had one full year and still rank zero, this match was the worst.


What the Hell is the master thinking!? → Johan


I put on my gloves, my shin guards and the shell a.k.a. The ball-protector, then got in front of Dean. We both had no head-guards so we were forbidden to strike at the head.


“Salute! Bow! Take your stance!”


The master commanded us and we did just that. We cupped our hands, bowed and then took a fighting stance. As always, I took a low, left-handed defensive stance with my left at the back, while Dean took the offensive position, his guard up while his front towards me with his guard tight and close. While my stance gave me more free-way for kicks, his position would show more dominance from up-close. Even though our martial-arts style was called qwan ki do, what we truly did was nothing more, than a form of MMA without ground fighting.


“BEGIN!”


After the master shouted, Dean dashed right toward me, making me panic for a moment and raise my front leg by reflex. To my surprise, I landed the kick in his abdomen and made him retreat.


T-that was surprising… → Johan


Unable to follow after, I remained in a defensive stance and waited for him to strike. This time he got closer and started punching out. I resisted his fury of punches and dashed to the sides numerous times, trying to send him off-balance and counter back as swiftly as possible.


“Tsk.”


I did this numerous times when he suddenly stepped on my foot with all his weight.


“Ah-!”


Not even able to shout, he followed with a jab at my undefended liver, then another fist in my stomach.


“Guh! Agh!”


I took a few steps behind and felt like puking. Dean didn’t let this chance pass by and dashed forward for a finisher, his fist ready to strike at my solar plexus.


Are you still continuing!? → Johan


I felt incredibly irritated by his ruthlessness and dodged the punch in the last second.


“Huh?”


Dean looked completely confused, then I got by his side and with all my power, I struck the same place he did to me, his liver then his stomach right after dodging his fist. Two accurate and strong fists filled with rage struck his two vital points, making him spit out some saliva and almost fall on the ground.


“Bugh!”

“How’s that!?”

“ENOUGH!”


I roared back then before I could follow with a side-middle kick, the master stopped the match and stared at me with a firm gaze.


“Johan. You’re not fighting anymore today. At the end of the training, you’ll meet me.”

“Wah-?… A-ah…” → Johan


After the training hours finished, I remained alone with the master at the dojo and he then reprimanded me with a stern voice.


“What was that unsightly form of fighting you had just now? Do you think this is a brawler?”

“B-but master! He stepped on my foot and now I think I’ll have to put a bandage around it! How can I remain calm after that?” → Johan

“… Johan. You must understand that going eye for an eye is the work of the fool. In martial arts, we train to discipline ourselves and not let the mundane feelings overtake us, not to destroy our adversary. You also got irritated because I made you fight the strongest from your group, am I right?”

“That’s right, master!” → Johan

“But I did so because you need to learn what losing means. Otherwise, your pride would only grow and overtake you. I can already tell that your pride is quite at a difficult level already if you got mad just from a sparring match.”

“P-pride…?” → Johan


I finally felt like I understood something. That day I understood that the reason for my anger was my pride: always feeling mocked, looked down upon, but feeling myself as superior. A disgusting sin which always made me erupt the moment someone showed disrespect to my face. Afterward, I tried my best to control my pride, to accept any kind of injustice that happened to myself, to swallow any kind of insults or mockery. I tried to keep up even with some bullying. But this only made the fuse inside me thinner while the bomb to grow more dangerous.


This is not working! What the f*** am I doing wrong?! What is happening?! Why?! → Johan


I became more and more irritated and before I could finally explode, a classmate I didn’t even know about, came rushing after me just as I got out from the class.


“J-Johan! Wait a moment! Please!”

“Huh?” → Johan


I turned around and observed the tinny and skinny boy who also had a purple and swollen eye, breathing heavily while running after me. When he finally arrived in front of me he tried to speak while taking his breath.


“J-Johan! Man!… P-please wait! I have a request for you!”

“Huh?! Do I even know you to suddenly make requests?” → Johan

“Huh? Uhm, I’m John Morten from your class! Dude, don’t you remember me?”

“… I don’t even know the face of the dude behind me. Do you expect me to know you?” → Johan


Do we share the same name? Well, almost. → Johan


He stared at me a little bit dumbfounded while I felt some interest for someone who had almost the same name as me, but more than that, nothing attracted my attention as I started thinking about my own problems once again. Then he started talking again just as I wished to turn and leave.


“W-wait, please! Man! All this time I observed you and saw how you erupted and sent everyone flying with just one push that one time after rejecting Maia! I saw how strong you truly are, even though lately you tried to show a weaker side of you.”


