There was a musty smell permeating the air, suffocating the atmosphere with the presence of foreboding death. For people with supernatural hearing, the dull staccato of water leaking from an unknown crevice could make anyone insane.
A girl with dirty and matted hair inched closer to another girl with a soft whimper. Her malnourished body had been hunched over in a futile effort to conserve any lick of body heat.
”Ayla… ” The girl croaked in pain. Even breathing was painful for her to endure. The shabby and thin sack was useless in hiding the slash marks that littered her body especially on her bony wrist.
Ayla snapped out from her reverie at the sound of the raspy voice and instinctively smoothen the girls hair just like how she mentioned her mother would do to calm her down.
Her quivering body only calmed down after Ayla gently run her fingers through her hair a few times.
”I…wouldn have…survive this long…without you…Ayla. ” The girl said in between her shallow breaths.
She thought it was a miracle she met such a strong and dependable friend at the perfect moment. Ayla gave her the strong urge to claw her way to last another day after all this time.
Ayla frowned, tugging the sticky green tinted bangs away from her eyes to glance at her seriously. ”Stop speaking and be good. You need to conserve energy, Jazah. ”
Jazah weakly lifted her lips as if she can see the way Ayla squinted her eyes in disproval behind her head. ”I hope we can really escape this hellhole, Ayla. ”
”I miss my brother. ” She added weakly.
”Youll see him soon. I promise Ill get you out of here. ”
”Mhmm…thats nice. I also want to eat hot bread. I remember my mother would make it for me when I get sick. ” Even when she laid limp at the cold floor, her mouth still wouldn shut up. It was like her personality didn blacken even when her body was breaking down.
”You can eat all the hot bread that you want soon. ” Ayla coaxed softly.
There was a beat of silence before Jazah opened her mouth again. ”Ayla…I don think I can welcome the sun tomorrow. ”
”Says who? ” Ayla raised her eyebrow coldly. She didn like when Jazah starts talking about her death. She prefers if she drone on and on about her family instead.
”My spide-y senses are tingling. ”
”What a load of shit. ” Ayla blurted, but a ghost of a smile was pasted on her deadpan face.
Multiple heavy footsteps suddenly echoed from outside the dimly lit hallway, arousing everybodys conditioned fear. The other teenagers began to instinctively dig their backs to the concrete, eyeing the door warily.
It was like the grim reapers sonata for all of them by now.
”Shh, don make a noise. ”
There was the agonizing second of keys rattling before the room became brighter as soon the door slammed open.
The same tall and lanky guy entered the room arrogantly accompanied by two bulky men. They saw the guy visit the room daily just to choose girls to send somewhere and dump another group of girls later afterwards.
It was very methodical to the point that Ayla learned to count the days by waiting for the lanky guys scheduled arrival.
Just like last time, the lanky guy was on time. ”Greetings, our goddesses beloved saints. Time to choose todays lamb! Now, who will it be? ”
He leered down as if to deliberately incite more fear to the terrified children. The tiny circular black sunglasses in a dark dungeon just made him even more disturbing.
And the sick **er was absolutely enjoying being the harbinger of trauma and fear for children half his age.
”Ah, shit! Who among you wretched kids peed? What the **?! ” He pinched his nose in anger. The voice was too thunderous to be anything like human.
A girl that seems to be at the age seven or nine immediately cried after feeling cornered by his shout. Now it was easy to deduce who did it.
In their age, parents will understand that they have slip ups like that once in a while. But unfortunately, they were suddenly transported in this godforsaken place who don have any patience for anything.
”Mother**er, shut up! You know what? You, take that kid out! ” The lanky guy lashed out and called one of the minion with him to take the crying girl out.
”But sir, the girl still didn broke— ”
”I don care! That girl is as good as dead here anyway. ” The lanky guy scoffed, grinning at the crying girl tauntingly.
”Better think twice before wasting someones precious time in your next life, princess. ” He waved an intricately gold plated pocket watch that hangs at the front suit pocket ostentatiously.
Everybody was as still as a statue as the first minion hauled the screeching child away from the room. It was very noisy with the kids cries and shouts bouncing on the four walls before everything abruptly turn silent.
Ayla froze, desperately trying to not let her face reveal any slip of expression. She didn want to imagine what made the cries disappear.
The little girl was screaming for their mother until the end…
”Now, children, lets move on to the pressing matters. I want to get out of this place immediately! ”
Ayla felt Jazahs body squirmed, pressing herself closer to her body. At that time, it seems like her body knows it needs to hide before anybody can predict it.
