Chapter 4: A calculated risk.
“You have failed in that you have sought to accomplish your goals by yourself!” the red ranger yelled. “The power you have attained through your greed and personal efforts cannot compare to the power we wield together! As a team!”
“As friends!” Said the white ranger, to punctuate how they had grown to be inseparable, despite their initial heated rivalry.
Two ten year olds were watching that show, Nino and Rivaldo, and they both cheered together for the heroes.
And the heroes defeated the villain, and at the end, proclaimed words of admiration and loyalty for each other, followed by a fist bump.
The thing about idealistic views of the world and relationships is that they are incandescently contagious to idealistic personalities, which is what most children are. Especially when these personalities are not on their own, thus forced to clash against others who will not bounce the idealisms back unfiltered by the reality of things, but rather in the company of others who will return them even more idealized.
Ordinarily, Nino would have had his excitement shot down by his father, and Rivaldos’ by his mother.
Instead, their eyes gleamed and their hearts settled on the kind of friends they wanted to grow up to be.
Starting the run had been the most difficult part. The moment he landed outside school grounds, Nino felt like he had somehow transferred himself into another world or a different reality.
As he ran, Nino no longer saw school as a concern, or his grades as a worry. The menace of confronting his father was diminished to a matter he could put off to another time, and the usual dangers he would look out for while traversing the city streets didn’t seem at all relevant.
Nino’s mind sharpened, cleaving away bothering thoughts that had nothing to do with getting to Rivaldo and helping him.
His body started to sweat, out of both worry and physical exertion, which was something he wouldn’t notice for a long while. Nino saw the hospital building and so forced himself to stop and check the address again.
He ran to it and quickly found Rivaldo, standing next to a fast food restaurant.
“Rivaldo!” Nino called out.
“Nino!” Rivaldo seemed surprised to actually see him, but so very happy at that. They locked hands and hugged around the hand-shake. “You actually came.”
“’Course, man. What’s happening?” Nino asked, disengaging the intimacy as soon as possible. He then noticed Rivaldo had tearful eyes.
“It’s my brother, man, he got jumped,” Rivaldo said, holding a heavy frown, “sons of bitches got him like four times, doctors are saying he’s probably not gonna make it.”
“Oh no…Nurio,” Nino said, shocked, “I’m so sorry, man.”
“I’m gonna get payback,” Rivaldo said spitefully, “but there’s like four of them, I need…you know I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need it. I need you, man.”
“What do you mean?”
Rivaldo pulled up his shirt to show a knife. It wasn’t a kitchen knife, but a combat one, the kind soldiers use. Nino was shocked to see it, “what the hell, man?!”
Rivaldo instantly hid it again, looking around paranoid. “Dude, c’mon, be cool, be cool.”
“Where’d you get that?” Nino asked.
“From Nurio,” Rivaldo said, “he told me their names, I know one of them.”
“But…but why, shouldn’t we stay with him?” Nino asked, his eyes almost spinning, trying to process what he was being asked to do.
“He asked me to, man,” Rivaldo said amidst hushed albeit aggressive whispering, “he gave me the knife and told me to get them good, otherwise they might try again.”
“This is crazy,” Nino said.
“This is real,” Rivaldo said, still whispering, but very serious. “We don’t leave in a secluded and safe mansion like you do, man, things get real for us, real real. If I don’t do this, it won’t matter if they can patch my brother back up. They’ll just discharge him before he’s strong enough to fight and that’ll be that.”
“Shouldn’t we call the–” Nino stopped himself. Call the police? They wouldn’t care about some street thugs going at each other, and despite Nino’s love for Rivaldo, that’s what his older brother, Nurio, was. A street thug.
Nino was aware Nurio was up to no good, majorly gang activity involving small crimes, it was why Rita was always so adamant not to involve Rivaldo with any of it.
There was part of Nino who considered that as an argument to talk Rivaldo down, in terms of what Rita would want, but that part was squashed by the heat of the moment and the high emotions that he was receiving from his best friend. He was telling the truth, if they didn’t do anything, Nurio would die. Nino knew that he either left with Rivaldo right then or his friend would go at it alone.
“I need you to have my back,” Rivaldo said, dramatically, “I need you to have my back,” he repeated, raising a fist for Nino to bump. “Do you have my back?”
Nino felt like he was in a movie. It was exhilarating and it made him feel great. And he wanted to do and say what would be coolest things to do and say.
“Long as I’m here, brother, of course it is,” Nino said with a smile, fist bumping Rivaldo, who grinned widely.
“Damn right,” Rivaldo nodded, showing a confident smirk. “Let’s go. Just follow my lead, okay?”
They ran off, and by then, Nino was more ingrained into this other world than ever before, realizing it wasn’t just any world, but it was specifically Rivaldo’s world.
Nino and Rivaldo jogged all the way to a certain part of town, not that far away. They stopped at a bus stop. There, Rivaldo suspiciously looked over at another street that peered off to the right from where they were.
