5 That Pain Is Not Fictional

Joachim was in a precarious situation right now. He obviously didn't want to go through laser hair removal in his nape, so that's why he chose to carefully raise both hands in the universal sign of surrender. If he didn't know that sudden actions could cause trouble for him, he would have definitely hunched his shoulders forward with a sigh.

'Why disgrace always follows me I will never know...' It was one thing after the other. Granted, he already knew in the corners of his mind that this was a possibility. It might be something bordering negativism from his part, but knowing how often these kinds of situations happened, he had the right to act that way.

He wasn't some Kung-Fu master that could get themselves out of a scenario like this using some weird acrobatics, so he just followed the script he had prepared just in case.

"I would thank you enormously if you were to put that thing down. I am not from Academia, I actually belong to the XYZ Dimension like you. The truth is, I got lost after forcefully escaping my pursuers." This was the story he had fabricated, and one he planned to use for the time being. Naturally, when he could use protagonist shit to slap people away with mystic powers, there would be no reason to lie.

Even if he couldn't look behind him, Joachim could tell that the person's body tensed and relaxed at the same time. It was kind of weird to explain, but that was the feeling he got. At least he evoked a somewhat positive reaction, so he would count that as a small victory.

"And how do I know you aren't lying and it is not just a plan to take us out?" His question was an expected one. If he were in the mysterious person's shoes, he would also be wary, and probably asking the same questions as well.

"Check my pocket and you will know." Doing as he was told, albeit still keeping the laser-thing of his duel disk on his nape, the teen slowly reached for it, and without resistance, pulled a bunch of XYZ cards.

The young man observed them with scrutiny, trying to see if they were fake in any way. His posture only relaxed when he verified their authenticity. However, he didn't let his guard down. On the contrary, it was still as high as ever. It wouldn't be the first time their enemies pull a fast one on them when they least expect it.

"What is telling me these are not some... sick trophy of yours?" It was a valid question. Nothing proved that the cards he had were his, and not something he picked up from his 'victims'.

'Wow... That is how I look to everyone else when I act paranoiac? It is understandable but still...' Joachim would be lying if he said he didn't expect this question to arise. It stood to reason then, that he would have an answer. Though, it was a double-edged one.

"You can't. You either take my word for it or simply treat me as a liar." He was not Sherlock Holmes, but he was pretty sure that if there was one way to make his words believable to people like him, then it would be by imitating the spirit of the resistance. In other words, he had to be both unyielding and fearless and show that he would rather die than treat his words as fake.

Of course that he felt bad for lying to them in particular. He could just think "They are anime characters, they are not real. Whatever they went through is just the product of someone's imagination."

However, there was no way he could do that. One thing was prioritizing his safety above everyone else, and another, way different, to just ignore their plight as if it was not real. That he didn't have to get involved with them? True. That in the end everything turned out "all right" and they could perfectly do without his assistance? True as well.

Many people would just ignore them, content with staying on the sidelines; he didn't. Why would he let them unnecessarily suffer just because in the end everything would get solved? That was stupid.

In a sense, it remined him of those stories he used to read where the main character would let someone else go through a tragic event just so that they could appear at the right moment and be their savior, earning their complete loyalty.

It was sickening.

It sickened him then, and it sickens him now.

The sudden loss of heat on the back of his neck brought Joachim out of his thoughts. Slowly turning his head, he realized the boy had returned his cards to his pocket and distanced himself a bit.

He unconsciously raised an eyebrow at the appearance of the mysterious fellow. Short blond hair that ended in a braid and dull green eyes that spoke wonders of the things he had been through. To say he expected him to have some fantasy hair would be an understatement.

He was wearing brown and gray boots. He also had a black trench coat ragged on the lower ends over a white shirt. A tie was hanging loosely around his neck, having suffered the same fate as the aforementioned garment.

The expression on the young man's face was neutral and not in a perpetual scowl, but you could still feel a certain edge that made you think twice before messing with him.

Despite the seemingly calm exterior, Joachim knew for a fact that he was quite angry before if the first words he said were anything to go by. It might be wishful thinking, but he would at least like to think that the things he said had an impact.

"Why didn't you come here sooner? I am sure we have been pretty loudly fighting those bastards that took away our home." Considering that he had just met him, Joachim couldn't tell if he said it out of concern or merely as an accusation.

"I just got here a week ago with a hazy memory. To tell the truth, I barely remember anything. It seems I have a form of amnesia. Other than my origins, I can barely recall anything else." The green-eyed teen frowned for a bit, probably wondering what happened for him to end up the way he did.

"I see... Regardless of the veracity of your claims, I can certainly sympathize with your plight. As you can probably tell, we haven't had much of an easy time either." Just for a single moment, he allowed a moment of weakness to show through the tiredness of his voice.

Joachim narrowed his eyes slightly while folding his arms. "I can imagine, but that is an expected outcome with activities you have been doing..." He trailed his words with a meaning the youth in front of him soon understood.

"You can call me Ren."

"Right, Ren. You have been causing destruction left and right on a mostly civilian town. So much so that I was able to tell the general direction of where you were just going by the holograms of one of your monsters. Showing that much notoriety was bound to attract trouble sooner or later." This was one of the things he really disagreed with. He was not some expert tactician, yet even he knew there existed something called strategic targeting. This... This just screamed sloppy work all over it.

"Is there a problem with that...?! We need revenge against Akaba Leo! Against this damn dimension that invaded us without a second thought and destroyed our homes while laughing as if the pain, the screams, the tears and our pleadings were remotely amusing!" Ren was mindful to whisper-shout considering there could be other people nearby, but that didn't make his outburst any less emotional.

