"What's with her?" Lucky complained. "Why does she want me to toughen up?"

Tiki looked at him. "Well… Rukia's been here longer than any of us. She's an expert in every area from juggling to trapeze. So it's natural for her to think you're talentless. I mean, not that you are. I'm just saying, that's what she might think, um-"

"So?" Lucky cornered Tiki. "Tell me already!"

Surprised by his direct attitude, Tiki reluctantly explained. "The Freedom Show is basically this. Three contestants are chosen out of the whole circus. Those three contestants must perform an act to an audience. The one winner is chosen by the audience to be freed."

"But there's a catch." She added, voice all dramatic. "The contestants can only be performers that Xavier bought, such as yourself."

"So?" Lucky cornered Tiki. "Can't Rukia be in it?"

"I just said that the performers could only be the people Xavier bought!" Tiki exasperated. "Rukia wasn't bought by Xavier. She was…"


ABSOLUTE EXCUSE : Chapter 6, The Lion With No Courage


"… raised by him."

Lucky didn't understand. "So she can't be in the Freedom Show because the cape guy didn't buy her before?"

"Exactly." Tiki pulled a thumbs up. "So because of that technicality, Rukia can never be in the Freedom Show, thus she can't-"

"-be freed." Lucky finished. He was finally soaking up all the knowledge. Tiki, feeling rather solemn, continued. "She's felt the pain of staying here for eight long years. The least she could do was help others."

The two had a silent moment before Lucky finally spoke up. "Even if she can't be freed, I'll train hard, just to make her happy!" With that he clenched his fists, as a solemn promise.

"Make way!"

Lucky and Tiki turned around and saw a muscly, cumbersome man and a petite girl with too much make-up.

"Hey Tiki, who's this?" The girl stated with a sneer.

"He's really small." The strongman snickered.

In an instant, Lucky felt repulsed about them. "I'm Lucky. Who the heck are you?"

The girl gasped. "Language!"

The strongman chortled. "He's funny!"

"Be nice, you two." Tiki interrupted the mundane greetings. She glanced at the girl. "Bella, don't you have other business to attend to? And you, Bruno," She turned to the strongman. "Don't you have weights to lift?"

"Of course I have business." The girl put her hands on her hips. "It just so happens to be right behind you."


Ringo Bella. Animal Tamer and Daughter of Ringo Xavier


"Yeah." The strongman agreed. "Miss Bella has to feed the lion."


Bruno, Natural Strongman and Bella's Bodyguard


"So unless you want to be beaten like to a pulp I suggest you move out of our way." Bella added in a condescending tone.

"Go around!" Lucky blurted with no hesitation. "You're not the princess here."

Bella gasped. "The atrocity!"

Bruno chortled. "He's funny!"

"We're sorry, Bella." Tiki apologized, stepping in between the three. "We'll move!"

"No, we won't, pushover!" Lucky grabbed Tiki's shoulder and pulled her aside.

"You don't want to anger me, twerp." Bella gritted her teeth. "Move."

"Go around!" Lucky blurted once again. "You're not the-"

But before he finished his sentence Tiki pulled him to the side, cupping Lucky's mouth. "I'm really sorry! He's new here." She loudly said as Lucky's muffled voice drowned it out.

Bella looked at them with malevolent eyes. "Fine. I'll give the twerp a chance. But just so you know," she continued, taking a step. "You've just delayed Koko's lunch." And with that Bella and Bruno strutted towards the animal cages, which were ironically only six meters away. As soon as they were out of hearing range Tiki finally removed her hand, leaving a very ticked Lucky angry.

"Why didn't you stand up for yourself?!" Lucky questioned. Tiki sighed. "Because if you mess with her you'll get into big trouble!"

"Pushover." Lucky stuck his tongue out, which caused Tiki to do a facepalm. "You don't get it!" She exasperated. "Bella's the ringmaster's daughter! And even if you were able to fight her she's got a strongman for a bodyguard, for goodness sakes!"

"I don't care." Lucky crossed his arms. "What did she have to do anyway?!"

Tiki sighed once again. It was hard babysitting stubborn kids. "Bella is also an animal tamer but she only owns one animal." She pointed behind her. "It's a lion named Koko."

Lucky turned around. He saw Bruno dangling a piece of steak outside the cage, taunting the lion as it tried to lick it. This received a nasty slap from Bella, who took the meat and threw it inside the cage, hitting the lion's head. Somehow, Lucky felt even more repulsed. Even though they were feeding it they did it in a way that can only described as heartless.

