The sound of clashing metal.
Dolly heard the scream of the agitated creature who missed its aim.
Or perhaps, someone was blocking it.
The android enlarged her eyes. She gazed up to see the gleaming glow of the mini-compass earring dangling in front of her. It swayed as Runo turned his body and used his blade to slice off the monster's barbaric tongue, sending it screeching in such a high-pitched volume that everyone had to cover their irked ears.
"Runo...?" Dolly slowly called out to him. The man turned around briefly before focusing his glaring eye back at the creature.
"Tch, this one is such a nuisance," He said, clicking his tongue.
Dolly's gaze turned to look at where Netty was.
Netty was jittering uncomfortably while tiny sparks popped the wirings that supposedly gave her life. Her dull eyes were no longer shining the blissfulness of the sun. The colors of her face were gradually fading away.
What's worse, Dolly just realized that the gem on Netty's chest was slightly cracked.
Please no! If she shuts down, she will lose her memories when she gets fixed!!
If there was one source of hope Dolly can cling onto, it was the death rattles from Netty's breathing.
Dolly fell onto her knees and placed her hands over Netty's body with her head between her arms, praying desperately for help to arrive while Runo struggled to keep up with the monster's erratic speed. The shattering noise of his blade collided with the impenetrable tongue, while his feet gripped onto the hardened soil to gain his footing. One slip, and it was over for everyone.
The monster aimed for the defenseless Runo, but a cunning guy such as this man knew his hastened abilities as he bent over and grabbed its tongue, pulling it violently.
It jerked the monster's body toward him, before punching it brutally. It shrieked, confused at the sudden turn of events, although its hollow eyes and revolting grin only made its face punchable.
As luck would come through at the most random of events, the scent of a lotus flower dominated the air. The terrifying figure was flung away from the trio when a sudden shadow appeared from behind a tree and aggressively gripped onto the monster's head.
The mysterious figure squeezed its head like lemonade until the head of the monster exploded. Blood splattered like paint all over the bushes and barks of the trees, making it a grand entrance of the person who walked out of the shadows and onto a ray of bold sunlight.
"YOUR SAVIOR HAS ARRIVED, EY!"
The tinkling and the inaudible whisper of the golden necklace. A black and white slim jacket that enhanced the man's curves and his set of silver rings shining under the beam of light, like a fashionista. The smile of narcissism and pride visible along with his theatrical pose of an adult acting like an overconfident online celebrity flashed before Dolly and Runo's vision.
That's...! He sounds like the injured man Noah said he saw in the hallway!
"LEWIS, AT YOUR SERVICE," his voice boomed, irritating the duo immediately. They didn't say a word, and that seemed to bother the guy.
"Hey, helloooooo? The name's Lewis, I just saved all of you," he flicked his arms out, waving his hands swiftly to get their attention.
"We get it," Runo's emotionless expression wasn't amused with the man's antics. If anything, his eye focused on the energy bar left on the ground after the monster's body disintegrated into thin air.
"Geez, what a HORRIBLE mess!" Lewis marched forward to them like he was the important detective ready to examine the scene. He peeked over at Netty's disarrayed expression, her uncoiled wires hung tight around one another, and the slash marks that violated her legs.
Dolly was still sitting on the grass, her glimpse at Lewis only made her pondered whether monster slayers not only wore black but if they just had a thing for being fashionable. She remembered seeing a few magazines about rising stars on top of her master's wooden table, and these men were cardboard cutouts of such presentation.
Wow...we have Runo looking like a pop star, and Lewis like a rapper...
Netty's distorted voice immediately turned the heads of everyone who thought she was unconscious. They noticed tears forming around her eyes.
Runo let out a silent gasp, before crouching down and setting his hand on Netty's head, his eyes examining the damage.
"Don't apologize, you'll be fine."
The android's tears softly crawled down to her chin, before dripping onto the grass next to her face.
The crack in Netty's inaudible statement. It was inevitable that someone who held her true feelings to herself for so long would eventually break.
The man interrupted Netty by placing his hand on her flushed cheeks.
"It's OK, Netty. Don't worry about it."
