Noah's face displayed a set of awkwardly raised eyebrows as Dolly could feel the judgmental aura slowly seeping from his befuddled look. The android's chest suddenly felt heavy. Her mind ran into insane depths of analytical solutions after realizing she had accidentally slipped knowledge she shouldn't have shared.
Oh. Shoot. I’m not supposed to let someone else know I can sense other Dollys...
Her fingers rubbed against each other as she subconsciously backed away from the man, trying to think of a last-minute excuse to back up her claims. Would she be able to tell him it was a joke? Would he even believe her if she said that?
She turned to him, his heterochromatic eyes still glimmering even after all that smoke, his oceanic beautiful right eye along with his metallic colored left one was constantly a distraction.
“Oh, I am sorry. That was my bad attempt at a joke since you like to make jokes.”
“Aw, how thoughtful of you!” Noah replied scandalously.
Woah, did he really buy that joke?
"Buuuuut, that was bad timing." Noah shifted his focus back on the two figures, who had been standing behind the now thinner cloud of smoke. Trees around the four individuals gradually became visible as the atmosphere cleared up to reveal the spectacle of a finished battle gone haywire. Before the dust completely dissipates, one of the figures attacked without hesitation. In an instant, Dolly's eyes could see multiple sharp blades headed towards her direction.
Alas, it was futile, for the android clearly knew how to dodge something as simple as a blade attack.
“Dolly, watch out!”
Noah's alarmed voice, calm but frightful, immediately alerted Dolly's senses. To her astonishment, the knives were only a distraction. The sudden jolt of her body caused her to trip embarrassingly.
Obviously, the android could easily snap the wire. However, the other figure was calculative and sent out a blast heading directly for Dolly.
Wait, what is she doing?!
And then, Dolly was out of sight. The blast wasn't fatal, yet it was enough to send her body flying past several trees before her metallic build slammed onto a tree trunk vigorously.
Noah clenched his teeth, his hands grabbing onto his sword. He recalled Dolly stating that one of the figures is also a Dolly, and thus decided to refer to the mysterious individual as such.
“Hey! That’s a little too much, Dolly, knock it off!”
A male’s voice lingered within the dissipating smoke.
“Woah, that’s bold.”
The smell of death.
It faintly lingered, barely to the point that if Noah didn't inhale so passionately out of exhaustion, he wouldn't have noticed.
A mysterious man and an android who resembled Dolly exited out of the smoke cloud. The man was wearing a black leather jacket, although its zippers reminded Noah of the fancy pretty boys he'd see on his phone, looking for instant fame. In addition to the stylish design, his attire had several chains jingling around his waist. Along with his well-suited jacket was a dangling earring, which twinkled under the penetrating ray of sunlight, and its feature of a mini-compass glistened along.
The man's hair was parted to his left, covering his left eye. His other eye, however, glared down to Noah's oceanic and silver ones. His eye was imitating, yellow like a fierce lion.
That made Noah uncomfortable.
Why is he glaring at me like that?
However, next to this beast of a human stood a breathtaking sight. A different style, yet familiar hot-pink hair flowed so freely along with the breeze passing by, as this new android stood cheerfully. Her lips, redder than Dolly's, resembled one of a pink rose, and her dress glided freely with the wind. Her left ear revealed a beautiful pair of small earrings that shined harshly against the sunlight like crystal jewelry.
Funny enough, Noah noticed that just like Dolly, this one had a huge bosom as well.
“I’m surprised you’d believe your Dolly’s claims that quickly,” the mysterious man said condescendingly, his face no different than of someone who was feeling done with the world. Emotionless.
“Haha, no hesitation indeed!” said the new android as she giggled playfully. Then she glanced behind Noah and pointed. "Oh look, she's already back!"
Noah swiftly turned around to see Dolly, uninjured but slightly scratched, limping back from the crater her body made on the tree trunk.
"Hey there!!" The android said to Dolly, even though by the looks of it, Dolly wasn't having any of her remarks. "You must be the new one our master sent, right?!"
"Hold on, what's going on?" Noah chimed, but everyone ignored him.
“Hey hey! Since there are two of us, maybe it’s better that I go with my other name!” The new android grinned.
“Ugh, I don’t like her,” said Dolly as she hid behind Noah, growling.
“You can call me Marinette, or like how Runo here likes to call me, Netty!”
Runo's glaring eye gazed to the side for a moment, before glancing back at the duo.
