I thought that the worst was over, but I was wrong. Tears of blood were running down my face. I wondered if I would survive this ordeal. Blood was coming out of my ears too. I couldn’t take it anymore. My body couldn’t take it anymore. It had been going on since a couple of days and I wasn’t making any progress. Toshiko speculated that I might not be compatible with my own attribute. It was like having an anaphylactic shock, just worse whenever I activated my Paroxys. You could hear several of my bones crack one after the other. It was too powerful. I bent over in pain and coughed up blood. Toshiko rammed the yellow key into my chest again and I instantly felt better. I could breathe again. According to her, the keys belonged to the head of the Department of National Paroxys Intelligence, also called DNPI. She was one of their employees and I was currently on their property. The head’s attribute was that he could manipulate other attributes as he pleased. The red key increases an attribute’s power, the blue one reduces it and the yellow one locks it away but only for a short period of time. Each key could be used once per day.
I opened my eyes. How many times had I lost consciousness by now? Sayuri was looking down on me. Her honey-coloured eyes were sparkling. We had started calling each other by our first names. I was laying in her lap. She had fixed me up countless times with her attribute.
“Ayumi, your hair grew out again.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what causes it, but it always happens when I activate my attribute.”
She brushed my hair first and then continued cutting it shorter. My dyed hair parts were gone. It varied how long my hair gets. Once it went down to my hips. It was after I had activated my attribute for the very first time.
“Ayumi, I have news for you. You are allowed to have your own bedroom. Meaning, you can finally leave this prison of yours.”
Toshiko was chugging down several cans of beer and kept laughing out loud.
“You have it rough.”
I sighed out loud. Sayuri giggled and handed me a mirror. My hair went down to my ears. It was good enough for now.
“Thank you, Sayuri.”
The room I was in was connected to another building by a very long hallway. It felt strange stepping outside after being trapped for several days. We were surrounded by nature. The sun had already gone down. The building behind me was the only one as far as the eye could see. It served as a dormitory and training facility. People with new attributes are transferred here for safety reasons. They are taught how to use them and are given the chance to sign a contract with the DNPI. The fresh air felt nice. The sky was clear too. I noticed that the room I was in was actually underground and you could see inside it through the glass ceiling. Sayuri was the one who was showing me around after I declined Toshiko’s offer. We went back inside and to no surprise she was standing in front of us with an open can of beer in her hand.
“Ayumi, I’m willing to share my bed again with you. You probably got used to sleeping with me since you have slept every night with me in my bed.”
I could feel an artery pop out of my forehead.
“You are the one who kept sneaking into my futon. It was never your bed to begin with.”
“Toshiko, maybe we should let her rest. Ayumi is probably really tired from all the training. I have healed all her wounds, but it does take a toll on the body.”
Sayuri was holding Toshiko back by pulling her arm. I had enough and ran away from her and took a quick turn around the corner of the hall we were in. Her voice was echoing behind me, and I could hear Sayuri struggling to hold her back. I went up several stairs and ended up on the highest floor. It was finally quiet and peaceful. I couldn’t see any other people around and honestly; I had forgotten where my room was. I walked around for a bit and came about a ladder that went up into an opening in the roof. My curiosity got the better of me and I climbed up. My legs felt like jelly, and I had no strength in my arms. I heaved my upper body on to the roof and rested my head on the cold tiles. It was quite an old building. The wind howled and hurled around leaves from the trees. I looked to up to have a glance at the moon but was greeted by a shadow instead.
“Oh my god!”
I was startled and my foot slipped off the ladder, but I managed to grab on to a leg. It saved me from falling.
The owner of the leg started talking to me. I quickly let go and apologised.
“I didn’t know that someone was up here already. But I guess the ladder should have indicated it.”
He turned his face away from me. His light brown hair was tied into a small ponytail and his red eyes were looking into the distance. He was wearing the same clothes as everyone else.
“I don’t mind. You can stay here for a little while if you want.”
Before I could give him my answer, someone grabbed me by my leg. I looked down to see Toshiko grinning and then proceeding to pull harder after getting my attention.
“Please let go of Ayumi, Toshiko-san. You will hurt Ayumi and yourself.”
Of course, Toshiko didn’t listen to Sayuri and pulled me down. The guy did not seem interested in what was going on and completely ignored the fact that I was miserably holding on to the ladder. My arms eventually gave in. I fell to the floor and hit my head on the ladder in the process. Sayuri tried to help me up, but Toshiko had other plans.
“I have called dibs on her.”
I had given up. The bump on my forehead was throbbing. She was dragging me by my legs down the hallway. Sayuri was following us. We were passing a room when all of the sudden its door flung open. The silver haired woman walked out and looked very angry.
“I should’ve known. Toshiko, what the hell do you think you are doing with our new trainee?”
She grabbed Toshiko by the ear and told her to let go of me. With the help of Sayuri, I managed to stand up. The woman was telling her off and told her to go to her room and sober up until tomorrow. Sayuri went with her to prevent her from getting into any other kind of trouble.
“I’m so sorry about Toshiko. She is a mother but still behaves like a child.”
“Wait a second. She has a child?”
“Yeah. She has a five-year-old daughter called Mio.”
I was speechless. The woman introduced herself as Inaba Choko. Her and Toshiko were good friends. They started working for DNPI around the same time.
“You can call me Choko, by the way. No need to be formal.”
I was too tired to have a proper conversation and she noticed that. She was nice enough to show me where my room was.
“If you need anything, let me know. And you can always come to me whenever Toshiko gets too much. I’ll set her straight again.”
My room was plain and consisted of a bed, a wardrobe and a desk with a chair. I was too sleepy to take a shower. Some white pyjamas had been left on top of my bed. I changed into them and immediately laid down in the bed. The door was locked, and I made sure to check it several times. I didn’t want Toshiko to come in uninvited and give me a heart attack in the middle of the night. I wasn’t allowed to contact my family or Charlotte. Toshiko would give me daily updates of how she was doing in the hospital, but I still wanted to see her as soon as possible. My attribute was still in its raw form, and I was only allowed to leave this place if I successfully managed to get it under control. Most attributes reside in accessories or weapons to make it easier for the host to maintain authority over them. Mine was sleeping inside one black tensha drop earring with marking all over it that I was wearing right now. Toshiko told me that I had to keep it on my body at all times or something bad would happen. But she didn’t tell me what. Why does she always leave the most important information out? I got annoyed just thinking about her but still managed to fall asleep.
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