The lanky guy snapped their finger at the second minion and pointed at Aylas way dismissively.
”You, take the child. ”
Ayla flinched as she instinctively moved to place herself between Jazah and the person.
”Don take her away! ”
”Sir… ” The minion looked over his leader for the next command upon Aylas firm resistance.
”What are you waiting for? Thats just a kid! Hurry up, we
e already behind schedule! ”
Hearing the lanky guys snappy tone, the minion didn hesitate any more and snatched Jazah from the ground as if lugging a sack of potato.
”Ayla… ” Jazah whimpered weakly. She was quivering like a leaf once again because of terror.
”No! Don take her away. Shes sick! ” Ayla pushed her short legs to jump on the minions think, muscular legs in a futile attempt to drag them back.
The lanky guy suddenly sent Aylas body propelling backwards with his cane. ”Don make me waste two good products today, kid. One more second here is a waste of my precious time! ”
”This shit…ugh, lets leave immediately or Im gonna turn this place to dust! ” The lanky guy barked out.
Ayla opened her eyes blearily, reaching her hand to the locked door. ”Don take her away, please. We planned to escape together… ”
Ayla took a huge gulp of air, staring at the wooden ceiling with wide disoriented eyes. That briefly made her feel like drowning. It took a moment to orient herself back to reality by lying on the bed and taking careful deep breaths.
It was strange to utter that name with her own mouth again. Most memories were already pushed back to the corner of her mind a long time ago. So why is she dreaming about her past again?
”Ayla? Aylaaa! Are you up? ”
The lucid sensation that she still can quite shook off, instantly vanished once loud knockings ensued outside her room.
”Hey! Are you still asleep? Seriously, what a sleepy head! ” Vega began spewing out phrases to wake Ayla up, while still knocking on the door with a jolting rhythm.
”I need your help for my experiment! Its mid afternoon now! ”
Ayla slowly sat up from her sleeping position confusedly, squinting at the door with pursed lips. Yesterdays event easily rushed back to her while she was trying shake the sleep out of her eyes.
Right, the expedition and the capturing operation.
Ayla crawled groggily out of her bed at the behest of Vegas urgent voice which is still the source of commotion in this silent building. Vegas voice must have what woke her up this time.
”Im coming, coming! Enough with the door already. I don want noise complaints from others—! ”
Ayla almost fell on her back because she stood up too fast. She had to stay still until the black and white dots dancing in her sight went away before trudging to the door.
”The ** do you want!? ” Thats how Aylas mood went from bad to worst this quickly.
Ayla had opened her door suddenly that Vega unceremoniously lost her balance and fall on the floor.
Vega looked up sheepishly, letting out a dry laugh in an attempt to curb Aylas blunt glare.
”Haha. Good afternoon, Ayla dear~ ” Vega waved naturally, dusting off imaginary dust from her white jeans as if nothing just happened.
”Fancy meeting you in your cute pajamas. ” She took a glance down at Aylas light blue pajamas with printed strawberries and berries, and held up a thumbs up.
Ayla didn have the mood to be flattered. She knows her appearance is far from proper with her presently wild tangled hair sticking up in every angle, creating an unflattering curly mess of a green hair.
And don get her started with the sunken eyes because of that dream.
Of course, Vega immediately noticed Aylas haggardness. ”You look like shit. ” Vega pointed out bluntly before her eyes widen, cupping her mouth quickly with her hand.
”No, I mean—. ”
Ayla merely gave her a blank look, slamming the door in her face. ”Stupid people in the morning are a menace. ” She grumbled as she crawled under her covers, wrapping herself like a cocoon.
She was preparing to properly drift off to sleep this time when Vega again disrupted her sleep.
She pushed the blanket away from her and exhaled angrily exhaled, glaring hard at the ceiling in an attempt to tune out of Vegas incessant urging. She hadn cause any ruckus for a month yet…it seems like the world wants to test her.
”Ayla, Im sorry for insulting your pajamas. Please open the door. ” Vega stretched out the last vowel of her name and made her voice sound pitiful.
”Ill give you anything you want. You can even use my laboratory. ”
Ayla paused as she carefully consider about what she said. Keid had put a strict rule to keep her away as possible from Vegas laboratory after a series of unwarranted mishaps happened that almost burn down the entire building.
Ever since then they act very alarmed whenever she step inside Vegas lab as if her experiments could potentially become more disastrous than her own aurora. Add the fact that her risky experiments does not resemble to any application of scientific method.
Those prissy cowards can even handle a little green fumes.
