A Taste of More
Lesus gets to know Laica better through shattering his foot.
The criminal was getting away.
Without a second thought, Lesus brandished his sword and summoned as much of his battle aura as he could. He braced himself and took his swing, the force so strong that he couldn’t stop from stumbling backward, the brick floor cracking — and something else too.
Startled, Lesus glanced over only to realize that he had bumped into Laica — who had rushed forward to help him — and caused him to stumble as well. He had also stepped on the other teenager’s foot, but he didn’t have time to ask after Laica just yet.
Lesus dashed forward, intent on apprehending the criminal. His moment of inattentiveness could have given the man enough time to run away, but thankfully, Lesus’s attack had hit him hard and slowed him down enough for Lesus to deal the final blow. The man fell. With a jerk of his head to summon help, two holy knights from the Judgment Knight Platoon came forward to tie the man up and drag him away. Satisfied that their prisoner wouldn’t be able to escape, Lesus turned to Laica and was immediately alarmed by what he saw.
“Are you okay?” Lesus hurried over and asked in a low voice, thinking he couldn’t be okay, not with how pale he looked and how… even the brick floor had cracked. He hadn’t thought the floor would look quite that bad. If even the floor was in such a shape, then what shape must Laica’s foot be in? The pain must be unbearable.
Laica, instead of grimacing or admonishing Lesus for being careless, smiled widely at him. Lesus was not at all reassured. He had never seen Laica direct such an expression toward him before, Laica, who always seemed to be cautious around him. A light sheen of sweat had gathered on Laica’s face, and his eyes were shining with emotion. An unsettled feeling grabbed Lesus, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Lesus kneeled down and quickly cast a Minor Heal on Laica’s foot. It wouldn’t do much for Laica, but it was the best Lesus could do with his own holy light. They really needed to bring him to see the clerics.
When Lesus looked up, he caught the tail end of disappointment flash across Laica’s face, and his smile was not as wide as before.
Lesus gulped but still managed to say in a calm voice, “Let’s take you to the clerics.”
Later, the clerics declared Laica’s foot to be shattered.
Lesus was observant. His ability to notice things like personal tics — a twitch of the mouth, a nervous glance of the eyes, a tremble in the fingers — gave him an advantage during interrogations. That, in addition to how he was able to read between the lines, meant he was usually able to tell if any prisoners were withholding information or telling lies. Even though he didn’t exactly like watching his companions as closely as he watched prisoners, he often couldn’t help himself. His eyes saw what they saw, and his mind would immediately interpret things for him even if he didn’t want to know.
Like whenever Grisia lied about having finished his work. Grisia more often than not did not have his work finished by the time he came to visit Lesus in the lavatory. Whenever Lesus brought it up, Grisia would always make a big fuss about how he could never trick Lesus. It made Lesus want to sigh. What good would it do Grisia to trick him? It wasn’t Lesus whom Grisia had to answer to but rather Grisia’s very scary teacher.
Lesus always noticed things. What he saw that day during the mission refused to stop bothering him. He sadly wasn’t very close with Laica or even most of the other holy knights in the “cruel, cold-hearted” faction, not quite knowing how to make friends. He wasn’t on bad terms with them, but their relationships were more business than anything else, unlike the easy camaraderie he had with Grisia. If Grisia hadn’t reached out first, Lesus didn’t think he would be good friends with Grisia either.
However, seeing Laica’s expression that day made Lesus wonder. How much did he know the other holy knights? Why had Laica displayed such an expression? It didn’t make sense. Lesus’s eyes told him that Laica had been… happy.
The next time Lesus and Laica went on a mission together, he paid close attention to Laica. Although they had all trained with swords under Teacher Neo’s tutelage, Laica used knives more, as was expected of the Metal Knight. He always had two knives on him and would use them together in a flurry of stabs and blocks. His style was swift and deadly. Lesus watched in approval as Laica efficiently took down their opponents. Perhaps Laica would agree to a spar some time. Lesus would love to see how he would fare against Laica when the latter wielded his deadly knives as opposed to a sword.
After the mission ended, Lesus, who was in charge of the mission, told Laica, “Well done.”
Laica smiled in response. Lesus was taken aback. Where had Laica’s caution toward him gone? Or was that a mask like Lesus’s own? Perhaps Laica was good natured even though that wasn’t what his image was supposed to be like. The smile quickly vanished, and Laica tried slap on an aloof expression, which reminded Lesus that he needed to be sterner too. More like a leader.