The android's weak arms reached for his face, but he gently held her hands with his as his eye shimmered with sadness and hope.
Dolly awkwardly sat next to them while Lewis sauntered to her.
"So.......are these two, you know...." He coughed.
But no one heard him.
For the only thing that everyone heard was the soft whimpering and cries of an android close to losing her memories.
"Well, isn't this the perfect hiding spot, aye!!" Lewis charged into the cave ahead of the trio.
Dolly sighed, the android's eyes glanced over at the duo who sat deeper within the cave. Runo had no time to entertain Lewis while he's occupied with Netty's recovery, so he had asked her to watch over the new guy.
Kinda strange that Lewis decided to stay with us when now's a terrible time...
But there's not much Dolly could say in the matter.
After all, she was dragged into their business just a few days earlier.
"Lewis, quiet down. He needs to concentrate."
The scent of a lotus flower dominated the air inside the cave.
Did he...spray too much cologne??
Alas, it wasn't the time to be asking a man such questions. The android took a seat against the wall while she observed the entrance. Nothing but a line of trees waving back at her.
Knowing that Runo doesn't want to be bothered, the man now turned his attention to Dolly.
"So," he took a seat next to her and waved his hand. His rings flashed in front of her against the ray of sunlight. "Why's a lovely lady like yourself doing here?"
"Hm, I should ask you the same question."
The man's smile dropped. "Huh?"
"How are you here?"
"What do you mean?"
The android turned to stare at him. "Last I heard, you got badly injured by a monster, right?"
Ah, now the man's a little surprised. He didn't think anyone else would know about his little accident in the Headquarters asides from the guy who saved him.
His voice filled with curiosity. He wanted to know exactly what Dolly knew about him.
"Huh. So you are the person that Noah saw."
The android's eyes fluttered as she broke eye contact with Lewis. The man raised an eyebrow.
"The guy who saved you."
"Oh. And where is he?"
A pause. The sound of Runo's drill can be heard reverberating inside the cave.
The two didn't speak for a moment as they let the sound of hammering nails enter their ears. Then, the ignition of a few sparks and scattering bolts scratching against the cave grounds. It sounded like a hectic job back there.
"Well, that sucks. He was cool," Lewis scratched his head, "eh, not as cool as I am, but he could be my friend if we had met in school."
Dolly cringed at his statement. She's not too keen of a guy who can't even genuinely sympathize for two seconds.
"Anyway! Back on topic milady, why are YOU here?"
The android sighed. "Well, I have my reasons."
She furrowed her eyebrows. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because why not? Yeah, we just met, but that's why I'm asking," he gazed up to his frolicking fingers dancing under the beam of light. His rings glimmered.
"I'm just traveling with Runo and Netty."
"Oh? Have you known them for a while?"
"Not really. I've only been in the realm for a few days."
The man jerked forward and leaned over, his face getting a bit too close into Dolly's personal space. "Eh? That's interesting! I've only been here for three days! I was hospitalized earlier."
"Oh, is it because of your injuries?"
"That's exactly right!" Lewis smirked as he casually rested his head behind his arms. "I almost died if it weren't for your friend. We were fighting this hideous effin lady with a hat. Almost lost my consciousness if he didn't jump in. So, I am in debt to help you."
"You don't have to."
"Nah Nah Nah! I must! Let me," Lewis's stupid grin never left his prideful face. "Say, I think you lied earlier."
Dolly's eyes widened.
"You didn't come to the realm just to fight monsters aye?"
The android sighed and turned to look at the man. He's annoying. "Look, leave me alone. I'm not in the mood to talk right now."
The man closed his eyes and shifted himself away from her. He shrugged. "Alright, suit yourself, milady. Just know that if you need a helping hand, I'll be here."
She grumbled and turned back to stare at the wall in front of her. She could hear Runo comforting Netty albeit his words were blurry, but at least she's a little happy knowing that she had people to be there for her.
Even though she's not necessarily getting along with Runo just yet, but she had to admit; he fought well with her fighting style.
Alas, some respect was earned.
Lewis, bored of out his mind, suddenly pulled a rock out of his pocket. He began stroking it as if it was some kind of stress relief toy and started humming to himself.