Sent flying? I just pushed them away. Don’t exaggerate! → Johan


“Okay okay. So where do you wish to go with that? All this praising irritates me.” → Johan

“Y-yeah! Johan,  since I got into this school, the other students started bullying me for no good reason! They would take my food-money, throw my bag and everything inside it out the window or in the trash-can. Punch and kick me, using me for a sandbag. Write mean words on my desk and so on when I did nothing to them! Man, a lot of bullying happened to me and I simply can’t handle it any longer! I feel like I’ll lose my mind if this continues! Please help me with this and I promise you that I’ll remain forever indebted, man!”


Hearing him talk about all those forms of bullying he experienced while seeing his eyes redden and his voice tremble, irritation took over me at this show of weakness and I lashed out in anger.


“Why are you even asking for help? Stand up for your own damn problems and don’t expect for someone to give you a hand! Man!” → Johan

“H-huh? B-but I won’t be able to do anything on my own! Dude, I’m weak! Johan, I’m not like you!”
“Then get stronger for all I care! Can’t you see? The weak are the prey while the rest are either untouchable flying birds or carnivorous beasts! If you don’t wish to be stepped on, then get your ass off the ground and f****** fight back!” → Johan


After saying this I left in irritation while John stared at me with a completely helpless face.


Fight back? Impossible, man! Simply impossible! At least show me how…


The next day in the morning I thought of John and the helpless face he had when I left him behind. I started to feel some kind of guilt for not accepting to help him then shook my head in distress.


Ah, whatever. I’ll just go and help him today. It’s not like it makes any difference if I accepted yesterday or I simply accept it today.


On my way to school, I suddenly see a familiar silhouette by the zebra crossroad waiting for some reasons while the lights were still green with no car waiting.


Huh? Isn’t that John? What is he waiting fo-? What the… → Johan


Right after reaching twenty meters by his side, I observed that his eyes were completely dead, his face filled with cuts and bandages while his palms fully bandaged. Suddenly, I heard the engine of a loud gip coming from behind me and saw John flinch for a moment, a frozen expression imprinted on his face. At that moment, I saw his eyes being dead like those of a dead fish. A shiver ran down my back as a thought struck me.


T-this! What is he thinking?! → Johan


I had one of the worst premonitions at that time and rushed after him. Not even able to shout for his name, the car passed me by with an illegal speed and John made two steps in front.


“John! Don’t-!” → Johan


I tried to shout after him but he already saw me. He made a small and helpless smile then the gip struck him in full.


-CRASH!-


He was sent flying for more than ten meters in front with blood splashing around, his bones broken while his back bent in an unnatural way.


S***, s***, s***! → Johan


I ran with all my might, stumbling and trembling from the shock and adrenaline rush. After I arrived I stumbled beside him and in a hurry, not minding the blood, took him in my arms and verified for a pulse, a wild heart-beat in his chest was felt while his breathing roughed, barely alive.


“O-oy! John! Can you hear me!?” → Johan


I shouted his name and tried to keep him awake. Blood filled his face while a small smile was etched on his face. In the end, his seemingly soulless eyes turned and stared at me. His lips parted and tried to speak.


“J-Jo-…han.”


He then coughed out a mouthful of blood, cleaning his throat to be able to talk.


“Johan… You said… to fight… But… I can’t… do that.”

“It’s fine! Don’t speak! The ambulance will be here in a moment! I promise you I’ll help out with those fuckers! I promise!” → Johan


Tears fell down his face while his body started to tremble uncontrollably.


“Since young… I was, weak. Unable to fight… A sickly boy… I was bullied… Johan, not everyone… is like you… Not everyone… is strong… healthy… or… happy….”


He tried to continue talking, giving up even his breath for a few more words.


“Just stop talking! You dumbass!” → Johan


I observed how every attempt to speak weakened him more and more, making my heart beat like crazy, worried that he might die any moment now. In the end, he simply smiled and breathed out his last words, while dropping limb in my arms.


“I’m… sorry…man…..”


I felt him heavy in my arms while his eyes completely still in his head. I started to tremble while all my fear turned into rage. While trying to think who could bring someone into a corner like this, a sudden voice resounded from around me. The voice was filled with ridicule, mockery, and satisfaction, talking in a hoarse and broken tone.


[So sad~ not even able to save a little brat~.]


At these words, my fury erupted and turned around at the first person I saw.