Ayla will never admit, but shes still sulky about that. And so, she might deeply regret this later. But sleep is a necessity to live and nothing can possibly get her ass out of this bed.
”No. ” She said without feeling conflicted any longer, turning her back on the other side.
”Leave me alone. ” Ayla exclaimed underneath the blanket.
”Please Ayla! Ill give you permission to use my laboratory for one week, okay? ” She bargained.
She thought shell easily give in to that offer? Nobody is born as a pushover.
Ayla turned around and eyed the door angrily imagining the person behind the door.
She hope theres some kind of ability to mute that big mouth of hers. Sadly, that kind of divine ability could break the balance of the world.
”Leave me alone, you shitty-glasses! Bother Leo or Caelum to help you. ” She stated loudly for Vega to hear. She was starting to get sick of her repetitive nagging.
”But Aylaaa… ” She whined again, ”Caelum went away after we got back and Leo was kidnapped by Levi to be his assistant for a while. So I need you to fill in Leos position. ”
”Why not choose your other assistants? You
e their lead scientist for **s sake, they will follow every order you say. ” Ayla groaned, running her hands all over her face to vent her exhaustion. Any higher power above, please vanish this person from my sight!
”But you are the most excellent person to do this job! ” She insisted.
”Why did that block of ice need to take Leo too? ” She cried to no one in particular. Among the people in her circle, Ayla can truly respect Leos patience for how he could follow a capricious scientist this long.
”Have fun with your damn leviaths, Vega. ” She grumbled, reaching the breaking point of the little patience she have after waking up.
Don get her wrong, she do feel in debt to Vega after all this time. Vega was the one who strongly insisted in taking her under their wing after they found her at that fateful night.
But sometimes…that girl needs to tighten her screws or lessen that obsession to those ugly leviaths. She even have the guts to sleep near them after they went back.
There was a thump as Ayla suddenly get the bad feeling that Vega is doing another highly effective persuasive techniques in front of her.
”Please come with me Aylaaa. I can do anything with my babies without youuu. ” Vega began kneeling and holding her hands together in an overdone manner. Aylas been with her far too long and had seen all of her reckless actions can put someone in a cardiac arrest.
Ayla made nonsense noises, burying her face on the pillow. ”What the ** are you doing? ”I groaned exasperatedly. It seems that profanities has been a habit ever since yesterday.
”I am praying for the goddess to walk out of her holy chamber to grace me with her lovely presence. ” She said solemnly, doing some odd murmurs for some kind of enchantments. Just how far can this lunatic go?
She sighed with a face that had defeat written all over it.
”What are we doing if I agree?
” She stopped and pursed her lips, mentally chiding herself. Why fhe ** did you ask? Thats like saying you
e half agreeing already!
”Oh you know…just small leviath tests… ” She trailed off.
Ayla eyed the door warily. She can already feel the crazy vibe shes emitting from here. ”Well just record the leviaths regeneration ability in different areas. ”
That does sounds fascinating to watch. But…
Ayla consider it before rolling her eyes at her lame attempt to bribe her. ”Whatever, not enough. Make it two weeks. ”
She fall back to her bed, snuggling on her pillow. ”Try harder shitty glasses. ” She mocked, laughing at the sound of Vegas protest.
”Aylaaaa… ” She whined, stomping her feet to throw a tantrum. She thought she had persuaded Ayla already!
”Fine, Ill make it two weeks without Keids permission, Deal? ”
”Tempting but try harder. ” Ayla yawned.
”Ayla~ ” She whined, banging on her door once again. ”Give me more credits here, okay? Can you see Im getting desperate here? ”
”I can tell…but I don care. ”
Silence ensued after that without any movements happening outside the room. She really thought Vega had gave up and went away.
Ayla was slowly dozing off when a loud thump suddenly jumped on the door, scaring the shit out of her.
”Aha! How about I ask Keid to let you join the military academy so youll be recognized as an official knight. Thats good right?! ” She shouted as if she encountered a eureka.
Aylas sleepiness instantly wear off as she looked at the door in disbelief. ”No way, you can do that. ” She jumped out of the bed and ran to the door.
She have been raising this concern to Keid. Dropping hints here and there about the negative public opinion toward the Black Winter moon to be very restrictive and not beneficial when a sudden emergency happens. But Keid always reject her request saying its still not the right time to make her public.
She was thinking what drama shell pull to let her go to this years entrance exam. Until when will they give her the go signal?
Ayla was vaguely aware about the military branch because of Vega and Keids special circumstance. Of course, her impression goes only as deep as any ordinary citizen.