He might have not gone through what he did. Nevertheless, Joachim understood his circumstances and consequent actions well enough, if only logically. Unfortunately, he had to be the voice of reason, even if that left a bad taste in his mouth.

"You want to hurt Akaba Leo? Then what are you doing here? I do not personally know him, but do you think he will feel even a tad bit sad if something were to happen to these people? He only sent the dogs after you because he considered you a small nuisance in his shoes, not because he was worried about the safety of the citizens. It hurts, I know. Seeing all of them so blissfully unaware of the fate of our dimension doesn't sit well with me. However, I will ask you one thing. What will you accomplish doing exactly what those bastards did; hunting down innocent people with nothing to be gained?" Joachim, of course, knew that the carding of people had meaning, as sick as it was, but Ren did not, and for both their sake, it was better for it to stay that way.

The blond-haired youth immediately fell silent. His chest heaved as he tried to control himself from screaming out of anger and frustration. Both hands clenched and unclenched with enough strength to tear a muscle, yet he paid it no mind, focusing in not making a scene that could attract unwanted attention instead.

Eventually, he was able to squeeze a question that, if answered incorrectly, could turn things back to zero, or even worse. "Do you think all that we did here was meaningless? That all the sweat and tears were for nothing?"

Despite the volume of his voice being low, the intensity of his words could still be felt loud and clear. Joachim, for the first time since their conversation began, gave an answer that was not scripted. "Do you? You strike me as the leader type, so let me ask you back. As the one that they entrusted their lives to, do you consider it all to be meaningless? Whatever your answer is, it will also be my own. No matter the consequences."

The transmigrated person didn't know where he got the courage to say that, or even where those words had come from. He was someone who unless he meticulously planned things, he would end up having doubts about everything, bordering something akin to anxiety. The only reason he could act relatively calm was that many of the things happening he already expected for them to happen.

That was why even he himself was surprised at what his true self — and not his mask — said. Still, he wouldn't go back on his words. Not only would that make it worse, but it would also leave a bad impression, and if he wanted to make them survive, then that was certainly not going to help.

"...Not long ago..."

"Hm?" Once again, Ren brought him out of his reverie. His voice sounded like he had given up on the world. Even though it was slow, defeated, and raspy, his expression once again showed a total contrast.

"...Not long ago I would have given a negative response. Now... Now I am not sure." The blonde paused to release a tired sigh before continuing. "I am not an idiot. I know what we are doing is not impactful at all. However... What should I do to quench this thirst for revenge that burns so bright even after the loss of comrades threatened with extinguishing it? When I have to constantly see those scums walking without a care in the world as if their sins were nonexistent?"

Joachim's eyes widened a tad bit. Seeing the difficulty he had to let out his concerns gave another meaning to his words, something that prompted him to answer truthfully once again. "I don't know. I can't expect myself to understand all of your pain, and I feel it would be an insult if I tried. There is no doubt you went through so much more than I did, after all. However, what I can give my opinion on is in the things you should NOT be doing, as unhelpful as that might seem."

Ren stared at him for a few seconds before exhaling and relaxing, giving him a nod of appreciation; recognizing his words as what they were, a piece of advice, and not a command. "Thanks... I guess I needed to hear that... Sorry. It seems I forgot to ask for your name as well."

Ren turned a bit sheepish at the end, causing the dark-skinned man to release a short chuckle that helped a little to dissipate the tension that had been looming in the air. "Ma—Joachim. You can call me Joachim. Wherever this meeting leads us, I hope it will be enough to cause some impact in this war."

"Yeah... I hope so too..." Nothing would make him happier than for this hell to be undone, after all.

"Well. It has been nice knowing you despite the early mishap. Unfortunately, I've got to go. I will be sure to come back and check how things are going, though." It was already getting late, and he didn't want to worry his caretaker unnecessarily.

Ren quirked an eyebrow at that. "Are you sure you don't want to stay with us? We don't have much, but we are welcoming of our own."

Joachim shook his head. It left a bad taste in his mouth to deny the invitation for sure. Nevertheless, he wouldn't be able to do much if he stayed with them FOR NOW. "While tempting, I have to decline. You can say that I am doing a sort of infiltrated work, as much as I suck at it. I feel like I would be more helpful working as a sort of spy in the enemy camp."

What he said surprised Ren, and for a moment, the possibility of Joachim being an enemy crossed his mind before being quickly squashed down. A spy wouldn't let the enemy have information that could make them appear as untrustworthy, unless they wanted to make their job harder, and the person in front of him didn't strike him as that type.

However, he still wanted to leave something clear. "If—"

"If I see any people of Academia trying to card someone, I will intervene, don't worry." As if being able to read his mind, Joachim answered before Ren could even speak more than two words. His reassurance relaxed the resistance member tremendously.

"Then I leave it to you, and wish you all the luck. I can understand if you can't come here often, but do try. The others would be delighted to see another face that is aligned to our cause." God knew how much those kids needed it.

Joachim nodded, watching as Ren pulled a Body Flicker technique or Shunpo out of nowhere. It filled his face with awe seeing it in 'real life.'

Once the dark-skinned youth was sure that his new ally was gone, he began his walk back home. However, before he could take as much as a step—

'Thank you...'

"Huh?" Joachim abruptly turned around, seeing nothing but the empty streets colored orange from the sunset. Confused, he looked everywhere but found no one.

'Strange... It sounded like a kid's voice just then...' Feeling a bit weirded out, he returned his way back home, this time adding an extra layer of speed. He ain't gonna get caught by some spooky ghost, that was for sure.

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