The brittle tenderness of the wind blew into the android's ears. She opened her eyes slowly, her body floating in a vast space of nothingness.
Isolation. It was quiet, and everything was pitched black.
The android could hear the inharmonic lullabies of a wind chime at the distance. The void around her started to change, and suddenly she found herself laying on an endless beautiful flower field covered with purple hyacinths.
She sat up, rubbing her eyes while glancing around at what else this wonderful scenery had. A calm warmth, and a familiar one at that. The sky was filled with twinkling stars, each of them glimmering over the glowing purple hyacinths. And yet it was the smell of cologne that slowly caught her attention.
She turned around, just to find Noah in clean clothing, standing not too far from her. He was smiling, his eyes glimmered under the night sky. A beautiful gaze of roaring ocean and shiny metal was the only thing her eyes were fixated on.
“Hey,” Noah said and waved.
“Oh.” Dolly’s eyes widened. “Hey.”
“Do you blame yourself for my death?” The man sauntered towards her slowly, his feet cautiously stepping over the purple hyacinths with a gentle push.
“I do,” the android admitted. Her gaze fell and she stared onto the hyacinths in front of her.
Noah was now standing in front of the android, but she didn't look up.
“Why do you?”
“I should’ve been able to save you," Dolly shut her eyes tight, her chest felt heavy. "I could’ve tried harder.”
“You could,” the man's voice deepened.
“And I didn’t stop the bleeding.”
“Because you were too focused on defeating the monster.”
“W-well I had to!” Dolly continued to gaze down at the purple hyacinths, her eyes shaking with fear. “If I didn’t, the monster could’ve attacked you!”
“So you left me.”
Noah's voice slowly turned cold, a taste of hatred seemingly lingering under his condescending tone. “You left me lying alone on the grass as you fought the monster.”
“You left me, Dolly.”
“You left me behind.”
“No, I didn’t!” The android shot her gaze back up, only to see that Noah's eyes were completely black like the creatures she had murdered brutally. Yet, everything else about him still looks human, but those eyes. Those nasty, hollow eyes only reminded Dolly of the endless void she kept feeling inside her chest.
The man's head tilted to the side. "Should I forgive you?"
“Dolly!” A mysterious voice can be heard, but Dolly ignored it.
"No, you shouldn't," her pupils slowly lost color as her face turned pale.
"Dolly!!!" The mysterious voice only grew louder, echoing within the endless field of purple hyacinths, but the android was stuck in a trance with those hollow eyes staring down at her.
"NO. YOU SHOULDN'T," she started to shiver as her mind experienced a flashback; scattered scenes of Noah's brutal stabbings and his transformation to a monster haunted the wires of her brain.
Static images covered in noise, nothing was in color except the shades of red dripping from Noah's lifeless body.
The noise of the images violently infiltrating her mind tripled as she recalled in fear; the sounds of his innocent laughter mixed with the disgusting noises of monster shrieks only sent her mind spiraling as she collapsed onto her arms, screaming as loud as she once did just a few hours ago.
The android's eyes flung open wildly as she panted from the terrible nightmare. She gazed up, just to see the structure of a man's well-defined jaw.
"HUH?!" The android began to shake with irritation when she noticed that the man carrying her like a princess and running away from a monster as tall as a two-story building was none other than Runo.
"Geez, stop shaking, I'm trying to get us to safety!!" He yelled as the monster behind him loomed slowly, its arms stretched like rubber and swiped at a thicker branch, slicing it from the tree. The sight of a slowpoke as it was moving like a sloth, but a madman for trying to kill them with falling branches. Its feet slammed onto the ground, causing a rumbling shake every time they tried to keep running.
"Runo!" Dolly yelled as he jumped, successfully dodging the branch that aimed for their heads. "What's going on?! Why are we running!!"
"You fell asleep under the willow tree with Netty right?!" He shouted back as the crippling sounds of another branch filled with leaves started to fall from another quick slice. "Look listen-"
He paused his breath, his intelligent brain calculating for the right moment the monster laid its feet onto the grounds of the realm. He was still running for who knows how many minutes, but Dolly could tell he was starting to get exhausted as the sweat rolling down his neck became obvious.