“How would you like to be rewarded?” Lesus decided to ask, thinking that Laica might ask for some time off or for his weapons to be sharpened. His teacher Chasel always rewarded success and effort. Lesus thought he might do the same now that he was leading missions. Laica more than deserved a break. Secretly, Lesus also hoped that showing such care would help Laica see him in a better light.
Shaking his head, Laica replied, “I don’t need a reward.”
Lesus didn’t argue with Laica, but he thought he saw Laica’s eyes dart toward his foot.
Each time Lesus asked Laica how he would like to be rewarded, Laica always declined. The other holy knights, once they realized Lesus was serious about rewarding them, asked for little things such as having their trainings scheduled at a certain time, taste testing a new creation (in the case of Ecilan), going out for a bout of sparring together, or merely spending time with Lesus. At first, Lesus didn’t think much about requests like the last one, nor did he think much of other strange requests, but then he started wondering if that was their way of telling him they wanted to be his friend.
When Lesus decided to ask Aivis during their trip to town, as Aivis had asked Lesus to accompany him, Aivis laughed heartily. “So you’ve finally caught on!”
Lesus blinked. He allowed himself a miniscule smile. So much for being observant. It seemed that he really didn’t know how to interact with people outside of official business.
“I thought you wanted to keep your distance,” Aivis explained, “but once you started asking what you could do for us, I figured you wouldn’t mind if we weren’t so… distant. You know, you’re really good at taking care of people, and even if you didn’t offer to do things for us, we would still wholeheartedly follow your orders and complete our missions to the best of our abilities. You’re a good leader.” He ducked his head and continued, “I hope you won’t mind spending time with me even when I’m not asking ‘officially.'”
Lesus felt a grin threatening to take over, but he quickly forced his expression to remain stoic. His worries seemed to evaporate with each subsequent word Aivis Stone spoke. He had gotten a lot closer with everyone recently, from trying out Ecilan’s creations, to listening to Vival talk about his crush, to accompanying Aivis to town….There was only Laica left.
Even though Aivis had reassured Lesus that they would gladly put in their best effort even without rewards, Lesus still felt that their success deserved rewarding. His teacher and even the Pope would have done the same. When Laica completed the difficult mission of shadowing a kidnapper and locating all the missing children with the Metal Knight Platoon, Lesus couldn’t stop himself from saying once again, “How would you like to be rewarded?” This time, Lesus also added, “I really must insist.”
Laica once again denied needing anything, but his eyes slid toward Lesus’s foot. Lesus wasn’t imagining things.
Heart pounding, Lesus’s foot shot out before he even knew what he was doing. He watched, mesmerized, as Laica fell to the floor and looked up at Lesus, eyes shining. It was the same look that Laica had worn the day Lesus shattered his foot.
Without thinking, Lesus kicked Laica again. When Laica grabbed Lesus’s foot, a shiver went through Lesus, and he was hit with the horrible thought that he must have been mistaken. He must have seen wrongly.
But Laica didn’t tell him to stop. Instead, he pleaded, “More.”
Every time Lesus interrogated criminals, he would feel disgust rise from within. Most criminals never admitted to their crimes right away and would withhold vital information needed to locate the victims. These were the cases that Lesus hated the most where time was a vital factor. He would need to employ the most painful torture devices to force the criminals to speak.
With each flogging he dealt, Lesus would feel his stomach churn as he watched skin break and blood spill, piercing shrieks deafening his ears. He had long since learned not to eat breakfast before attending an interrogation, but even without any food in his stomach, his body still felt the need to heave. At least, dry heaving was marginally better than retching up half digested food.
During one interrogation, the criminal was so stubborn that Lesus and the rest of the platoon were stuck in the room for hours. By the end of the session, Lesus was at his wit’s end. He didn’t like inflicting pain or forcing the criminals to submit. He really didn’t! He quickly excused himself, knowing that his teacher’s platoon members would take care of the rest, and rushed to the lavatory.
After rushing inside, he wasted no time throwing up.
A bucket of water and a clean towel awaited him. He rinsed his mouth and washed his face, dabbling the corners of his mouth with the towel.
“Thanks,” Lesus said quietly.
