Arc 2: Chapter 11: When Do People Smile?

Ethan: “Sister, do people only smile when they are happy?”

The 6-year-old boy asked the 24-year-old woman who was in front of him.

Sister: “Huh? Where did that come from?”

Sister, a title given to the females who act as caretakers to the orphans in those types of catholic orphanages; it was a title fitting for a kind-hearted volunteer like her.

Ethan: “Just … wondering.”

He turned to look down, not really bothered even if he didn’t get an answer. That said though, his question had captured enough attention from the Sister for her to not it go.

Sister: “Well, uh, let me think about that.”

She said with an awkward smile.

Obviously, she had her own point of view towards the world and everything so she had an honest answer for that question, but could she just tell an answer like that to a 6-year-old orphan without thinking of any repercussions? Of course she couldn’t. Therefore, she needed to phrase it in a way that it fitted the understandings of a child. However,

Ethan: “Sister, if you are going to answer my question, please just answer it honestly! Don’t spin it around for my sake or something like that!”

He, for whatever reason, could read her like a book and was not happy with her attitude. Seeing that, she just flashed a painful and awkward smile as if she’s at a loss-for-words.

Sister: “Well, boy, if you want an honest answer from me, then tell me why are you asking first?”

She said while trying to regain her composure.

Ethan: “Well Sister, if you want to know that, then tell me the answer first.”

Ethan retorted with a deadpan expression, making her lose all composure she had just gained.

Not being acquainted with him as she had just started working there a few days ago, she could only wonder who this kid was and why he was showing interest in such a question, also why he was so indifferent towards getting an answer but very sensitive towards getting the truth or lie as an answer.

As she was deep in thought though, someone knocked on the door to the orphanage.

Sister: “Ah! Looks like someone is here! Could it be someone came to adopt a child?”

She forgot all about Ethan’s question as that thought came to her mind and jumped up in glee.

Ethan: “Why are you so happy thinking about that?”

Sister: “Isn’t that obvious? If someone adopts a child from the orphanage, then that child will get a great home to live in and everything that he or she can’t get here. It’s a great thing!”

Looking at her rant with her eyes shining, Ethan sighs with the same deadpan expression he had since the beginning of their conversation.

Then, their visitor knocks on the door again.

Sister: “Ah! Is there no one to get the door?”

Ethan: “I … think that’s case.”

Sister: “What!? You should have told me sooner!”

She started running towards the door 2 rooms away. As he saw her go, he decided to rest in the chair he was sitting on, away from all the other children in the orphanage. He didn’t like being with them because of how noisy they all were. However,

Ethan: “What’s wrong with me!?”

He muttered to himself as he felt his chest growing heavier when he let that person go there alone. And so, with a sigh, he decided to follow.

He didn’t run though.

He didn’t like running. It felt like a waste of energy, especially when walking would bring the same results as running, only with a little extra time taken. However, at that moment, he felt terrible for not running. He felt like he was compelled to run and reach the door to the orphanage as soon as possible.

Ethan: “Just what is this feeling!?”

He didn’t realize it when he questioned it, but he realized what it was when he finally reached his destination.

Sister: “Please come in!”

The sister welcomed the visitor in the orphanage. She did so with a smile. But Ethan, for whatever reason, couldn’t bring himself to smile. And in that moment, he realized what that emotion was.

It was an alarm, an alarm telling him to stay away from the person who had come in as their ‘visitor’.

The man in front of him, a man tall enough to be about 6’2 or 6’3, with a gorgeous face and slightly long and black hair that gave him a bit of a feminine vibe, looked at Ethan and introduced himself.

“Hello, good sir! I’m Bronzer, a prey working for hunters.”

*******************************

Gabriel: “Are you freaking kidding me?!”

Asking that, he grabs the collars of the man he asks that question to.

Ethan: “Why would I bother to kid a person as boring as you?”

Even with his collars held like that though, Ethan still retorts with a smirk.

Gabriel: “So, that means, you knew Bronzer from so long ago.”

Ethan: “HA!”

He deliberately chuckles, causing even more frustration on Gabriel’s face and, as a result, veins start popping on the Hellfire’s forehead.

Ethan: “I never ‘knew’ Bronzer.”

He says with his hands tightening for a moment.

Ethan: “But I was made AWARE of his existence.”

Even as he hears it though, Gabriel can do nothing but show his frustration or yell.

Come to think of it though, this is the first time I am really getting to know something about Ethan’s past.

I, of course, know that he was a victim to that disaster 12 years ago. But, aside from that, what do I know about this guy? Nothing.

I trust him enough to follow his plan even as I go against the world’s strongest man but, why do I trust him so much? What makes me trust him so much?

Is it just the fact that he hates Ozyllus like me? No, that is too shallow of a reason for me to bet my life on a plan he makes.

What is it about Ethan Kales that compels me to trust him?

Sona: “It’s probably your similarities.”

Sona, as if she has read my mind, says that all of a sudden. I turn to my right to look at her but she doesn’t turn back, instead just looks at the furious Gabriel and the silent Ethan.

