The sound of a few waterdrops plopped from the leaves of the birch trees that remained standing around their fallen comrade. A large hole that looked like someone blasted the living heck out of the tree was made through its trunk as uneven layers of bark only made the entire scene look brutal.
“Oh,” Netty blinked as she turned to stare at the mess she made.
“We were fighting a monster,” Runo intervened, “A powerful one, in fact. It has the ability to turn invisible for a few seconds, so we had to make a lot of assumptions and attack based on where we thought it would head.”
“That explains why you were being cautious,” Dolly replied, “Although, I realized that creature didn’t attack us when we arrived.”
“It likely left after hearing more people coming in this direction.”
No one spoke for several seconds. Then, Netty went over and placed her arm around Dolly’s shoulder. This time, Dolly didn’t shove it away.
“Hey, I think you should talk to your boy. I bet he would enjoy some company right now.”
Dolly sighed and lightly tapped her soft lips. “I suppose you’re right."
Her eyes slightly widened when she thought about the monster. "But what about-”
A creature’s howl can be heard from a far distance; it was deeper into the forest's dark ominous pathway, and it perked Netty’s interest. She smirked at Runo, who in return, gave her a single nod.
“Looks like we will be busy,” Netty stomped the ground a couple of times and rubbed her hands together, “We can meet with you two back at the river. I think the more the merrier our travels! So we’ll see ya soon!”
But the two individuals sped into the darkness, with a trail of dust behind their sprints, leaving Dolly alone.
Tch, I didn’t exactly invite them to join us.
Dolly sighed and ran back towards the direction of the river.
And to be honest, I don’t know if I trust Netty or Runo yet. Eh...I hope Noah's OK.
The android blasted herself among the trees as trails of leaves and blades of grass danced behind her. She eventually reached the creek, where it was gorgeously curving around the landmark. Its clear, crystal waters hopped over the rocks, and the sounds of the sparkling stream perked her ears.
She looked to her right, and her eyes glittered upon seeing Noah, who was fast asleep on a large rock.
That’s dangerous; what if a monster were to show up?
She softly walked over to the sleeping boy, but before she woke him up, she took a glance at his face.
Humans look so calm when their guards are down.
Dolly smiled, the feeling of gratefulness overwhelmed her as she thought how much she had appreciated his company. Even though he could be a nuisance with over-the-top jokes, he did provide some amusement while they were traveling around the forest. She knew she had to thank him for that.
The man grunted, which to Dolly’s response, she decided to poke his stomach.
“WaaaaaAAAAA!!!” Noah yelped and jolted awake, his upper torso swung upwards in such an exaggerated manner as if he just got exorcised. “H-hey!! That’s ticklish!”
But his embarrassment quickly faded when Dolly's voice attracted his hearing. Her laughter, soft yet like a melody. It sung in his ears, and her face was colored with life.
“Huh… I think this is the first time I’m hearing you laugh.”
Subconsciously, he reached for her cheeks, but slowly pulled back his arm.
Dolly stopped giggling and smiled. But then she remembered what she had done earlier and gazed down to the grass. “Hey, about earlier…”
Noah took a peek at her and slowly turned his eyes away. His pink cheeks heated with nervousness.
“It’s OK man, I know you didn’t mean it.”
The android sighed and sat next to him on the rock. The boulder they were sitting on was facing the beautiful creak, its waters continued to shine as the trees beyond friendly waved with the zephyr.
“Although, I think you should inform me of what’s going on because that Netty girl threw me off course and now I am more confused than ever.”
“That’s fair. For starters, I’m not a human.”
“Yeah, that I can tell.”
Dolly's eyes fluttered as she gazed down at the clear waters in front of her. “I was actually told by my master to keep the whole android part a secret. Netty was supposed to do the same, but she told Runo.”
“Do you know why he wanted it to be a secret?”
Dolly shook her head. “No actually. As much as I hate Netty for cutting all contact, I cannot blame her for her frustration. Sometimes, I don’t get the master either.”
“You said you were sent by your master to track down the scientist that caused the explosion. What makes him think that the scientist is going to be somewhere in this realm, let alone alive?”
“He did say he was certain the scientist is alive, but he won’t tell me anything else other than to search for that person. The scientist could be in a different realm if he’s alive, but since you brought up monster-slaying, I thought I could start in here because then…”
The android shifted her head to meet with Noah's heterochromatic eyes.
“I mean, wouldn’t it make sense that the scientist would go to the very realm where there are monsters trying to eradicate humanity since it’s a direct result of the explosion? So isn’t that what I’m here for? I need to find the person who caused all of this so that humanity can be saved. Maybe the scientist knows how to reverse this realm problem..."
Noah took a deep breath. “And there's more to it too."
“What do you mean?"
“Well, I mean,” Noah turned away from Dolly and stared into the distance, “for one, the majority of the creatures have dominated the world. The strongest kinds.”
Dolly looked a little surprised, but she kept her composure. “Ah, I see.”
“And well...I was born a few months before the explosion occurred. Luckily my mom and I were far from it, and we weren’t close to the ocean, so we weren't affected. But that’s what I was told when I was a child.”
Noah's eyes quickly glanced up as if he was trying to gather his thoughts, before bringing his pupils down and rapidly blinked.
“It turns out my mom died trying to rescue me," his voice stuttered for a moment, "I later learned from my adoptive parents that my real mom passed away because they were fighting with everyone else to get on an airplane.”
“I’m sorry,” Dolly said softly, but Noah did not hear her.