"Yo." Rukia greeted. "What's up?"

"AAAAAAAAHHHHH!"

"Calm down!" Rukia furrowed her eyebrows at Lucky and Tiki, who were scared to the bone. "Geez, don't get your butterfly undies in a ghostly twist. It's only me."

But Lucky and Tiki both cared to object that statement. Not only did Rukia interrupt one of Lucky's empathy sessions, but she was also hanging from the tightrope once again.

"Rukia, why'd you sneak up on us like that?!" Tiki scolded. Rukia scoffed. "I'm sorry I'm not a normal person. But anyway," she turned to Lucky. "You, butterfly boy, I was on room service duty for this one guy. You know him? He's tall, wears a baseball cap, kind of a moron-"

"Hey, wait." Lucky interrupted. "That's-"

"Anyway, he had like &20,000 krones on the table, so I figured he must've either sold you or the toddle-"

"Yeah, I know him! He's-"

"I know." It was Rukia's turn to interrupt. "He's the one who sold the toddler."

Lucky was flabbergasted. "NO! He's the one who sold ME!"

Rukia's eyes widened. "Oh… my mistake… but I thought you should know." She dropped and landed onto the ground. "So, what's up?"

"Bella's been her bossy self again." Tiki filled her in. "She's just gone to feed Koko."

But right at that moment, Bella and Bruno we're standing behind them. Bella looked even more patronizing than usual.

"So, I see you've met Rukia too." She cooed. "Don't worry. She's not going anywhere. Right?"

Lucky felt like marching right up and punching her in the guts but a quick glance from Tiki made him stop. Rukia, calm as always, replied. "Of course I'm not."

"Oops! I seem to have made a mistake." Bella taunted, hand to her mouth. "I meant anywhere outside the warehouse." She smirked. "For example."

"Oh please, I can sneak out any time I want too." Rukia replied coolly. "I just choose not to."

The two stood across each other, an invisible lightning streak flashing. Lucky wouldn't be surprised if a catfight erupted.

"Well, I'll be leaving now." Bella swished her golden hair. "Bye bye."

She and Bruno sauntered away, with Bruno looking behind his shoulder to flash a warning glance.

"I can't believe she said that." Tiki began. "She knows you can't be freed, but why does she have to say it?"

"Don't mind her." Rukia responded with casual expression. "She's bossy in her own way. Anyway, I apologize if she scared you, butterf-"

But Lucky was nowhere to be seen. "Huh?" Rukia and Tiki said in unison.

"Come on!" shouted a nearby voice. "Eat it! Eat the meat!"

The two turned around and saw Lucky forcibly encouraging Koko to eat his meal.

"Lucky!" Tiki called. "Don't come close to him! Koko's really sensitive to strangers!" She and Rukia raced towards him. "That idiot." Rukia made a fist. "He'll lose an arm!"

As they stopped at the cage Lucky clamped his hands on the bars. "Come on! Eat it!"

"What're you doing?!" Rukia scolded him. "Come back here before he rips your arm off!"

"No way!" Lucky refused. "Not until he eats!"

By then Koko was extremely aggravated. As soon as Lucky yelled again he pounced towards him, intent on shutting him up. As he lunged forward he broke the cage and fastened his sharp jaws on Lucky's head.

Tiki cupped her mouths as she and Rukia widened their eyes. "LUCKY!"

Lucky's neck was bleeding, although his head was still attached to his body. "It's fine." Said a muffled voice from Koko's mouth. "He won't eat me."

This surprised Koko. "Why should he eat me," Lucky continued. "When he already has a piece of food in front of him?"

Rukia and Tiki were stunned. "What?"

"I said," Lucky began. "To let me go, Koko."

Something inside Koko changed. The bottomless terror inside him faded away, as if someone finally switched the light on. All these years he yearned for comfort more than anything. As long as he received comfort, he would eat.

He slowly opened his mouth, releasing Lucky's head. As a shocked Rukia and Tiki watched, Koko slinked his head inside the cage, plopped down and took a nibble from the steak. He glanced at Lucky.

"Come on." Lucky assured him. "Eat it."

And with that, Koko ate the rest of his steak contently.


AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I'm sorry if the chapter was too much of a breeze. Katsurou says to tone down the descriptive words a bit so I can let the humour shine through. I actually finished this in one day! I'm getting a lot better. I wish you luck in your future stories!