Sona: “You are wondering why you trust him, aren’t you? I can’t guarantee that is the correct answer but, that is the answer I have for trusting him.”

She says so with a serious and unchanging face.

Kais: “What ‘similarities’ are you talking about?”

I ask inquisitively and she sighs, hearing that.

Sona: “You are both nutcases who, provided enough of a motivation, would go up against people you know you can never defeat.”

She answers while turning towards me a little.

Kais: “I have seen countless instances of that by Ethan, but when have I ever done something like that?”

Sona: “Hah!”

She sighs as if to say I am asking a foolish question.

Sona: “You said you’d destroy Ozyllus, obviously he is not someone you can directly defeat, is he?”

Kais: “…”

Well, she is not wrong. I might be similar to Ethan in that regard.

Sona: “Also,”

She says with a bit of smile.

Sona: “I’m the same kind of nutcase too.”

Yeah, you definitely are, woman. But even knowing that, hearing you say it still makes me laugh.

Ethan: “Flirting again?”

His voice calls out to us with that … ‘question’?

Sona: “Hah!”

Hearing it, Sona sighs exasperatedly as if she is tired of his jokes. And so,

Kais: “Yes, actually!”

I try to spice things up a bit.

Sona: “Huh!?”

While she reacts with an expression that one would show to a sun rising from west, the other three only look with wide-eyed surprise.

Kais: “…”

And I decide the best thing to do is to shut up and let the chaos start. After all, this is one of the few moments where I can see Ethan being shocked and awed, even if it’s a joke that I’ll dismiss after a while.

Ethan: “Well, isn’t that great?”

He turns around and starts quietly contemplating to himself. Too bad for him, I have no intention of missing his shock and so I use Clairaudience to listen to his mutters. Just as I do that, Sneha joins him and Gabriel seems to be listening with intentions of not missing anything either.

Sneha: “Is he actually serious about that!?”

She asks while trying to show her surprise even in her whispers. Ethan replies with a straight face,

Ethan: “Of course not! He’s trying to get a pained reaction out of me because he’s an idiot who forgot my Eyes of Truth lets me know if a person is lying or not.”

Those damned eyes!

Well, that spoiled the mood. Might as well stop listening now-

Ethan: “But still, it’s quite surprising that the idiot said something that would trigger a flag in that direction. Maybe, some cliché developments are going to happen after all.”

Kais: “…”

I … never heard that, alright?

As I said, I pulled back and never heard Ethan say all that crap. Even if I had, it’s not like it’ll be true or anything but who knows, I mean, I never heard that in the first place so I don’t.

And then, Ethan looks at me and says with an annoyed expression,

Ethan: “Stop rambling like a lunatic inside your head! The energy balance in the atmosphere around us is being disturbed because your mind is constantly blabbering something, probably a lie, inside your head.”

Ethan Kales, drop dead!

*******************************

Sister: “So that part about ‘a prey working for hunters’ was a joke?”

She asks with a nervous smile as she looks at the visitor sitting on the chairs.

Bronzer: “Of course it was, Sister. You don’t know? It is kinda like the new catchphrase among children.”

He says with a smile as he turns to look at Ethan with an expression of ‘Right?’

Ethan: “…”

He does not reply, only looks back at Bronzer with emotionless eyes.

Sister: “UH!?”

She starts to panic because of the rudeness Ethan was showing to their ‘guest’ but,

Ethan: “I don’t know. It could be. It’s not like I spend much time with ‘children’.”

He said before she could say anything.

Bronzer: “Ah! I see. And here I was thinking I had given a greeting a child would be familiar with. Guess I was wrong!”

Ethan knew that this man was lying out of his teeth. He knew that there was no trend like that going on among anyone. Yet, he didn’t say so. He found no reason to argue over something like that. And so, he didn’t say a word.

Bronzer: “Let a lie rule if peace comes from it!”

He suddenly said, causing both Ethan and the Sister to be surprised.

Bronzer: “Oh, nothing. I don’t know what came over me.”

He said with a smile and closed his eyes as he turned towards the Sister.

She just casually chuckled a bit at that.

But Ethan understood better. He understood that phrase was to represent his approach to the situation. He knew that what their visitor was trying to say.

Let a lie rule if peace comes from it.

Although this was a really small-scale application of it, Ethan did choose to let the lie continue just so he can avoid any unnecessary nonsense that may happen if the lie is discovered.

Ethan: “Mister Bro-”

He got interrupted with a smiling expression and a voice saying,

Bronzer: “Just Bronzer.”

Ethan: “Huh?!”

Bronzer: “You can just call me Bronzer.”

Ethan sighed and continued,

Ethan: “Bronzer, why are you here?”

He asked with an expression empty enough that ‘deadpan’ wouldn’t even be a suitable word for it. The best word would indeed be – emotionless.

Sister: “Ethan! That’s rude!”

The Sister chided him with her hands at her waists but,

Bronzer: “No, no, it’s quite okay, miss.”