“The f*** you just said?!” → Johan


There was a man in his twenties who tremblingly formed a number on his phone behind me that flinched after hearing me suddenly lash out at him.


“I-I just said that we have to call the cops.”

“…”


I froze for a moment, thinking that maybe it was just my imagination, so I stood there until the ambulance came and took his body away. The cops then made us make more testimonies and in less than a week, the police finished their investigation and labeled the case as “Suiciding”, leaving the driver with only some amends. It seems he was some well-off son, bribing the court on letting him off easily, Johan’s family having no money to do anything against it.
At his burial was invited his entire class and I heard more rumors from around, be them from the classmates or from the family members.


“Poor child… Both his parents died when he was only ten. Afterward from the shock, he had a breakdown and his body started to deteriorate, becoming skinnier and skinnier.”

“Yes… The only one who took care of him was his grandfather whose wife already died of old age a few years ago… Now the poor old man remained alone again…”

“I also heard he was bullied at school and this might have been the main cause of his suiciding.”

“Even if it was for that, leaving behind an old man like that, what an insensible young man.”


Sickening. Simply sickening! → Johan


I looked downward with neutral eyes while disgust and hate swirled inside me. Everyone either pitied or blamed him, the only one who was truly too pained by his death to say something was the lone grandfather, who stood alone beside the closed coffin in silence. I wished to go and talk with him, but I knew that I had no right to do so, and even less of a right to feel that way toward the others.


I had the chance to help… But I simply closed my eyes from rage… I’m an idiot who’s unable to control his own feelings, unable to help himself, and I wished to help someone else? F***! I’m just a joke! → Johan


I bit my lip hard while tears started to fall down my face. My shoulders trembled then I remembered the words he told me:


Not everyone… is like you… → Johan


I then understood what mother told me when she said I’m different, when she said that I’m not like the others, when she said that if I don’t learn to discipline myself only pain and sorrow will follow my every step.


There are also weak humans… There are also… those who can’t carry their own cross… It helps me with nothing if I help, but… → Johan


Excruciating pain engulfed me and made my neck hurt.


But at least there won’t be such pain… It’s not like I can’t help, so why the hell I refused?! Why did it take me so much to understand that I was born with so much talent, with so many gifts! Yet look at me! Able to only cry for my own shortcomings! Able only to cry about the little things that happen to me when others have it tons of times worse! Is because I’m “only human”? This is my excuse?!  → Johan


I felt my tears falling as I finally understood that my problem was that I had none any longer, only imagining myself that I actually have them.


I have a great family, tons of talents even from other lives, an understanding and awareness of reality far superior others… yet what in the world stops me to give the others a hand? My pride? My demons? Those little s**** with no physical body? Is that is?! PRIDE AND THOUGHTS?! F*** that s***! Should I feel prideful for being unable to save one life? Is it prideful to give so much pain to an already broken family?! Are my thoughts and demons more important than a LIFE?! I’m just a f****** joke! F****** man up! And get real! You dumb f***!!→ Johan


I lashed at myself in fury and beat myself without mercy, trying to subdue this cursed pride that made me gaze at the others as nothing more than other life-forms, mostly inferior with few equals. I lashed at my own “superior” self, trying to subdue the pride, something which actually worked well for once in my life, and I lashed at my own fears of the demons which sometimes still appear in my dreams, at my own dark thoughts which sometimes make me sin, but mostly at my own foolish and immature self which used the excuse of being human as the reason of making mistakes.
When the funerals finally finished, I remained behind together with the old man that was John’s grandfather. I then got closer in front of John’s gravestone and placed down a bouquet of violet hyacinths and started praying for his soul. The old man slightly stared at the flowers and then at me who was praying with a pained face. He then opened his mouth and said in a gentle voice:


“Young man. For what are you apologizing?”

“Huh?!” → Johan


I woke up from my praying and stared at him completely dumbfounded. Seeing my face, the old man slightly smiled and pointed at the flowers I placed down.


“In the language of flowers, hyacinths means a need to apologize. Everyone else gathered either roses or yellow and red tulips. Only you arrived here with violet blooming hyacinths. Perhaps, does your subconscious knows better?”


The old man gazed at me with a mild smile while showing me a seat beside him. I stared at him for a moment then nodded. I sat beside him and the first thing I told him was:


“I’m sorry!” → Johan


I bowed my head to him while tears fell down my face. The old man looked at me with pained eyes and sighed while shaking from the grief.


“Please tell me what truly happened… As his last family member who actually cared about him, grant me this one last wish before I depart.”

