Chapter 13:

Malicious Scheme


The sight of a distraught man was at the corner of the cave, sulking. Runo wasn't crying, but the wrinkles on his face gave away his emotions. He recalled what had happened a few hours ago, when he, Lewis, and Dolly left to hunt for some monsters.Bookmark here

The deafening silence lingered in their hideout. No one wanted to speak up after finding Netty's shiny earrings on the ground. There were several ripped wires scattered on the floor, but her body was nowhere to be seen.Bookmark here

Such a scene would definitely horrify anyone close to the missing friend whose remaining components are the only things left to remind them of her existence. Bookmark here

"Is he just gonna sulk back there?" Bookmark here

Lewis finally spoke up to Dolly. He was bored out of his mind. They were standing right outside the entrance of the cave, waiting patiently for Runo to be done contemplating his life choices.Bookmark here

"As much as I'd like to continue my mission," Dolly lowered her eyelids, "I can understand why he's feeling so sad."Bookmark here

Lewis raised an eyebrow. He found it rather peculiar that Dolly didn't seem so upset over Netty's disappearance. Bookmark here

"Huh, and what about you? Isn't she like, your sister?"Bookmark here

"Hmm," she shrugged and sighed heavily. While Dolly was glum about Netty, she can't help but think of the ever so tiny lingering feelings of uncertainty. Sure, she had spent time with Netty and eventually grew fond of her, but her initial impression of the android remained.Bookmark here

This only contributed to her confusion. If anything, was Netty really gone?Bookmark here

I don't know. Something feels very wrong here. Bookmark here

The gears in her mind started rolling as she pondered at the possibility of someone kidnapping Netty. Bookmark here

"Say," Dolly's look of suspicion slowly turned to Lewis, "I'm curious. When the three of us went to fight the monster twins yesterday, where did you go?"Bookmark here

Alas, Lewis remembered. After they had left Netty in the caves, they managed to stumble upon two monsters who mirrored each other's appearances. Immediately, the trio had to brace themselves for a big fight as the monsters shrieked. Their screams irked everyone's ears, for the soundwaves felt like they could shatter even the toughest glass. Bookmark here

But of course, that wasn't the full story. Runo suddenly got up from his crouched position and stomped towards Lewis until his face was inches from the suspected man, who only grinned in return.Bookmark here

"What did you do when you suddenly left the scene while Dolly and I were fighting the second monster?" Runo's shadow towered over Lewis. Bookmark here

"Oh ho ho, you're so funny Mr. Leader," Lewis chuckled hastily. He pulled out Rise from his pocket. The poor rock had visible lines on its smooth surface, indicating that Lewis had been scratching it this entire time. Bookmark here

Runo only glared at the rock before turning his attention back at the man who seemingly had no interest in talking about the situation. "Where. Is. Netty."Bookmark here

"You're really terrible at making jokes, my fellow friend," Lewis lifted his arm and shoved Rise in between their faces. "See, Rise here is-"Bookmark here

A loud thud was heard. Dolly's eyes followed the motion of Runo's hand and the inevitable slap that came roaring at Rise. The rock fell from Lewis's grip and landed on the ground. It rolled for a few seconds until it softly hit the outer wall of the cave. Then, no one wanted to speak.Bookmark here

For Lewis's mischievous attitude suddenly turned cold. His eyes widened and his playful smirk disappeared, only to be replaced with the look of someone who was about to murder. Bookmark here

The wrinkles in his forehead and the hard clench of his teeth made Dolly uncomfortable, but Runo did not budge. Bookmark here

"Yo. Hand him back to me," Lewis's bloodshot eyes darted back at Runo as he added sarcastically, "please." Bookmark here

But Runo only threw a fist against the wall behind Lewis. His compass earring chimed for a second as his head jerked from frustration. Lewis's sweat showered his forehead, and he started to shiver as if he was feeling cold.Bookmark here