“Tércio and Junior usually hang around over there and ambush people,” Rivaldo explained in a low voice, “walk by there with your phone out. And here, put these on.”
Rivaldo took out a hat and sunglasses from the back of his trunks, handing them to Nino.
“It’s pretty sunny out today,” Rivaldo said, meaningfully.
“What about you?” Nino asked, while putting the black hat and dark sunglasses on.
“I want people to know who did this,” Rivaldo said. “It’ll send a message.”
Nino was still carrying around his backpack. As his heart started to speed up, his nervous system becoming aware of the danger it was getting dragged into, he decided he would use the backpack as protection. It was filled with books and notebooks, it would surely work to stop a knife.
Wait, what if they have guns? Nino thought, and looked to Rivaldo wanting to ask but stopping himself, since there were people right next to them.
“Hey,” Rivaldo said in a hushed voice, “you okay to do this, right? I’ll do the hard part.”
“You tell me,” Nino said, his eyes going unblinking, “am I okay to do this? I trust you.”
Rivaldo grinned and placed a hand on his shoulder, whispering, “I trust you with my life, brother, that’s why you’re here. Let’s get them. For Nurio.”
Nino nodded and walked off before hesitation settled itself. He noticed how his brain was going into danger mode, amplifying the risks he was taking, but they were calculated. It was Rivaldo. He could trust Rivaldo with his life when he didn’t, so even more so right then, when he did.
Nino turned the corner with the phone out on his hand like he was using it. It took no time at all for them to approach him. That part was predictable enough, it would happen even if Rivaldo didn’t know them.
“Ey, you lost, playboy,” the first one said, quite amused.
“Give up the phone now, scream and it’s over,” said the other, fast and serious, while brandishing a pistol.
Nino froze, eyes on the pistol. It wasn’t the first time Nino was at one end of a gun, but it was only the second so he wasn’t enough of a veteran when it came to that to maintain his composure. Luckily, he didn’t need to.
Rivaldo jumped at the one holding the gun, sinking the battle knife into his back. The silent and covert robbery became a frenzy of screaming in that split second of action. The moderately crowded street became empty by the time Nino had hit the second guy with his backpack and was lying on the ground holding the pistol that had been dropped, aimed at the second one.
“DON’T MOVE!” Nino screamed.
The stabbed individual was still on the floor, writhing in pain as Rivaldo stabbed again, amidst cursing yells and threats about his brother.
“THAT’S IT EXACTLY, JUNIOR! THAT’S IT! EXACTLY!”
Tércio roared and dove at Rivaldo. Maybe if he hadn’t roared, Nino would have hesitated. As it was, however, his body flinched into the most protective action it could take in the midst of that high-risk situation that would be over in less than half a minute.
Nino’s first kill was deafening.
His hearing return out of a mind-numbing whistle to nothing but the sound of Junior whimpering silent curses under a dying breath as Rivaldo held a hand over his mouth. Tércio was lying down on the floor, clumsily having fallen against the wall of the building right besides them.
Nino couldn’t tell where he had shot him. However, he didn’t know what else to do other than to try and make sure he was out so Nino kept watching for movement.
“I can leave right now and leave you be, asshole, maybe you live,” Rivaldo said, quickly, “or you can keep the other two assholes who jumped my brother safe and sound from me and I’ll have my fun ‘till the cops show up. What’ll it be?”
Junior sold his friends out pretty quickly. Names and neighborhood. Meanwhile, Nino’s brain was still shell-shocked by what happened, focused on making sure Tércio didn’t move, when Rivaldo took the gun off his hands.
Rivaldo wiped it with Junior’s shirt, then wiped the knife, and stashed both in his trunks and below his own y-shirt.
“Nino,” Rivaldo called out, squeezing Nino’s shoulder. Nino looked at him.
“You saved my life, man,” Rivaldo said.
Nino opened his eyes in realization.
Yes. Nino thought, I saved Rivaldo.
“Come on,” Rivaldo said, seemingly excited. “Two left.”
Nino nodded and followed. It was much easier than it should have been. It’s easier than people think, really, or at least it was far easier for Nino than he had expected. In a matter of hours, or even less than one, Nino had stepped into a different world in order to help his best friend. To be loyal and heroic.
Two bad guys were dead and Rivaldo was alive when he wouldn’t be if Nino was not there. Nino felt his facial expression relax and his eyes sort of go placid behind the sunglasses.
“Give me the gun,” Nino whispered.
“What?” Rivaldo asked, glancing back at him in surprise.
“I don’t want to be unarmed,” Nino said, “lemme have the gun.”
Rivaldo glared seriously at Nino, visibly impressed and inspired. He covertly handed him the pistol.
“You watch my back,” Rivaldo said, looking for assurance. Nino smiled the same way he always had, passively and easy going.
“Like a hawk with a gun,” Nino jested, loosely.
That was Nino’s world now.
These are journal entries from the protagonist of the comic book Aegis Omega. If you’re not familiar with the story, I invite you to change that and read up on it:
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