“Huh?” → Johan

“… I was diagnosed with pulmonary cancer… I will see my grandson shortly.”


He gazed at the sky with his aged face, making me look down and start explaining what happened. Why I felt apologetic and the true reason John died, that being because of bullying. After finishing, the old man shook his head and sighed heavily, saying just a few hushed words which in my head resounded like thunder:


“Then maybe from now on, you might be able to dare and give out a helping hand, at least to those who ask for it…”


I stared at him with wide-open eyes and got up, my back firmly straight. With a solemn voice and serious eyes, I said while slightly bowing my head.


“I promise from now on, no matter the environment or possibilities, I will help all and everyone who sincerely asks or needs for my help, and also… help those who showed the same eyes as your grandson…” → Johan


With a mild smile, the old man shook his head then continued to stare at his son’s gravestone. In the end, he couldn’t say anything and simply stood there in silence, God knows what he was thinking.

My thoughts revolted while looking at his desolate back, clenching my fist in frustration.


I can’t do s***… Why…? Because I’m human…? Because I’m just a pile of flesh and bone? For f***’s sake! Then I’ll just have to think of myself as a GOD if, by thinking I’m human, I can’t even help a person! Let me be God so I can actually have enough guts to lend a Goddamn hand to someone! At least for once in this worthless life!


Ridiculous goals surfaced in my mind after that one moment, but I never once thought of them as ridiculous, only as really far in the future, but never as impossible.

After a week passed, I continued to walk to school and took my seat at my desk just like before and stared outside the window, waiting for another day to end.


“Oy Johan. Let’s have a chat.”


Not long after, a group of around four guys encircled me with mocking smiles. With a neutral face on I stared at them and understood instantly that they searched for troubles. After classes I followed them behind the school and got encircled by another three guys, making for a total of seven people waiting for me.


“Oh~? Is he that trash’s replacement? You guys are fast.”

“Yeah. And he has almost the same name! Johan, haha~”

“Pff what a coincidence.”


Hearing them talk, my heart started to beat faster and my face darkened.


“Wait a moment. What do you mean?” → Johan

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“Huh~? We mean that from now on you’ll be that John’s replacement in giving us money and amuse us, understood? Life here is too boring so we need some kinda clown.”

“Yeah. Try to at least resist until school is over, ye? Don’t go bite the dust without our approval.”

“You fuckers…” → Johan


My blood was boiling while my chest was waving up and down. My body was trembling while my fists started to buzz from all the blood rushing like a tidal wave. At that moment  I made the most ferocious expression in my life, and the others finally felt like something was wrong.


“Eh~? What? Did you say something? Don’t you f****** know your place?!”


One of the guys who dragged me wished to punch me in the face but I simply stood there while letting him punch my forehead, at the same time, using my neck-muscles to head-butt his incoming fist. It seems they were unaware that the forehead is much more resistant than a fist, especially if both collide while having the same speed.


“Argh~!”


His wrist bent in an unnatural way after the collision and he started to scream in pain. The other three got up from the ground and got closer while the other four started to also shout at me.


“You f*****! What do you think you’re- Guh!”


Another wished to get closer but with just one fist I made him collapse backward, breaking his nose and knocking him out completely. Then dashed to the one beside him and grabbed his fist with both of mine. I made an over-the-shoulder judo-throw and slammed him on the wall of the school. The last one kicked me in the back and I felt nothing but a slight push. I turned around and grabbed him by the head.


“You pieces of garbage… Because of you, someone gave up his life… I’ll make you pay for this!” → Johan


Then with all my power, I slammed his head on the earth, making for a dent to appear on the ground and probably to also crack his head. The one who got his wrist twisted looked stunned at me but I simply hooked his legs and after he fell I kicked his chin, making him spit out blood then lose consciousness.


“You did enough, punk.”


One of the ones who were already here locked one of my arms behind my back right after I kicked the guy from the ground.


“Hehe… Maybe you can deal with the p****** from your class, but you can’t simply fight with the ones from the third year, got it?”


Another one got closer and punched me in the stomach, cutting my breath short for a moment, then he continued to punch me in succession, be it in the face, stomach, liver or chest. My eyes reddened from rage and I kicked in front, pushing the guy away from me and struggling to get away from the one behind me.


“Oy f*****! Stay still!”


The one who was holding my arm at the back tried to suppress me by threatening to dislocate my shoulder, but that only made my fury ignite even stronger.


“ROAGH~!”


I tried to turn so I could punch his face in but he continued to hold me back.


“Stop moving or I’ll f****** break your arm-!”