What a peculiar way to make his presence known in the caves as his humming echoed inside their hideout. His fingers were now tapping on it. The calm demeanor coming from the man who was super bombastic earlier sort of made Dolly unnerved.
Lewis slowly turned his head to look at the android. He blinked once, then smiled. "Yes?"
"Am I right to assume that you like to sing?" She asked, but her voice cracked from the rising anxiety she could feel from her chest.
The man continued to stroke his rock. "Sure, singing is fun! Do you know how to sing?"
His eyes didn't blink for several minutes as he gazed at Dolly. That freakish stare and wrinkles from the curls of his mouth were making her uncomfortable.
"I...I think I'll just go over there..."
The android eyed a different spot of the cave. She started to get up but found her arm gripped awfully tight by Lewis. He glanced up at her awkwardly, his face suddenly changed from a creepy, calm demeanor to that of a maniac.
"Hey... check this out."
He aggressively pulled Dolly back onto the floor, her legs clattered as she could feel the cold grounds of the cave touching against her thighs. She hopelessly sighed.
Lewis shoved the rock in front of Dolly. "So, what do you think of him?"
"What do I think of what?"
"This little dude! Rise!"
The wires in Dolly's brain popped.
Huh?! Is he talking about the stupid rock?
"Yup, This is my rock. Rise the rock."
Dolly felt the wires in her brain snapping in half. Humor was still a foreign concept to her. Or was it just this man being a weirdo?
"Ok...." She said slowly. "What do you mean?"
"Ha! Funny story actually. When I was sent back here, I was really active with my killings."
He paused, like he was on a theater stage, waiting to reveal something dramatic.
"While I was in the midst of my killing spree, I found him. And I found him on top of a hill. He was...the perfect companion for me. Always there when I need him. So I named him Rise for obvious reasons."
The android turned away from him. "Cool."
The sudden, most unexpected yell from Lewis traveled inside the cave, and Runo casually glanced up to see what on earth would cause Lewis to scream so loud.
"Lewis, you can say it normally," Dolly's eye twitched when he returned a grin at her.
"Alright alright, pay some respect to this beautiful rock and I'll consider."
"SUCH BLASPHEMY!" The man yelped in disgust. "HOW COULD YOU DISRESPECT-"
The stomps coming from a frustrated man approached Lewis as Runo grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and glared at him in the eye.
"Shut the hell up or I'll make sure you can never speak again," A threat coming from Runo. Even Dolly stuttered at the thought of it.
"Ooooooh ho ho! Feisty, aren't ya?" Lewis smirked arrogantly and grabbed onto Runo's arm that held his collar. "I wonder if you've told them yet!"
"Tch!" Runo dropped the man onto the floor.
Lewis did a quick laugh. He glared back at Runo, who was staring down at him with his fierce, yellow eye of hatred.
"Heh...see, you can't get rid of me so easily, boy..." The man squinted his eyes at Runo, who turned around and sauntered back to Netty.
Dolly witnessed everything, and yet...
I don't understand, told us what?
"Um, Lewis," she asked as her eyes looked at Runo and Netty, "what did you mean when you said you wondered if Runo told us...something?"
"Hmm? Oh!" The man did a peace sign before flirtatiously poked Dolly's head. Well, that was uncalled for. "I think that's something Runo would have to tell you. Can't be spilling any cute little secrets!"
Huh, I bet these two must have known each other from somewhere then.
With that assumption, Dolly rolled her eyes and stared back at the grass field outside the cave. The line of trees ahead waved back, their leaves gracefully fell whenever a breeze went by.
Lewis started petting his rock. He whistled to himself, all the while occasionally mumbling "My little Rise" as if the rock was his dog. Talk about a true weirdo.
Maybe he didn't have any friends.
Based on his narcissistic personality, Dolly imagined that Lewis must have had a hard time making some. Maybe that's why, if he and Runo knew each other, Runo probably dumped him.
But then she remembered something. Lewis had mentioned that he just arrived in the realm three days ago. That wouldn't make any sense.
"Hey, Lewis," Dolly's eyes were fixated on his gold necklace, "You said you came to the realm just three days ago, right?"