Bronzer casually told her to stop with that and continued,

Bronzer: “I am here to see how unripe the fruits are for eating.”

Sister: “Huh!?”

Ethan just emptily stared even as he heard that but the Sister got anxious as to what he meant.

Bronzer: “Oh pardon me, I came to this city with two purposes and just keep mixing them up.”

What he said was a lie. Ethan knew that. What he meant – Ethan also knew that. But,

Ethan: “I see.”

He didn’t tell anyone yet again, causing a grin to appear on Bronzer’s face.

Even as he heard that his fellow orphans are being looked at as food by some party that this man represents, he didn’t say anything or tell anyone. He just casually walked away.

Sister: “Uh, ah,”

The Sister kept looking back-and-forth between the two of them, unable to decide what to do. Seeing her like that, Bronzer chuckled and stood up.

Bronzer: “I remembered something. I probably need to go now.”

He said with a smile. The Sister, hearing that, bowed to him.

Bronzer: “Can I make a request before going though, if you don’t mind?”

He asked. The Sister nodded nervously.

Bronzer: “Please tell that boy – people don’t just smile when they are happy. They also smile when they are sad.”

*******************************

Gabriel: “If you decide to go back on this,”

Ethan: “Shut up already! We said we are going to help you with your revenge and so we will. Unless of course, you decide to keep annoying us like you are now and make us change our minds.”

He says quite mockingly.

Gabriel: “Tsk!”

While paying little attention to that exchange, I open the door of the car Ethan and Sneha came in.

Kais: “What did you two do with the actual driver?”

Sneha: “Put him to sleep obviously.”

Kais: “And … how?”

Sneha doesn’t directly answer but makes a motion of giving someone a slap … or a chop.

I see. So they put the driver to sleep with one of Sneha’s chops. I guess it couldn’t be helped though.

Kais: “Where is he right now?”

Sneha: “All tied up in the back-seat.”

She says without showing much remorse for tying up the driver of the taxi inside the taxi itself.

Kais: “Hah!”

I sigh and then open the back-door and see the driver lying there unconscious while his hands and legs are tied up with ropes and mouth is tied up with a cloth – classic ‘kidnapped’ appearance.

Kais: “Hah! Now I kinda feel bad for the guy!”

I say exasperatedly, to which,

Sona: “Why? He’s been sleeping there safely the whole time while we were busy strategizing and fighting.”

And to think that they say women are more sympathetic than men!

Kais: “Anyway, are those two done yet?”

I say as I turn to look at Ethan and Gabriel. Ever since we all collectively decided to help Gabriel, he has been bugging Ethan with one thing or another.

Gabriel: “And if you decided to do something that irritated me,”

Ethan: “It’s not an ‘if’, loser, I’ll definitely do something like that.”

And it seems like it’s still going on.

Kais: “Would you two cut it out?”

Gabriel: “Don’t interfere with this!”

Ethan: “Yeah, Kais, shut up!”

Well, that didn’t go so well. Seeing that,

Sneha: “Seriously, stop it. You are making my head spin!”

Gabriel: “Then go see a doctor, don’t complain to us!”

Ethan: “Right, now what were we fighting over?”

Okay, I take it back. Men really are less sympathetic than women! At least, these two men are. However, as there is something important to do here, we can’t let them continue this charade. And so, I turn to the best person for the job.

Sona: “Uh …”

She looks at me awkwardly as she understands what I want her to do. She droops her shoulders, making a cute, sighing face.

Sona: “Okay, sure.”

She then says those words and looks at the two of them.

Sona: “Shut up!”

She says in a stern voice, and …

Gabriel: “…”

Ethan: “…”

Seeing that, I can’t help but think that if I do fall for a woman someday, it’ll definitely be this nutcase. Wait! What am I saying!? There’s no chance of that happening. It’s not like I heard what Ethan was muttering back then or anything like that, NOT AT ALL!

Ethan: “You are disrupting the energy balance again.”

Kais: “More importantly,”

Not waiting a second for anyone to react to his statement, I say,

Kais: “There’s something you need to take a look at.”

Hearing that, with a bored expression, he comes towards where I am pointing … which is the back-seat of the car.

Ethan: “What is it? Everything looks normal to me.”

A guy lying in the seat all tied up and unconscious looks normal to you? Well I guess you are Ethan Kales so one can’t be too surprised. Anyway though,

Kais: “Take a look at the ropes around his hand, there’s something there that I doubt would have been there from the start.”

As I say so, Ethan takes a look, finds and picks up an old-fashioned mobile phone. He presses some random button causing the screen to lighten up and “YOU HAVE 1 NEW MESSAGE” to show up.

As he presses the buttons accordingly to view it, the message opens up and inside it, was an image. This image showed a woman in the outfit of a Church or Orphanage Sister lying dead in a pool of blood. And there, alongside the image, it was written –

‘I was, years ago, asked to tell you something that I forgot to. So, let me tell you this now – people don’t just smile when they are happy. They also smile when they are sad.

The woman lying in the pool of blood – was smiling.

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