-CRACK-


“You’re crazy…”


I forcefully turned around and got my shoulder dislocated without him necessarily forcing it. I ignored the pain and gave the one who locked my arm an uppercut with all I had, sending him flying then crash on the ground completely knocked out. The other two looked at me stunned for a moment.


Even if my bones break and blood flows outta my body, I won’t let these fuckers leave unscratched. Not until I avenge John! → Johan


With bloodshot eyes I tried to fix my shoulder, but I still needed more force to fully connect it back.


“You crazy m***********!”

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Then the one who did nothing before rushed at me and made a middle lateral kick. Seeing the kick I reached out with my shoulder and the kick landed right on the damaged area.


“Guh!”


I groaned in pain and another cracking sound resounded. I tried to move my arm and saw how I had full control over with, with the exception of a slight lagging moment because of the numbness.


Good enough.


The one who kicked me looked completely stunned at how I just used his own kick to place back my shoulder. I glared at him and punched him back with the healthy arm. He was sent flying the same way as the other one, then I took heavy steps toward the last one who unleashed the fury of punches at me.


“You… f****** monster.”


He calmly took out a knife and glared at me with sharp eyes.


“Monster? Heh, that’s rich from someone who made an innocent guy f****** suicide!” → Johan


My rage reached another level and my face twisted in anger.


“I’ll make you fuckers pay!” → Johan

“And what does it matter to you?! He asked for your help yet you did nothing! Tell me, in what way are you any different from me?! You f****** hypocrite!”


His word fell heavily on my consciousness but I simply took another step and punched forward.


“Damn!”


He took a step back and slashed in front, making for a horizontal cut to appear on my fist.


“Hehe~ aren’t you afraid now? With your punches, you can at least make some bruises, but with a knife, you can even kill! Want to meet that trash John that soon?”

“…”


I stared at the cut and simply licked the blood to clean the wound. Then I coldly starred him in the eyes. I would normally feel threatened by someone with a knife and enter a state in which my body would move on its own. But this time I simply felt too much rage to let my conscious fade from panic. Rather, I felt no panic in the first place, but a mocking smile appeared on my face.


“Yeah? Then come. Kill me, stab me right in the f****** chest. F****** do it already!” → Johan


I raised my shirt and showed him my chest then shouted out and made the thug flinch. He then panicked and rushed at me with his knife in front.


“You asked for it! M***********!”

“Dumbass!” → Johan


I grabbed the blade right before stabbing my stomach and with my harmed arm I punched right in his face, breaking his nose.


“Gh…”


I felt my shoulder slightly move again but I ignored the pain and got closer to the guy who was now on the ground, bleeding from his nose.


“Y-you f*****… Why are you doing this?! Is it for revenge?! You’re just feeling guilty and want to release your rage on us! You’re just like us! TRASH!”

“Yes, I am indeed garbage like you all. That’s why I will ask for the heavens to punish me accordingly. As for you lot, may God forgive you all, because I won’t !→ Johan


The next day, four more chairs were now emptied in our class for around a week, while the third years had three seats empty for just as much time. My left arm was bandaged but I simply placed it in my pocket while I continued my school-life just like before, this time promising myself that no matter what, I won’t ignore such bullying ever in my life.


Time passed by again and my mother invited me outside for a cup of ice-cream in the middle of the summer.


“Johan, do you remember that conversation we had before? About you trying to search for the cause of your anger?”

“Yeah yeah, I know, I became more irritated lately. I can tell that much!” → Johan

“So did you found it?”


Mother talked calmly to me while I was fuming from anger. After the time with the bullies, I had to swallow the critiques and scolding from the other teachers, schoolmates and even some parents; most of them criticizing my own parents for raising me like a spoiled brat. After hearing that they brought into discussion my own parents I felt more nervous what mother would say, only to see her not minding it and simply ask the daily question: How was school today? I couldn’t help but feel more admiration for her and shame for myself, showing her such ugly sides of mine all the time.


“Yeah, it seems is because of my pride. I tried to get rid of it by swallowing all the crap happening at school and at the dojo, but is simply not damn working! I’m so air-headed lately that even my grades dropped! I finished the school year with damn 5 and 6 in all classes! What the hell?! I wasn’t that studious before either, but at least a 7 I was still able to achieve damn!” → Johan

“Fufufu~ maybe is because you don’t really have to confront your short-comings, but just to accept them?”

“Say what?” → Johan


I asked with my eyes wide-open. I felt like I heard something ridiculous.

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