Even though he was late, Grisia had still waited for him. Or perhaps, he was just skipping out on his duties again. There were blueberry cupcakes to be had, after all.
Grisia grinned and munched on a cupcake. Lesus had never considered eating in the lavatory sanitary, but Grisia obviously had no such qualms. Watching him was making Lesus’s stomach queasy again. “This time seems particularly bad,” Grisia commented. “You’re such a softie. Those bastards deserve it!”
Even though Grisia knew Lesus very well, he didn’t know everything. Lesus couldn’t squash the self-disgust he felt welling from within, and he couldn’t stop himself from fearing what Grisia might think if he ever found out.
Lesus was sure he was falling into the darkness.
After leaving the lavatory, Lesus returned to the interrogation room. He didn’t like how he had rushed out without helping with the clean-up. While he was sure the place would be tidied up by now, he still wanted to check. He opened the door and headed inside. There was still one person present.
“Is there-” Lesus started saying. He stopped when he realized the person inside wasn’t one of the judgment knights. Rather, it was Laica.
At Lesus’s voice, Laica jumped. He swiveled around and hastily tried to explain himself. “Ah, I was asked to come in to pick this up for you.”
Lesus looked at the papers in Laica’s hand. He had completely forgotten to take a copy of the transcription of the interrogation.
“Thank you,” Lesus said. He took the papers. When he noticed Laica staring at the shackles on the wall, Lesus stilled.
Laica slid his eyes over to Lesus. “Would you…?” he questioned hopefully.
Lesus knew. Laica had just completed another mission wonderfully. “Would you like to be rewarded?” Lesus asked, heart speeding up.
Laica was looking up at him, eyes shining. It wasn’t the friendship that Lesus had in mind, but it was an irreplaceable closeness. A shared secret. Lesus was good at keeping secrets, and even if he turned his back on himself, he wouldn’t turn his back on one of his companions.
“Not here…” Lesus finally said and led Laica to one of the side interrogation rooms where they would be less likely to be found out. Once they both stepped inside, Lesus locked the door behind him and took a deep breath to steady himself.
He shackled Laica to the wall. Laica looked too eager for someone about to get a beating. Lesus braced himself like he had never before, not even when he had to break the news to his uncle that he wanted to try out for the position of Judgment Knight, or when he had thought he would stab Teacher Chasel for revenge. Before he could reconsider and bow out, he grabbed one of the wooden poles. Breathing in deeply once more, Lesus swung the pole at Laica’s chest, watching Laica close his eyes in pleasure when the strike landed. Laica’s fingers curled, his hands forming tight fists. The chains jangled.
Laica was enjoying it.
When a moan escaped, Lesus hastily tied a gag around Laica’s mouth.
Lesus had always felt disgusted by the beatings he dealt on a daily basis. Despite his young age, he was already a master at inflicting pain in the most painful ways. While other teenagers would be lounging around or going out on an adventure, Lesus would be blackening his heart, ripping into anyone who dared to sin, showing them no mercy. He didn’t like doing it. He really, really didn’t. He tried telling himself over and over and over…
Yet… he couldn’t stop himself from being fascinated by Laica’s reaction.
How could pain feel so good?
How could dealing pain feel so… gratifying?
What in the world was he doing? He didn’t want to hurt Laica!
Self-disgust threatened to overwhelm him once again, his stomach starting to protest, but when he saw the look on Laica’s face, Lesus calmed down, once again fascinated by Laica’s expression.
Laica was enjoying it…
It was okay… This time, it was okay…
When Lesus unshackled Laica, he was glad to see that they had managed to avoid any bruises on Laica’s face, neck, and hands. His wrists, however, were red from how hard Laica had struggled against his shackles. Neither of them were very good at healing spells, but they made do, both casting what they could to ease the injuries. Laica would have to make sure to wear very long sleeves until the harsh redness faded.
“I always knew you would be good at this!” Laica commented in admiration. “After all, you know how to use all of those different devices. I’ve always watched you…” His words trailed off as his face reddened.
Was that why Laica had always studied him with that look in his eyes? Whatever it had been before, it had now turned into unadulterated admiration. Never in a million years had Lesus ever thought his skill at inflicting pain would come into use in such a way. He didn’t quite know what to think.
Lesus nodded in response to Laica’s comment. He hid his shaking hand behind his back.
It was only after Lesus left the room that he realized he hadn’t felt the need to vomit at all.