"Did you meet anyone else?"
"Hmm, not really, there aren't as many slayers as I thought."
That pretty much confirmed what she expected too. For she realized after traveling with Netty and Runo, she hadn't encountered more slayers. Perhaps the realm was much bigger. But a lingering thought that most of them probably got slaughtered was a possibility, and she was afraid to admit that.
"Haha," Lewis adjusted the rings on his fingers before petting his rock, "do you know why I decided to become a monster slayer?"
Oh dear, here it comes. Dolly wished he could stop talking already. "Why?"
"Because I'm hungry."
Such a bold and unexpected statement made Dolly's head turn.
"What did you say?"
"Hmm? I said I was hungry. Hungry for the thrill, for the adrenaline, it's like seeking an adventure only the best individuals can get their hands on."
Still, that felt a little awkward. His mannerisms, his speech, just everything about him was so dramatic and ridiculous.
'I'm sure that hunger goes the same for you huh?"
The man leaned his face inches away from Dolly's. Lewis's eyes were popping out like a maniac, his grin was abnormally large and freaky.
And his right hand was caressing his rock.
"You think you're good at hiding your feelings," his fingernails were now tapping on the rock, "But I can see it. You're hungry to find something... or someone."
The android leaned away from Lewis. If telling him meant he would change the subject or shut his mouth, she figured there was no harm to it.
"Yeah, I'm looking for the scientist that caused the explosion 20 years ago."
The tapping stopped. Lewis cocked his head. The only thing Dolly could see from him was a very confused look.
"Wait. What do you mean?"
Now Dolly was just as confused. "What do you mean what do you mean? I said I was-"
"Yeah, I know. But milady, the scientist is-"
"Dolly," Runo suddenly called out from the back of the cave. "Can you come here for a second?"
Lewis tried to hold in a laugh. He turned to stare at Runo with a mischievous grin and lifted his rock to show the unfazed man. "Hey Runo, take a look at Rise."
"Dolly," Runo completely ignored the man but focused on the girl who was sauntering to him. "Would you mind watching Netty for a while? I want to get some fresh air."
The android smiled. "Yes, that's fine. You worked hard after all."
A simple pat on his back. Runo blinked and let out a soft chuckle. They were slowly opening up to one another as far as Netty could tell, who was lying on a blanket watching her friends talk. Her body was no longer mangled, her wires weren't dangling all over the place, and the scratch marks around her legs have disappeared.
Except, Runo had told her she will have to rest for several days. While he had fixed most of the damage, he couldn't get her voicebox to operate. A sad reality for a girl who loved to talk, and she wept in silence as Runo did his best to comfort her. Her gem was also left damaged. Alas, the poor android can only watch herself wither away.
"Hey Dolly," Runo pulled her aside and leaned over to her ear, "just to let you know, Netty can't speak. Try to make her feel better if she ever starts..."
"Oh. I see."
"I'll have to slay some more monsters to keep my quota up. In 2 days, the research team is coming back to provide more necessities. I'll ask for more equipment by then."
This piqued Dolly's interest. Maybe she could ask for her own scanner so she wouldn't have to rely on Runo, but she was bashful to speak up. "Ah, that sounds like a plan."
With that, Runo scratched his face as he walked by Lewis, not wanting to take a look at the creepy man frolicking with his rock.
But Lewis wasn't going to let a splendid man like Runo leave without saying anything.
"Be careful Mr. Leader," Lewis spoke as if he was talking to a 10-year-old, "You're quite the spectacle out there."
Runo didn't turn to look at him, but he eventually parted his lips as he walked away from the entrance of the cave. "Watch it."
Lewis grinned as he watched the frustrated man sauntered into the woods and out of sight.
That effin idiot. Bold enough to leave your precious teammates alone with me.
But then he sighed and rested his back against the cave wall, his head leaned forward to observe his rock. A formation that made Rise the rock almost unnaturally round, and Lewis found Rise perfect.
His eyes darted back at the man who just left the cave. Runo. How unfortunate that they had to meet at a time like this. Lewis snickered quietly to himself as his fingers continued to rub his rock.
That man's in serious trouble.