"Give. GIVE. GIVE. GIVE GIVE. GIVE! GIVE!!"Bookmark here

He muttered to himself, his eyes darted for a split second when he saw Dolly cautiously approaching over to Rise and picked it up.Bookmark here

"Ach!" Lewis twitched his head and bit his bottom lip as he tried to reach out to Dolly. Bookmark here

Now Runo had turned to see what the fuss was about, only to see a weary Dolly next to him. She reached her hand out with Rise on her palm. Lewis grabbed it and shoved Runo away from him. Bookmark here

"It's OK! It's OK! It's OK!!" The strange man began to rub his fingers against the solid rock until the burning sensation caused him to start tapping and scratching. Bookmark here

Runo and Dolly watched in disgust as the man eventually calmed down and took a deep breath. The fresh air that came from the surrounding leaves and grass felt refreshing, and Lewis managed to smile again. He started to chant "My Little Rise" to himself, but it only made the entire scene much more disturbing to the duo.Bookmark here

Dolly could only watch in disbelief as the weird man blinked a few times before he rested his head against the outer walls of the cave and sighed happily.Bookmark here

What IS it with Lewis? Bookmark here

"Are you done yet?" Runo's sharp tongue shattered the silence and flew straight for Lewis's attention. Bookmark here

"Gee," Lewis paid no mind to Runo and focused on Dolly instead, "Aren't you the nicer one, I must thank you for bringing Rise back to me."Bookmark here

"Back to the point," Dolly stood next to Runo and glared at Lewis, "Where did you go when Runo and I were fighting the monster?"Bookmark here

But Lewis just chuckled and concentrated more than half of his attention on Rise. That effin idiot. Bookmark here

"Aaaaaah Rise, you keep me sane and happy," Lewis smirked back at the duo with such a drunken face that one would think he genuinely drank too much. Bookmark here

Runo was so done with Lewis's attitude he gripped onto his attire and pulled him closer. "Are you serious right now? You heard what Dolly said. ANSWER THE QUESTION."Bookmark here

"OK, OK! Geez, get your hands off me!" Lewis grabbed onto Runo's arm and pulled it away from him, "I don't remember ever meeting your precious friend. When we were in the middle of that fight, I had to calm myself down. Decided to take a break from the stupid fight and figured you guys can do the dirty work."Bookmark here

Dolly's mouth dropped ever so slightly. Of course, it was expected of dramatic, arrogant Lewis to let other people do his share of the work. But he admitted it. She had to give him credit.Bookmark here

"And what about you, Mr. Leader?" Lewis's question was obviously an attempt to turn the tables. "If I recalled correctly, you also left in the middle of our walk before we saw the monster twins, what's up with that heh?"Bookmark here

"Well Lewis," Dolly intervened, her eyes focused on Lewis's gaze. He was trying to pull an I got you! moment. "If you recalled correctly, Runo did say that he had to pick up the daffodils he left in his secret stash. He even informed us and that's exactly how he and I defeated the second monster!"Bookmark here

"Ah yes," Lewis rolled his eyes, "I do recall seeing shurikens flying recklessly all over till one almost hit me in the head."Bookmark here

"And the audacity for you to say I would hurt a companion I traveled with for so long," Runo's eye glowed with pure hatred. His hand tightened on Lewis's dark brown hair, "Are you seriously trying to get on my nerves right now?"Bookmark here

"Ach! Not my hair!! Do you know how hard it is to keep it sleek and tidy?!" Bookmark here

Dolly had been watching the two bicker and was left paralyzed at what she's supposed to do to get Lewis talking. Her eyes eventually shifted to Rise, who was being held onto so passionately with a tight grip.Bookmark here

If I just take this again, he would have to talk, right?Bookmark here

The men exchanged colorful words. Endless screaming and accusations fell on deaf ears. Dolly could hear the mixture of Runo's frustration and Lewis's anger blend into a gigantic monster of a cathartic mess. It entered her mind as the sounds started to overwhelm her into madness. She couldn't stand their bickering anymore when everyone could have spent their time searching for their missing friend. Bookmark here

