Chapter 12:

Complete Annihilation


"Are you sure it's fine to leave Netty back there?"Bookmark here

Dolly was sauntering next to the line of uneven trees as the men behind her dragged their feet across the dirt. Lewis arrogantly smirked while Runo, who made it obvious he wanted his personal space from the creepy man, just glanced at Dolly and nodded. Bookmark here

Runo had finished repairing Netty hours before and went out to take a stroll on his own. Dolly and Lewis didn't interact much after as the android found the man quite creepy. Bookmark here

After all, if it weren't for her eyes occupied at Netty who was staring into her gaze with her depressing eyes, Dolly shivered at the thought of awkwardly watching the man fondling with the rock. The loud taps he would make with his nails seemed to signal his impatience, or rather, he was waiting for Runo to come back.Bookmark here

Either way, the man eventually came back but he didn't speak to either of them. Instead, he chose to pull out a blanket and laid it a few centimeters next to Netty, before dozing off.Bookmark here

And for the last few hours, it felt unbearably long. Dolly was awkwardly sitting between her two friends. Her eyes went back and forth from Netty's dead gaze and Runo's sleeping face, and occasionally to Lewis, who would return a friendly smile. Bookmark here

But after a few hours of silence, and the caves echoed the noise of water drops dripping from a variety of spots, the sound of shuffling and a yawn made Dolly turn. Runo rubbed his eye and fixed his hair. The wrinkles on his face made it clear he just can't have a good night's rest.Bookmark here

So here they are. The trio decided to take a stroll into a different area of the forest, the path that Runo took earlier. Bookmark here

A colorful wave of flowers filled the sight. Dolly could hardly imagine monsters lurking around this part of the forest, for the scenery felt magical. Bookmark here

In fact, Runo actually took Dolly and Lewis to the biggest flower field in the monster-slaying realm. It was a couple of miles from the cave, and when they finally reached it, Dolly couldn't contain her surprise. Bookmark here

Multiple neat lines of red, orange, no wait, it was practically a rainbow of flowers. The trio was at the edge of the dense forest covered with thick trees, but in front of them, laid a giant sea of roses of all sorts of colors.Bookmark here

"Woah!!" Dolly allowed the colors to be absorbed into her vision. She could feel the cold breeze blowing against her soft skin, and the wind whistled a heavenly lullaby. Bookmark here

A few petals hovered along with the zephyr, and the grass beneath the sea of colorful roses danced happily as they welcomed the trio. The rays of sunset light produced a faint glow among the flowers, making this a sight Dolly simply can't forget. Bookmark here

"Runo, this was where you went?!" She asked as she turned around. The man stared at her with a slightly shocked look, because Dolly had the biggest smile plastered on her face.Bookmark here

"Um, yes..." He looked away and scratched the back of his head.Bookmark here

"This looks amazing! I can't believe you never brought this place up before!!" Dolly ran over to the first lines of purple roses. Her hands wiggled the leaves and gently touched the soft petals of a few.Bookmark here

Runo simply shrugged as Lewis rolled his eyes. This was too cheesy for Lewis. If anything, his interest was more on the energy bar that Runo was now unwrapping and munching.Bookmark here

The loud crunches only irritated Lewis. Bookmark here

"When did you get that energy bar?" Lewis glanced at Runo with a stink eye, but the man remained unfazed as he kept chewing.Bookmark here

"Your fault for not claiming it first," replied Runo with his mouth still full. Talk about being rude. Bookmark here

However, his reply allowed Lewis to recall the upper torso monster he killed the day before. Alas, it WAS his fault for not remembering to grab the energy bar laying hidden behind the bush after his grand entrance. Shoot, it looks like Runo had beaten him to it first.Bookmark here

"You effin snake," Lewis inched his face closer to Runo but the man did not budge. "I will kill y-"Bookmark here

"Hey!" Dolly suddenly called out to them, so the men exchanged glares and approached her, Lewis specifically smirking again. Bookmark here

"So what powers do the roses have?" The android asked like a child wanting to know more about the world.Bookmark here

Runo blinked as he casually gulped the last piece of his energy bar. Lewis darted his eyes at him for a moment before focusing his attention back on Dolly, who was holding a purple rose.Bookmark here