The monster's feet hit the ground once more, and Runo jumped. He was trying to avoid the rumble for every time he had to run during the shake, it was as if he had to run on unstable grounds of an aftershock.
"It's a good thing Netty was awake, that willow tree was the dream monster's domain! Had the ability to affect your nightmares! Gosh, I should have never let you two off my sight!" He clicked his tongue while his sleek, white hair swayed in motion.
"Wait," Dolly furrowed her eyebrows. "Where's Netty-"
"YOOHOO!!" shouted a familiar voice from above.
The android glanced up and saw that Netty was hovering in the air. She had just jumped from a branch and was about to land on another. The sparkly eyes of an excited child beamed around the solemn atmosphere of the dusty forest.
"Guess it's a good thing we got you!" Netty focused on aiming at the dream monster's head with her hand cannon as her feet dropped onto the branch she wanted to land on.
"Netty stop stalling!" Runo's voice screamed impatience, for he was getting tired of carrying someone he's not exactly on good terms with around like a princess.
The mischievous android winked at her partner. "Yeah yeah OK, Boss-se!!"
"MY NAME IS RUNO!"
Geez, a sudden scream coming out of Runo's mouth so close to Dolly's ears, it was both unexpected and annoying as his comment still rung in her ears.
The man continued to run as the monster loomed closer towards the tree Netty was crouching on. Its hollow eyes were intensely focused on Runo and Dolly, that it did not turn its head to notice that Netty was basically prepping herself for the winning shot. The light of deadly energy flickered in her palm as the android raised it up and aimed at the opposite tree. Just a few more seconds, and when the monster reaches her peripheral version, then it's game over.
The creature's footsteps shook the trees from both sides as the linear pathway it walked welcomed him to the trap. The monster's rubber arm suddenly sliced the branch that Netty positioned herself on, and she started to fall.
"Ah, shi-" she calmly facepalmed as she fell. Yet, the android laughed like a maniac and immediately aimed at the monster's head. "Falling sure makes this bit fun!"
And off goes the blast, it traveled as fast as a lightning strike, before hitting the monster's head.
Dolly turned around as Runo stopped running. The two stared back at where Netty was and witnessed the explosion from afar. A gust of strong wind from the blast's shockwave blew against their cold faces as their hairs got all puffy, and smoke filled the cramped pathway of the forest. An aftershock shortly occurred, sending Runo onto his knees. The android he was carrying eventually stepped off his arms, and stared into the distance, slightly amazed at their teamwork.
The other android appeared from the dusty cloud of lingering smoke while she ran to the duo. Her hand was holding onto a long energy bar, suggesting that the strong monster had truly been defeated.
"Hope you two enjoyed the show!!" she giggled as she tossed the bar at Runo. As usual, his hungry self immediately unwrapped it and took a huge bite, moaning at the exquisite taste of dreams.
Which, to Dolly's horror, she just realized that she wasn't holding onto Noah's energy bar.
"Wait, where's my bar?!" the panic in her voice started to raise, but Runo lifted his index finger up at her. The poor android only got confused by his gesture.
"Huh? I said-"
Netty interrupted her. "He's saying to hold on, he's eating."
The man finally took his last bite and gulped, his hand placed the wrapper into his pocket. "I ate it."
"EH?! YOU WHAT?" Dolly gazed at him with a mixture of shock and disgust that he never asked her if he could chew it down. Besides, she never saw him as a man who was willing to eat a heart-shaped energy bar. Then again, who was he to her? The man's full of unexpected surprises.
"Yeah, I ate it," Runo confessed casually, "I was hungry."
Netty started poking his arm, giggling with a cat expression on her face. "Aw, but you're always hungry. That's why I'm here to feed you."
The duo then took a quick glance at Dolly; her battle scars were quite obvious. From the emotional outbursts and the battles between the invisible monster and Noah, the android looked beat. Thankfully, it was nothing Runo couldn't fix.
"Well!!" Netty shoved Dolly unexpectedly, sending the android to lunge forward; the clattering sounds of foreign scraping and concerning cracks raised a warning flag for Runo.