But even with Aylas closed environment was able to hear about Black Winter moons instability and huge mortality rate.
”Uh…Yeah, of course. I can do that! Psh, piece of cake! ”She stammered at first before showing a look of absolute confidence.
”Then youll help me todays experiment with Bert and Ernie. ”
Bert and Ernie?
”Deal. But you also need to fulfill your part or else… ” Aylas voice suddenly dropped a tone. The way her words trailed off at the end was already telling a vivid picture.
A dark look had cast over Aylas face as a clear warning the impending doom that will befall mankind if Vega failed to do her part.
Vega laughed airily, waving a dismissive hand. What is this cold air behind her back? ”Of course, of course. Why would I trick my Ayla dearest? I don want to die young. ”
Then she hastily twisted Aylas body, guiding her to the bathroom and talking on the way. ”Since weve made the devils contract, ” She cringed at the crude choice of word. ”You should definitely take a bath before you meet me downstairs, mkay? ” She pushed her lightly inside, but not forgetting to ruffle her hair on her rush exit out of the room.
Ayla can contain the sly grin from creeping its way to her cheeks any longer while doing her business in the bathroom.
Sometimes it frightens her how devious she can be. Knowing that it wouldn be easy to persuade Keid to let her enroll in the military academy since they don know what hes thinking behind those bushy eyebrows. But desperate times calls for desperate measures and Aylas simply seizing the opportunity right there.
Vegas persuasion ability had never failed anyone. Keid will have to choose between enduring a nuisance or conceding defeat.
She admit she may have taken notes from the original con-man when striking deals. Either way, a deal is a deal.
After she finished dressing up, she began taming the tangles on her hair with a wide brush. She made sure she was able to apply the hair gel at every section so there isn much fly aways later.
She sighed, staring at her hair in the mirror. This is too much work for a damn hair.
She stepped out the door and walked down the hallway at the direction of the open site where they locked the leviaths.
They were currently staying in an abandoned building that was loosely related with them in Jemima throughout Vegas research period. Thankfully, this area was quite a distance away from the nearest big towns. Nobody could possibly see them smuggling leviaths inside the barrier.
Ayla was able to familiarize herself with the area after arriving here yesterday so it wasn difficult to locate where the testing site is conducted.
She walked out of the old building and to the spacious courtyard, which is now transformed as an open cell for the two leviaths. The two leviaths remained like how she last saw them. Each had multiple steel tubes pierced down their body to restrain them from moving. The one Vega named Berth was tied down on the floor on his stomach, while Ernie was nailed down in a squatting positing.
Ayla didn want to ask why Vega just gave those leviaths a name like human beings.
Ayla spotted Vega standing in front of Ernie and was attempting to converse with the brainless creatures. She was firing questions one after the other such as their origin, why they want to eat humans, why they fear aurora and even their names in case there is a response.
Unfortunately, they only receive the leviaths erratic heavy breathing as a reply. The leviaths were as usual clearly oblivious and was not in any form capable to hold a civilized conversation. After countless tries, the silence and zero results sent Vega into a state of disillusioned.
”Ugh, why wouldn they speak? They obviously have the necessary biological organ system to speak! ” She scratched her head harshly and plopped down on the floor. An awkward silence ensued as the people around looked at each other in confusion trying to grasp the situation.
Leo looked panicky as he placed a reassuring hand in Vegas shoulder. ”Miss Vega, we can still try another methods to gather other informations like…testing their inactivity! ” Leo hastily suggested.
Vega snapped her head to look at Leo intently, her eyes dangerously shining with fierce determination. She grabbed Leos shoulder harshly, tugging him body to lean closer.
”Did you remember what I told you before? ” She whispered solemnly. Leo could only nod his head meekly as he tries to not quiver under Vegas intimidating aura.
By now, the rest of the spectators already noticed the presence of Ayla. They were glancing at her urgently, waiting for her to break up the commotion from escalating. Aylas eyes narrowed discreetly, but made the unexpected decision of not disturbing Vegas next actions.
”In order to defeat our enemy we must know every tiny little thing they do, that way we can use this little things to use as a larger advantage. ” She then let out a bewildered laugh, pushing Leo out of the way as she made a straight run to Berth with outstretched arms.
”Even if it would put your life at stake! ”
Everybody made different noises in the middle of the panic as she recklessly stepped beyond what they marked as safe distance around the two leviaths for safety purposes.
Every safety precaution was always proven to be useless in front of any irrational person.