"Ah, purple roses, they're mystical, see..." Lewis squatted alongside Dolly and took the rose from her hands. "If you pull its petals out slowly, they'll glow. Throw a bunch of these at a monster, and they will blind it temporarily."Bookmark here

"Oooooh."Bookmark here

"Thanks, Mr. Rose Expert," Runo said sarcastically as he squatted down next to Lewis and returned a tiny smile. "How did you get so smart about the roses?"Bookmark here

"Hmm, I don't know, what do you think, Mr. Leader?" Bookmark here

The tension was obvious between the two, but Dolly took no notice. She was busy playing with the petals as she slowly peeled one off from its stem, and watched it glow. It really glowed as bright as the sun, and she could see how throwing a bunch of these can easily blind anyone for a few seconds. Bookmark here

"Oh! What about the other colors?" Dolly gazed ahead into the radiant flower field. They sang to her with the breeze, their leaves beckoned her to take a closer look. Bookmark here

Lewis turned away from Runo and stared back at Dolly with a smug. "Ah, I'd say my favorite one is red."Bookmark here

"Why red?" Bookmark here

"Because," Lewis calmly placed his hand on Dolly's shoulder, while the other one was petting his rock inside his pocket. "They share the same color."Bookmark here

"Of?"Bookmark here

"Blood, of course."Bookmark here

An awkward silence fell between the trio. Bookmark here

"Haha!! Loosen up will you?" Lewis's hand on Dolly's shoulder moved to slap Dolly's back. Hard.Bookmark here

That caused Dolly to jolt forward. Her back rattled for a second before she glanced back at Lewis with an irritated look. The man's confusing, but she shrugged it off and focused her gaze back at the flowers.Bookmark here

"The red ones have the ability to make people fall in love, or so I heard," Lewis giggled as he watched Dolly's face turned into the same hue as the roses, "the testing realms have a lot of these. People think they can make actual love potions now!"Bookmark here

"Stop lying!" Bookmark here

"I'm not!" Lewis started to laugh louder and harder, his hands gripped his stomach. "That's why roses aren't really used to fight monsters, well, maybe except purple and blue."Bookmark here

Dolly raised an eyebrow. "Why those two?"Bookmark here

"They could only be made artificially," Lewis explained, his voice now making him sound like a professor, "At least, before the explosion! Now, you can see a lot of purple and blue roses in nature. And because their constructions were altered, just like Florinite, they have a stronger effect on monsters."Bookmark here

"Oh."Bookmark here

Dolly's eyes darted from Lewis to Runo, who was calmly picking at the petals of a purple rose. It looked like he wasn't too interested in Lewis's lecture, so Dolly turned her attention back at the creep.Bookmark here

"What can the blue ones do?" Bookmark here

"Well, these are what you call mysteries! Shove a petal into the monster's mouth, and it's like a lottery!"Bookmark here

"A what?"Bookmark here

"It just depends!" Lewis waved his hands around like he was demonstrating the effects of the petals. "They're mysteries. Shove one into a monster's mouth, it could explode! Or, it could be sticky or itchy, and that will irritate the monster for sure!"Bookmark here

"How though? All the monsters just have a grin."Bookmark here

"Oh?" Lewis turned to look at Runo, who happened to be staring at him with an irritated glare. "Did Runo not tell you-"Bookmark here

"I did," Runo interrupted and stood up. His legs hurt from squatting for too long. "I said some monsters have good camouflages."Bookmark here

He gazed back at the vibrant colors of the roses. "It's rare, but a few monsters can hide their traits. Which means they wouldn't have hollow eyes or a grin constantly."Bookmark here

Dolly thought of the upper torso monster. Technically, it wasn't grinning, for its O-shaped mouth was busy throwing its long tongue to attack her and her friends. Bookmark here

"I guess you're right." Dolly stood up along with Lewis and stared at the flower field. She took a deep breath, her eyes glimmered with a tiny sense of hope. Bookmark here

And she naturally produced a smile on her face.Bookmark here

"Man, let's head back," Lewis stretched his arms, before reaching for his rock kept in his pocket. "Rise doesn't like it here. Also, we should check up on that other android."Bookmark here

"Netty," Runo blurted.Bookmark here

"Yes her," Lewis turned his back and started to jog, "I'll meet with you guys back in the cave. Gotta sprint!"Bookmark here