“Oh! OK, It's nice to meet you, I’m Noah!” He extended his arm, which prompted Netty to shake it rather aggressively but playfully. The boy’s straightforward and friendly approach made Dolly cringe at his mannerisms.
“Seriously, Noah? They just attacked us and I was sent flying across the field.”
“Aw, I apologize for that!” exclaimed Netty as she went over to Dolly, who placed an arm around Dolly’s shoulder. “I suppose we were being a little reckless, and we just want to make sure you two aren’t monsters!”
“Huh? That doesn’t make any sense,” said Dolly condescendingly as she swiped Netty’s arm off her. “Creatures we fought may have humanoid bodies, but their faces and language aren’t like ours. We were clearly talking properly and you still attacked us.”
“I wouldn’t assume it if I were you.”
Dolly turned her attention to Runo after he casually dropped his comment.
Talk about stylish. He’s the complete opposite of Mr. Plain Ol’ I’ll wear a shirt and one arm sleeve to a monster realm, Noah.
“Why?” Dolly asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Because you don’t know if stronger monsters who managed to kill other monster slayers have gotten more powerful, and some probably gained the ability to camouflage.”
Runo’s eye focused intensively on Dolly as she returned a stern look. He stared down at her, perhaps still feeling a little suspicious about their encounter.
Another oddly familiar scent.
“So we were just being careful,” Runo squinted, “After all, like you and that man, I don’t have a death wish.”
Dolly’s lips turned into a frown. “Still, you could have told Netty not to send such a powerful blast in my direction.”
As the android stated Netty’s name, the bubbly girl turned to gaze at Dolly, her eyes shimmered as she tightly hugged poor Noah until his lungs felt like collapsing. It did not make things better knowing that her bosom's practically on his face.
“What are you talking about, Dolly?” Netty asked with an exaggerated innocent voice. “You have the same powers as me! If not, I think you’re upgraded!”
Noah loosened himself from Netty's grip as his lungs finally obtained fresh oxygen.
He stared at Dolly with a bewildered look. “What is she talking about? Has this got to do with how you referred to her as ‘a Dolly’?”
And so, the wiring in Dolly's mind began to harden with frustration. She knew her master told her not to spill the beans about her being a specialized android set for a mission to find the scientist, and here comes the previous android her master created, a failure of sorts, and a rebel who was currently ratting out confidential information.
“Aw, don’t worry about getting in trouble!” Netty seemed to understand what Dolly was feeling. “Did our master say you couldn’t inform anyone about yourself?”
That violent, pure mixture of anger and confusion started boiling inside Dolly.
“It’s OK!" Netty grinned mischievously, her hands frolicking with Runo's arm like a child wanting a parent's attention. "I have told Runo everything about me! So he might know everything about you as an android, but ooooh, maybe you can tell us more about any upgrades our master has given you!”
A sudden jerk, and then a quick push; the new android's body slightly tripped backward as Dolly's eyes were shaking with madness.
"WHAT gives you the idea that we are all on good terms just because YOU and YOUR buddy spared us for not being monsters?! And WHY did you share confidential information to other people anyway-"
“H-hey, Dolly, calm down-” said Noah nervously while he tried to reach for Dolly’s arm.
However, that was futile, as the android aggressively shoved the man to the ground. Dirt surrounded the poor man while his rear ached, and yet, getting dirty was the last thing he was worried about as he gazed up in surprise.
His beautiful eyes, now dull with sadness and shock.
Netty tried to calm the angry mannequin, her face. "Dolly, look, I-"
"WHY DID YOU BETRAY OUR MASTER?!"
The overwhelming emotions took over her as she recalled the day when she was sitting back on one of the rusty, old creaking chairs her master left in the operating room.
Her arm was in the middle of being repaired after she received a scratch from combat practice, her feisty mannerisms couldn't keep up with her delicate body, as much as she was an advanced android. Her skin was moist, and clean rather, that most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between hers and regular human skin.
The master soon arrived at the door. His white coat as usual covered with soot and soiled by oil as he closed the door behind him. The desk light continued to flicker showcasing the mess of tools collecting dust on top of the table.
Feeling tense, she waited patiently as the master took a few items out of his toolkit when a few pieces of paper from inside flew out and onto the floor.
“Oh?” Dolly took a quick peek.
“Ah, I apologize. It seems I have forgotten to scrap these.”
“Wait, master, if you don’t mind me asking, this drawing of yours--was this a different design for me?”
