Chapter 9: Bros before Blood
It was a Friday evening, and they had just finished dinner. It was roughly nine o’ clock when the doorbell rang, which was something that hadn’t ever really happened before.
“Who’s that?” Aiko asked, curious and concerned, due to the late hour.
Nino’s father furrowed his brow, knowingly, and set off towards the door. Nino followed, of course, chasing the little possibility for a situation that would engage his adrenaline.
His father had only to look through the peephole for his face to contort with utter disgust and offense.
“You son of a bitch,” he voiced, venomously, while taking out his phone. He then noticed Nino, and Aiko at the door of the living room. “I’m calling the police. Get up to your room, Nino.”
“What? Why?” Nino asked, instead of obeying. “Who is it?”
“Get up to your room, Nino!” He looked aside, “yes, police? I want to report a break in, he’s outside my door, and I fear for my life.”
His father raised his voice a bit too much at that point, apparently, because that’s what probably alerted to Rivaldo that there were people at the door already.
He just yelled.
Nino didn’t even recognize the voice at first, but once he repeated, Nino reflexively opened the door.
His father closed it immediately, and violently. Nino caught a glimpse of his friend before the door slammed shut. He looked far more grown up than Nino did, and he looked absolutely relieved and happy to see his friend, for what small instant it really was.
It was the very next moment that both Nino and his father noticed the door hadn’t actually shut the whole way through. A crack remained open, Rivaldo had blocked it with his foot.
“Nino, I need your help!”
Nino opened his eyes in shock.
“No!” His father yelled, punching at the door, trying to close it. “We had a deal! Get the off my fu**ing property, NOW!”
A deal? Nino thought, looking over at his father, whose face was already growing red.
“I can’t tell you why, Nino, I can’t tell you for what, but it’s dangerous. I’m in danger. And people might get hurt.”
Aiko yelped from behind as his father blew off a scream. A roar of rage. He opened the door and made to attack Rivaldo, but he stepped back and reached for the back of his pants, intimidated. He didn’t even grab anything, but it seemed like it didn’t matter. Nino’s father was unfair, not stupid, he promptly pulled back and closed shut the door.
He had just wanted to back Rivaldo away.
“Dad, we should hear him out. He looks like he’s in serious trouble,” Nino pleaded, glancing back and forth between the door and his father.
“Yes, trouble he got himself into, no doubt! How many times do I have to tell you, these cockroaches make their own bed, we’re not responsible for when they finally catch on fire!!”
In the past, Nino had often cowed. But in the present, Nino was a grown man who had killed people. Smiling derisively, scoffing, he faced his father.
“He’s not a cockroach, Dad, he’s my best friend!”
His father’s hand squeezed the phone so hard the screen started flickering.
“If he’s your friend, he’d leave you alone.”
“Why?” Nino reacted, squinting his eyes in curiosity. “What’s this deal you made?”
“Everyone, please calm down,” Aiko pleaded from the side, sadly. “You’re…you’re father and son.”
“Are we?” His father asked, slowly and questioningly. “Doesn’t feel like we are. I do everything for this boy, give him everything I have, and he wants none of it, he’s ready to throw it away.”
“It’s not like that, Dad, I just don’t want my friend to die! Not if I can help.”
“The only help you can really give him is to put him in jail,” his father said. “He will drag you down with him otherwise, you’ll become just another rat, fighting for supremacy of the gutters in this damned country.”
“Dad, geez,” Nino reacted, sneering, “please calm down. I just want to hear him out. I’m a grown man, aren’t I?”
His father flinched, taken aback.
“What?” He asked. The screen on his mobile cracked beneath the pressure of his grip.
Nino found he was no longer afraid of the man. Why had he ever been? He could not beat him in a fight, nor would he try, really. He smiled, trying to keep the situation light.
“I’m past eighteen, you should trust I know what I’m doing. Let me hear him out and don’t call the police, c’mon. I don’t mind discussing it with y–”
“Hear me out first, then,” his father said, or rather demanded. “You leave with him, you take whatever you want from this house with you, because you will never come back.”
Nino lost his smile for a moment there, surprised by the escalation of the situation. His mother cringed from the doorway, bringing a hand to her mouth. Probably because, being someone who actually really socialized with Nino, she knew how headstrong he had gotten in the recent years.
To his credit, his father’s contempt had taken him to tears. He wasn’t crying out of helplessness or sadness, but still, tears were making down his reddened cheeks. Nearly steaming from their heat.
“You change your name,” his father continued, “You forget about me, and you forget about your mother. No matter how much I care about you, son…” his father choked on the word, clearly having a hard time saying what he was saying. “I-I will not abide, protect, or in any way support a criminal like Rivaldo.”
“Dad,” Nino pleaded.
“Like you,” he added, and that really did it.
Nino noticed how his father was looking at him, and finally realized how he was seen. He glanced aside at his mother, who was crying, so very not used to that level of dramatics.
One point of view would be that Rivaldo had caused that household to reach that situation. To break apart in that manner. Another point of view was that Nino was responsible. That was how Nino saw it.
If Rivaldo wasn’t around, if he hadn’t been involved in what he was two years past, and now, then maybe their house wouldn’t have broken down, sure. But Nino would still be Nino, and he cared a lot more about people than he did the law.
That was just the truth in his heart.
Nino cracked a helpless smile.
“I’m sorry, dad. I… will abide, protect, and in every way support the people I care about. That means you guys as well, obviously, but right now, Rivaldo might need me more than you do. That-that’s all.”
His father clenched his eyes and threw the phone at the wall, breaking it, and duly startling Aiko.
“You’re your own man,” he said, poisoned. “It’s your decision.”
At that, his father left the hallway, heading to the stairs.
“Honey, please, we don’t have to–”
He stopped and looked at Aiko, accusingly.
“It’s not your fault,” he said, opposing what his eyes were saying. “However, unless you want to be responsible for your son hurting people…it’s what it is.”
He left at that, walking up the stairs. Aiko lost strength in her legs and sat down on the floor, in disbelief.
Nino sighed, opened the door, told Rivaldo he’d be right out, and then walked back to Aiko, his mother. His smile dropped, her pain was something he couldn’t ignore.
“Mom…I’m sorry about this.”
But at the end of the day, she would still be alive. She would still have her husband, and friends and life. She didn’t need him as much as Rivaldo probably did, coming to his house like that.
The situation had to be deadly serious.
“I just don’t understand,” Aiko complained, weakly, “how did it turn out like this?”
“I dunno,” Nino said sadly. He hugged her as meaningfully as he could, “I wish it hadn’t, if that means anything.”
“How is your father just…allowing you to go…”
“He can’t stop me,” Nino confessed, with a sigh. “It’s…I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, this is something I just need to do. I can’t abandon him, I can’t abandon my friend.”
“But you can abandon your parents?” She said, both angry and sad. Her voice somewhat muffled by the grief.
“I’m not. I would come back if I could but look at you. And did you see dad? Maybe he’s right, maybe it’s for the best, I don’t know. I just…”
He sighed again.
“I just know what I need to do, mom. No matter how much I love you, and how much I’ll miss you,” Nino paused to blink and shed his own tears. It was hard, it was impossibly hard, but going on like he had seemed impossible.
He knew where he had to go. Nino felt it, in the core of his being, what path he wanted to take. That meant turning his back on his father, but more terribly, on his mother. It was hard, but he would do it.
The alternative just felt so much worse.
“I just know what I need to do…”
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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