Before the duo can say a word, Lewis poked his rock, screamed "LET'S GO, RISE!" and ran off into the distance. Bookmark here

The duo strolled back in the direction of where they came from. But Runo didn't say anything nor was he looking at Dolly. If anything, he looked oddly frustrated. The android's eyes glanced at him for a second, before she decided to break the silence. Bookmark here

"Hey." Bookmark here

"Hmm?" Runo slowly turned his head to face Dolly. Bookmark here

"Thanks for showing us the flower field." Bookmark here

"Oh."Bookmark here

The man's monotoned voice and emotionless expression never once wavered, although he placed a hand onto his neck, rubbing it slowly as if he was feeling a little embarrassed.Bookmark here

"I definitely misjudged you when we first met. But I can see why Netty likes you," the android said softly as she watched Runo slowly lower his guard. Bookmark here

"To be honest, you remind me a lot of myself. In fact, you and Netty do."Bookmark here

"Really?" Bookmark here

The man's fierce eye that once penetrated into Dolly's was now soft. The ripples on his jacket moved as he relaxed his body, he sighed hopelessly before parting his lips.Bookmark here

"Have you ever felt what betrayal feels like?"Bookmark here

The android thought about it. "No...I don't think so."Bookmark here

"I did, and it was unpleasant. Betrayal changes you, it hardens you. Betrayal happens when someone weak, gullible, and naive gets taken advantage of, and you're left with nothing but regret and hate."Bookmark here

The android blinked, curious at what else betrayal would do.Bookmark here

"Betrayal makes you feel lonely too." Bookmark here

Ah, the feeling of isolation.Bookmark here

Once more, it struck her chest, seemingly poking in her alleged existing heart with a sting. Bookmark here

"That sounds awful. I'm sorry you had to go through that." Bookmark here

The man took another deep breath. "It was from a friend of mine too. We were close, but he ultimately decided to partner with someone else on something we had planned for a while. He also hid secrets from me, and then..."Bookmark here

His voice gradually turned into a whisper.Bookmark here

"Well, I made a terrible mistake. I did something that can't be reversed."Bookmark here

Dolly's eyes shot open as she assumed the worse. "Wait, did you-"Bookmark here

"I did," Runo interrupted. His face only revealed lingering guilt. "So when you say I'm caring, I'm really not. My hands have been tainted with blood, and when I found out these monsters were once human, well, you can imagine."Bookmark here

"Yeah."Bookmark here

She can feel the strings of her components tensed up upon the thought of Noah. Even though it has been a week since she last saw him, the memories of his sparkling eyes and his contagious smile never faded. Her first experience with sudden death all felt surreal. She touched the shiny gem on her collarbone, her fingers resting on its surface. Bookmark here

"But Runo, I think that's a lie you keep telling yourself."Bookmark here

The android's comment perked his attention on the subject. He stared at her more intensively now as if his eye beckoned for an answer he'd been hoping to hear.Bookmark here

"Why do you say that?"Bookmark here

"Because," she paused to gather her clustered thoughts, "You've changed."Bookmark here

The statement that struck the man with lightning. "I know that."Bookmark here

"So since you've changed, the past doesn't really define you anymore."Bookmark here

"I think it's easy for you to say that when you've never been through such bloodshed."Bookmark here

"But why?" The android raised her voice, her desperate attempt to get it through his head. "You're right, I don't know and will never know what it feels like to be in your shoes because that experience is yours. But the way you feel can be changed, and I-"Bookmark here

She gulped, her lips shuddered before continuing. "I think that's the beauty of having genuine human emotions."Bookmark here

Runo's eye widened. His head moved back as the clink of his dangling earring made a musical jingle. His gaze couldn't shift away from the android's frustrated yet determined gaze. Bookmark here

Dolly furrowed her eyebrows as flustered as she was. "I know it sounds like I have them too, but it's not the same. It feels... different. I don't understand why Netty and I seemingly have them, but I know it must be different than what you're feeling, Runo."Bookmark here

"And to be honest," the android lowered her voice as if she didn't want Runo to hear it, "I think that's why I have a hard time understanding you now."Bookmark here

The duo could hear a stronger breeze shaking the leaves of the trees surrounding them. The man eventually sighed.Bookmark here