“The airplanes were meant to carry survivors to higher ground at first, but right when they got in, a few people started grabbing women and children and pulled them away from the entrance."
A sigh of relief, or perhaps it was anxiousness. The duo can envision the nightmare as the sounds of heavy footsteps stepped over injured bodies, piling onto each other to grasp the unreachable doors of the airplane.
"I was one of them, along with my mom, but she was trampled to death. Some smarter individuals who had built underground bunkers brought people in, and the person who grabbed me to safety is my adopted mom.”
“What about the airplanes? Where did those people-”
“Gone,” Noah interrupted. His voice slightly raised for he didn’t want Dolly to finish her sentence. His fingers fidgetted and interlocked as he parted his lips. “The air was toxic, and with everyone panicking, I heard that the pilot of that airplane forgot to turn on the cabin pressure.”
“Oh. So that means…” Dolly stared at the grass solemnly.
“Yeah, Everyone died of hypoxia.”
Dolly continuously stared at the ground. She didn’t want to meet Noah’s eyes and taint their sparkling beauty with the bloody imagery of countless people who died from the chaos. “I’m really sorry. That’s awful.”
“When you talk about finding the scientist,” Noah started, “I think of my missing dad.”
“My foster parents have told me my dad was a brilliant man who knew his way around physics and robotics. But I don’t think it’s him.”
How would you know? What if he IS the scientist that caused all this mess?
“What makes you think it’s not him?” Dolly curiously asked.
“Hmm,” Noah took a deep breath, “I just don’t think it’s him. My instincts never fail me, so I hope I’m right.”
Dolly didn’t say anything, but she’s uncertain whether she could trust him on this one.
“Oh, you sort of remind me of a doll I used to own,” he scandalously wiggled his eyebrows.
Hold on, this is a lot to take in. What is he saying?!
“My foster parents said my mom was carrying a doll, and that before she was trampled, my foster mom took it because she knew I would want something that would remind me of my birth parents. Haha, it’s so funny actually, the doll’s hair was pink like yours, so when I saw you…”
Noah inched his face a little closer to Dolly. The android couldn’t control her dilated pupils.
“I don’t know, it brings a lot of nostalgic memories. I wanna thank you for that.”
“I- Um….I guess,” Dolly replied timidly. She rubbed her arms, feeling too shy to properly reply to such a comment.
“Yup!” Noah stretched his arms and stood up. “And that’s the story of my life. Ever since then, I have wanted to help other families avenge what they’ve lost by monster slaying. Just think it’s cool to fight rather than be a test subject for newly discovered berries, but I understand this job comes with a price.”
Dolly lifted herself as the soles of her feet felt the thickness of the grass. The two maintained their gaze until it was getting Noah a little flustered.
“H-hey, it’s OK,” Noah stuttered while blinking at the same time, “you know, I get it. It’s hard to open up to someone you just met. I'm extremely friendly, that’s all.”
The sound of a stone within the river shifted ever so slightly. Dolly was fixated at the attractive sight of Noah's face, but his eyes were gesturing for her to say something.
“Actually, I want to apologize.”
“Hmm, for what?”
“For pushing you earlier.”
“Huh? Didn’t you say this already? I’m fine, don’t worry about-”
“No, that’s not it!” Dolly’s sudden yelp immediately silenced the boy.
“I...I didn’t actually get to say sorry, and….” Dolly inhaled as she bowed with guilt. “You’re right. There’s still a lot for me to learn. I wasn’t programmed to fully understand human interaction. So if there’s anything I said before that didn’t make sense, I’m sorry.”
A sudden shift. A soft touch. Dolly’s eyes widened when she felt Noah’s embrace as his arms wrapped around her physique. She could smell the faint scent of cologne he applied earlier that day. He reminded her of a typical gentle, protective guardian ready to hold those who were meaningful to him close.
“Geez…” Noah said while he continued to hug the android, her smooth clothes comforting the palms of his hands. “Don’t worry about what you said. That doesn’t matter. I’m already happy.”
Dolly closed her eyes and let herself relax. She felt at peace for the first time; Her mind, cleared from any stressful thoughts that once lingered with anxiety and frustration.
All Dolly could feel was the sensation of being a gleeful person, who longed for the ability to communicate with humans properly. Her ears could hear the waters celebrating her choice of opening up as the crystal river reflected their cuddle.
Noah eventually let go of Dolly, and as usual, illustrated his quirky smile. His hair bounced cheerfully from his excitement, his eyes twinkled the sounds of calm waves.
“Do you feel better? I sure hope so because I do ahahaha!”
Dolly sighed at his cringy statement, yet she couldn't help but smile, her arm reaching out to shake his to further their partnership.
“Let’s shake on it, from now on, we can tell each other what we know.”
Noah smirked. He was definitely feeling much happier, seeing that Dolly was being attentive to him.
“Sure, I can do that, and you can even say this is my way of helping you, I want to help you find the bastard that did this to the world.”
Hearing Noah cursed out the scientist seemingly tugged Dolly’s emotions for a second, but she wasn’t sure why.
That feeling… why did it feel-
His hand never reached the soft touch of Dolly's palm, but rather, the android gazed in horror as Noah's body was suddenly hovering in the air. A sharp, extended claw from the monster standing ever so proudly behind him had pierced through his thigh and arm. It let out a small celebratory shriek, while a streak of blood leaked from Noah's arm, and his pants started to get soiled.
His stunning oceanic and silver eyes glanced back at Dolly with fear.
Before the colors of his gaze vanished and he closed them permanently.