The papers revealed a full-body sketch along with headshots of an android. Dolly noticed that the figure on the papers looked awfully similar to her, except that she was wearing a couple of dazzling earrings, and her hairstyle was more slim than puffy.
The master smiled. “No. This is actually a Dolly I created a long time ago. However…”
His hand grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket, before rubbing a special ointment on its delicate surface.
“Previous Dollys have proven to be defective. They either malfunction too early and too many times or they run wild and fail to execute their mission.”
Dolly’s eyelids lowered. “So did this one ever come back?”
The master placed the handkerchief on Dolly’s arm.
“No, she did not.”
Dolly’s recollection of the event never truly disappeared, since occasionally she would ponder about what happened to the previous Dolly who ran away and ceased all contacts with the master. To her, a move of betrayal is a sign of disloyalty, and those who remain disloyal aren't to be trusted.
But now, the android who renamed herself Netty was standing right in front of her. Dolly’s expression turned bitter as Netty smirked.
“Ah, is that what he calls it? A betrayal?” Netty said in an excited manner. “That’s unfortunate. But I suppose there’s no use in trying to convince you otherwise.”
“I asked you a question. Answer it.”
“Hmmm, do I want to, that’s the question.”
Netty approached Runo, who had been listening in on the conversation, but he genuinely couldn’t care less.
“Runo, do you think I need to explain myself?”
“Do what you want.” He said with a monotone voice as he crossed his arms.
“Awesome!” Netty turned towards Dolly and started skipping around her, circling her hands and wiggling her fingers like a child. “To get to the point, let’s just say I didn’t like our master. He hid a lot of things from me, and I am sure he’s doing the same with you.”
She stopped hopping and gazed back at Dolly, her eyes lowered with a raised eyebrow. “Am I correct?”
Dolly remembered how she was unaware of plant weaponry. She stayed silent for a moment as her eyes shifted quickly to glance at the trees waving next to her.
“Sure, perhaps you have a point. But still, you could’ve said something.”
Netty shrugged. “Nah, I don’t think he misses me. No, I know he doesn’t. He can always make a new Dolly whenever he loses one.”
Among the chit-chat, no one noticed that Noah had gotten up. His expression was still gloomy as ever as the realization of traveling with an android eventually succumb him to stress and confusion.
“I think I need a break,” Noah said as he turned away from the group.
“Uh oh, I think he’s a little upset with you,” Netty stated. Her expressive eyes squinted like she was ready for gossip, but Dolly took no notice as she reached out to him.
“Wait, Noah, where are you going-”
“Don’t worry,” he interrupted. The boy turned back at Dolly and returned a bittersweet smile.
A smile, so fragile like glass pieces being kept together by glue. It was a moment Dolly wished she didn't have to see.
“I’ll just be at the river. Getting myself some water.” Noah said calmly. Without giving Dolly a chance, the man ran away from the scene in a posthaste and headed towards the creak until he was out of sight.
The trees waved as the rays of sunlight seemed to have focused on Dolly. There was a moment of silence before Netty coughed.
“Ah, what a pity,” Netty stated. “I think you hurt his feelings when you pushed him.”
“Not the time,” Dolly muttered.
“Then when is it time? Don’t you think you should apologize, and I don’t know, explain to him about what’s been going on?”
“I barely know him.”
Netty crossed her arms. “Then get to know him. He was defending you earlier. Now, I don’t know how long you two have known each other, but I think it’s time you give him a little respect.”
“I’ve known him for a day.”
Netty smirked. “That’s long enough for me. Get to know him. He could be a fine shield for you like Runo is to me whenever we fight monsters!”
The mischievous android smacked Runo’s back while he stood there like a statue. His emotionless stare never gave much of a reaction to Netty's outgoing personality. It was a funny duo, for their mannerisms were obviously like polar opposites. They remained fixated on each other as Dolly awkwardly observed them, their clashing personalities reminded her of a certain duo herself. She lowered her eyes as she thought of the aggressive shove against Noah, and her clustered mind overthinking the thoughts of unborn hatred he must be feeling right now.
It was like a ticking time bomb. Eventually, she will have to confront the man, but she never had to apologize to someone. The clockwork running in her head abruptly halted when her gaze toward the visible fallen tree behind the duo reminded her why she was there in the first place.
“Speaking of you two,” Dolly started, her finger pointing to the depressing scene behind them. “What was that earlier?”