The jumbled mess of words thrown towards one another became blurry for the android. How was she supposed to disband their argument? She wasn't so sure herself until her thoughts of taking Rise went into consideration. Bookmark here

"Huh?!" Lewis spatted back at Runo after they bantered for a couple of minutes, "You're accusing THE Lewis even after saying so many effin times that I DO NOT KNOW where she is!!"Bookmark here

He was tapping his rock so fast that the movements of his fingers seemed inhuman.Bookmark here

“That’s enough!!” Bookmark here

The fierce yell from Dolly rang in everyone’s ears as she took Rise from Lewis’ hand. Her sudden grab surprised Lewis, and unfortunately, his fingers failed him as Dolly took hold of his rock. Bookmark here

Lewis's smile immediately faded. The man suddenly jerked his head. “Hey. Give him back.”Bookmark here

“NO!! What did you do to Netty!!”Bookmark here

“Give. Him. Back.”Bookmark here

Lewis’ eyes began to twitch erratically. His bloodshot stare penetrated deep into Dolly’s blinking ones. She stood there, not knowing what he was thinking.Bookmark here

“B-But what did y-“Bookmark here

“I SAID. GIVE. HIM. BACK!”Bookmark here

Dolly and Runo shut their eyes as several sound waves exited out of Lewis’s scream and sent the leaves from the surrounding trees flying in all directions. Bookmark here

Maybe the sound waves were powerful, or perhaps Rise the rock was truly special after all, it broke into several smaller pieces before casually falling onto the grass.Bookmark here

Lewis’s eyes popped out as he stared at poor Rise, shattered into tinier pieces of itself and laying pitifully near Dolly’s feet.Bookmark here

“EH-"Bookmark here

His voice halted while he gulped. Lewis began to pant heavily. His forehead was covered with visible sweat as his veins started to pop out like an infuriated individual. Bookmark here

And his eyes glared at her with full hatred.Bookmark here

Dolly was ready to fight and immediately went for a battle stance. But to her surprise, Lewis’s facial expression that screamed anger suddenly changed. He grinned, a large one if anything, and he started to chuckle out loud. Bookmark here

The duo awkwardly stared at him with confusion. How was any of this funny?!Bookmark here

But when Lewis blinked and turned to gaze both of them in the eyes, Dolly could feel the wires in her chest gradually forming knots as the uncomfortable feeling of unexpected doom reigned over her.Bookmark here

A whimper. 
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Oh no.Bookmark here

That agonizing emptiness lurking within Dolly's chest, and yet the sorrow she was feeling all over again rose to her throat that she struggled to breathe. Bookmark here

Because the eyes that once looked human were now a set of hollow ones staring back at her menacingly. Bookmark here

Lewis' heinous smirk never left its face as it glared down at the duo. It began to levitate, showcasing its powers with such flamboyant manners. Bookmark here

"Lewis, you...!!!" Runo clenched his teeth while his eye began to lit with fury. Bookmark here

"Ah, my fellow FRIENDS!" It beamed, its arms dramatically reaching out to them like an angelic savior. "Surely you saw this coming. At least, I think one of you did."Bookmark here

Its golden necklace glimmered under the ray of sunlight. Along with its dramatic pose of a demonic angel, the monster's rings transformed into elongated claws. Bookmark here

"AhahaHAHA!" Lewis' face twitched while its voice started to echo as if it's speaking through a microphone and a voice changer at the same time. Its soul-sucking vacant eyes continued to look into the duo, while its teeth were grinding uncontrollably. Bookmark here

“Alas, our time spent together was cut short. However…”Bookmark here

Lewis licked one of its claws. Its slurp sent chills down Dolly’s back. Bookmark here

“I fear I’m getting a little too hungry. And I deserve a good meal after all these ridiculous accusations!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.