"Fine, I'll carry you to the hideout," he said as he sauntered to Dolly, but the android was becoming flustered.
Dolly interjected, her hands stuck out as she tried to stop Runo from picking her up. "Hold up! Who said you-"
"You don't have a choice," Runo stated calmly as he tripped Dolly. The android starting to fall, but before she could adjust herself from landing on the ground painfully, Runo's hands met with the touch of Dolly's injured body. "You're damaged. I can fix you up."
"Hey! Let go! I can still walk!" Dolly childishly clenched her teeth as she tried to grab ahold of Runo, for the duo started to jog down the linear pathway. One of her hands subconsciously grabbed onto his chest to prevent herself from falling, but the other reached out to pull onto his hair out of frustration.
And yet, before she could even pull onto his side bang that covered half his face, Runo's right eye suddenly darted down. The fierce gaze of an intimidating man internally raging with equal, if not, more frustration, glowed as Dolly's hand stopped in front of his face, shaking. Time slowed down, and they exchange glares.
"Don't," He said calmly. Something about his gaze frightened Dolly as she pulled her hand away and decided to hold onto him as he ran. She looked down, thinking to herself why his gaze always felt extremely terrifying that she could pause what she's doing due to an uncertain, underlying fear.
The leaves danced around them as they fell, while endless rows of trees lined up between both sides of the pathway. The road finally came to a dead end as several puffy bushes blocked its path. Ahead, there was nothing but a grass field, along with a couple of beautiful golden rain trees standing all over the area. The sight was quite breathtaking as Dolly's eyes adjusted to the new scene.
Ahead, the trio eventually spotted the cave. It was on a small open field, with several gigantic, round rocks near its entrance. There was a bunch of golden rain trees circling the cave, seemingly welcoming them back after a long journey. The android inhaled, her eyes sparkled at the sight of a spectacular hideout.
The earrings on Netty's ears shimmered under a ray of sunlight as she turned to look at Dolly's reaction. Amusingly, she found it quite the entertainment. There was a lot the duo can teach and share about the world with Dolly after all.
"Good thing you don't have pain receptors," Runo commented as he dug into Dolly's components on her legs with his toolkit he left inside the cave. "It doesn't look as bad as it sounds."
"Huh," Dolly responded, her eyes glared at the man as she hesitated in letting him touch her.
The trio had safely settled inside the hideout; because Netty wanted to recharge she decided to take a nap on the deeper ends of the cave. Her awkward snores that reminded Dolly of her master bothered her for a moment, but she slowly got used to it when her attention shifted to Runo.
The man had told Dolly to sit against the wall as he walked by and took a large toolkit he kept hidden behind one of the smaller rocks chilling by the corner. He was an expert in repairing mechanical things, for he vaguely told Dolly that before he became a monster slayer, he was a collaborator with a well-known attributor in the science community. A prodigy of sorts, and he was quite proud of it.
"Did I damage anything?" Dolly asked patiently as Runo tightly screwed one of her joints back together to prevent the foreign sounds from happening again.
"Not really," the man took out an item Dolly had never seen before out of his box, "Hey, hand me your napkin."
"The one that heals my wounds? Why?" Dolly asked as she slowly pulled the handkerchief from her dress flaps.
"Just hand it over," the strict boldness from his voice demanded that Dolly needed to give him the handkerchief immediately. She groaned, her eyes watched as Runo took the handkerchief from her and scanned it with the item in his hand.
"Duplication, have you heard?" He suddenly asked as he handed her the handkerchief. "You look confused."
"Um," the android gulped as she took her handkerchief, before proceeding to lick her rosy lips. "how much do you know about this world?"
The man sealed Dolly's kneecap and closed his eyes. "A lot. What is it?"
"I want to know what you know. Not just the monsters, but like, what item is that? And what of the world humans live in?"
"Hmm," the man's droopy eye stared at her, his expressions still resembling one of a bored and tired individual. A drop of water from the ceiling of the cave splattered onto the floor while the rattling noises of Netty's snores echoed in the depths of their hideout.
"Ok," Runo spun and sat next to Dolly, "I guess it's storytime."