Shell willingly sacrifice her own life just to acquire the truth about leviaths? Ayla scoffed at her skewed, overly-altruistic principles, crossing her arms over her chest thoughtfully. Still it was unsurprising for Vega to make that decision.
”So Berth, how about we resume our pleasant chat? ” She beamed at the leviath. At the clear act of provocation, the leviath began to squirm in its bind. As if injected by chicken blood, the leviath snapped and goes straight to Vegas head with its gaping mouth. Vega had no time to kick in her motor instinct as everybody held their breath expecting a gruesome outcome.
Vega shakily opened her eyes after there was no sound of bones breaking come up or the expected unbearable pain like getting run over a meat grinder didn happened. She let out an astonished laugh as she gave the person standing firmly between the leviath and her two thumbs up.
”I can really assure my whole life with Ayla with me. Such good timing! ”
Vegas voice didn have a sliver of stammer but only Ayla saw her hands shaking in fear. The leviaths mouth was resolute in finishing off Vegas head based on its speed and ferocity when Ayla called out her tyrfing and stabbed its soft palate in the nick of time. Such recklessness almost gave her an VVIP invitation to deaths threshold this time around.
Everybody released their breath as they realized their party leader is still in one piece. Aylas stare was unprovocative at first glance, but underlying was actually a chaotic current waiting to explode. Her mouth pressed was pressed in a grim line as she looked down at Vegas shaken form.
Aylas hair seem to sway behind her without any breeze, standing without any care of worldly occurrences. It would have been nothing special except her eyes glowed as if bearing all the earths fury. Every person was here long enough to know the degree of strength between all the cavaliers.
They slowly backed away with bated breath, fearing her wrath that will strike them instead if they breath even once.
Ayla grabbed her collar to pull her up in her anger. ”Do you want to **ing die? I can gladly end it for you right here. Don you dare make others feel shitty if you die in front of them. ” She snarled before accidentally kicking Vegas stomach in the heat of anger.
Vega moaned as she laid down writhing with her arms over her stomach. ”Wait, wait! Ayla, are you seriously— ” Leo jumped in, but she cut him off.
”Shut the ** up. ” She snapped before she looked down at Vegas fatal position. Ayla was too stimulated from what happened that her cognition started spewing out whatever.
”Goddess knows, what couldve happened if I didn come in this…stupid experiment for some reason! If I was any minute late, then you could have died! Instead of dying like a **ing martyr, use your head to die in a meaningful way. You dying wouldn solve anything to this damn cursed of humanity! ” With all the fussiness with her hair, Aylas toxic trait was how she tend to direct all her frustration on her hair by messing it up.
There was a numb pain in her heart as her breath felt constricted and heavy in grievance. She nearly made a mistake and a person got hurt to pay the price.
She faced the rest of the onlookers, who had turned mute ages ago. They flinched as they avoided the murderous glare in hopes to remain invisible.
”Somebody tighten these shitty pole. Make sure these won ever make a twitch or else… ” Ayla let the threat open ended, letting their imagination fill it with something nefarious.
She then faced Leo, tilting her head at Vegas direction. ”Take Vega to the infirmary. ” She paused before talking more calmly this time. ”…please? ”
He simply nodded and called other people to assist him in transporting a groaning Vega. Ayla avoided looking at Vegas expression afraid of the guilt that will undoubtedly overcome her.
Of course in Vegas level, that kick was incomparable to anything serious and will probably just make her suffer for three to five hours when medicated the right way.
She looked back at the people who were still walking in eggshells, placing her hands on her hips impatiently. ”What are you waiting for? Fucking move. ” She couldn just left her tyrfing imbedded in some leviaths mouth.
They immediately set forth to reinforcing the durability of the chains. Ayla immediately retrieve her tyrfing as soon as another batch of steel tubes was brought forward.
Ayla left the site so others can handle the remaining tasks left after spending the rest of the time making sure the new binding method is more effective. Unfortunately, their experiments will be delayed for a day or two.
Instead of going back to her room, she made detour to the direction of infirmary to inquire about Vegas condition.
However, her feet suddenly halted because of the abrupt appearance of a familiar tall figure at the hallway. Aside from the mans straightforward hair cut that was astonishingly popular among knights, his most distinct feature is the thick, dutifully trimmed eyebrows.
Ayla didn know whether to laugh or cry at her rotten timing. She just saw this guardian virtually yesterday and now shes about to meet them in person after causing a lot of trouble.
I think I suddenly want to go back…
”Yes! ” Ayla chimed as she swiftly turned back around after her failed attempt to make a run for it.
Keid was only calling her name, but why did she felt like she should rename herself asap?!