"I appreciate it," the corners of his mouth curled into a small smile, his eye filled with gratefulness. A sense of peace, and perhaps a bit of closure after hearing the conversation he needed for so long.Bookmark here

Dolly stuttered, her face only displayed nervousness. "Ah, you're welcome?"Bookmark here

"I think we ought to head back where Lewis and Netty are, don't you think?"Bookmark here

His eyes focused on the trees that stood all around them as their leaves danced in rhythm, beckoning them to embrace the light warmth of the sunset light. Bookmark here

"Yeah." Bookmark here

The android ran a few steps ahead and turned to look back at Runo. A bright, innocent smile spread across her face, while the sunlight radiated onto her features, emphasizing the humanistic curves of her build.Bookmark here

"You're a good person, Runo. Don't forget that."Bookmark here

Runo's eye shimmered as his hair fluttered along with the wind. The image of Dolly, in front of him, welcoming him with a genuine smile he didn't think he'd see after their rocky first impressions of one another.Bookmark here

And for that, he smiled in return. Bookmark here

"Alright," he suddenly sprinted past her, "Last person to reach the cave has to do the chicken dance."
Bookmark here

"Huh??"Bookmark here

His monotoned voice was the last thing she expected to hear when someone would toss a joke like that, that she couldn't tell if he was being serious. Bookmark here

She lifted her legs and ran, and for the first time, the sprint felt refreshing. Free. Her eyes would eventually catch Runo, who'd wave at her, beckoning her to come into the cave. Lewis would be standing at the entrance with a wide grin, and Netty would be on the ground sitting up, a small smile on her face as her eyes told her how much she'd missed Dolly.Bookmark here

Ah, so this is what it feels like.Bookmark here

Happiness.Bookmark here

*****Bookmark here

"Ok Netty, we'll be back soon. We have to get these men their energy bars."Bookmark here

Dolly waved at Netty, who was resting on the side of the rock inside the cave. Her eyes fluttered at the sound of her name, and she smiled at all of them as they sauntered away from the cave again, their lively expressions carried with their postures. Lewis, being his dramatic self, scurried into the forest, forcing Runo and Dolly to race after him until they were out of sight. Bookmark here

After a few hours of hanging out, Lewis complained of being hungry, so they decided that it was best for Netty to rest in the cave while the remaining three would hunt for some monsters. Bookmark here

Because Netty was still healing up, every movement in her body felt like a stab of a knife poking on her skin, and the numbness she was enduring from Runo's passable repair meant she would be disabled from fighting for a bit. Bookmark here

Several minutes passed. The android laid on the cold floor of the ominous cave, water from the ceiling dripped with a light splatter into the pool it formed. She can feel herself growing tired as the surroundings around her began to blur.Bookmark here

She slightly shifted her head up, her eyes glancing at the blurry picture of the forest in front of her. She can still see the horrendous paintwork of dried blood from the upper torso monster.Bookmark here

Alas, those were the days. For now, the tingling sensations inside her body made her feel giddy, like a tipsy person trying to unwind stressful thoughts. Bookmark here

It's such a pity I can't fight right now... Bookmark here

Her face turned red as her nose sniffled from the flash of thoughts occurring within her mind. She recalled of her old friends, those who got slaughtered behind her back, and eventually, became monsters she had likely killed. Her eyes wavered at the imaginative sight she can portray in her head, her lips quivered until a couple of tears gracefully fell from her cheeks and onto the solid rocks of the cave.Bookmark here

This entire time, whenever she was with the others, she did her best to force a smile.Bookmark here

But underneath all the wires, was a brittle heart of an innocent, happy girl, forced to face the reality bestowed upon her. Bookmark here

I miss my teammates. I wish...Bookmark here

Netty suddenly heard footsteps approaching from behind. Her instincts kicked in and she tried to get up, but the instant sting coming from the side of her waist stopped her from rising. The android decided to turn her head, expecting to see the welcoming gaze of Dolly or the warmth of Runo's occasional smile. Bookmark here

But she was met with a sight she never saw coming. Bookmark here

The last vision before her eyes turned white from shock was a sledgehammer that permanently oppressed her from moving. Multiple streaks of pale sunlight revealed the shadow of an individual brutally beating the poor android to an irreparable state, sending her to eternal sleep on the walls of the now lifeless cave. Bookmark here

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