The Constitution of Reality.
It was a proposal submitted by an infamous scientist that everyone knew as Dr. Arlott. He believed that the construction of the world can be altered, and thus placed his effort into his work without the consideration of how dangerous it can be for society.
He was planning to use his theory to solve humanity's problems. From sicknesses to disabilities, he wholeheartedly thought there was a way to alternate the construction of how reality was formed in order to make the most utopian society humans can achieve. However, due to his lack of heart to those he saw as “inferior”, he was dismissed and hated for discrimination.
And so the man who was shunned by the scientific community began his work in the underground chambers of a deserted island.
No one knows how his hands obtained the chemicals used for his heinous experiments, but many have speculated it was his associate's involvement with the black market.
Years went by, and people started to forget the ridiculous proposal. No one had heard from the scientist, and many didn't care.
Until it was too late.
One of his experiments eventually led to a devastating explosion. People simply called this incident The Pandemonium, for the earth's atmosphere was now covered with faint purple gas known as the Iodine vapor.
The explosion immediately consumed most of humanity as anything touched by its blast waves had its constitution altered. Humans began dying from foreign toxins, while others have seemingly disappeared. In addition to the increasing number of missing people, the invention of realms took over different parts of Earth, and monsters that looked like humanity's horror urban legends started appearing.
However, once the calamity subsided, humans began discovering new elements introduced by the explosion.
Grass that turned into blades.
And flower petals into bombs.
This became known as Plant Weaponry.
Furthermore, humans found a new mineral they later named Florinite, after the discovery of the only new flower species created from the result of the explosion. Its petals, when ripped apart, would harden as a solid, and became stronger than the components of Tungsten.
It became the new material to construct swords and knives, especially when it was discovered that monsters have immunity to gunshots since they can regenerate. Yet, a slice from a Flurinite sword can instantly send monsters shivering in pain, making it easier for humans to slaughter.
With the earth's atmosphere covered with dangerous amounts of iodine gas, and monsters lurking for blood, the remaining survivors came together to create the biggest manmade building for those seeking refuge from the post-apocalyptic and confusing new world.
Headquarters. A simple name, but it was a gigantic structure the size of 10 football fields, and as high as a three-story building. Countless people have died during the construction, but ultimately, it served as a safe haven. There are only a few Headquarters around the world as many countries became desolated, abandoned by their people for the population started to dwindle drastically.
On top of it all, scientists have also discovered a way to contain some parts of the realms without iodine gas interfering. These can only be done when a specific type of monster is used: Hatters.
Hatters are, ironically, common monsters. They are distinguishable by the red hats they wear and are sent by researchers to act as keys in unlocking the contained realms. Slayers can travel into the monster-slaying realm through the Abyss of Nothingness, which serves as a gateway to transfer oncoming slayers to a world full of natural scenery.
Although, many slayers will meet a gruesome fate as they find themselves slaughtered by overpowering monsters. The rare instances where a monster slayer did survive an attack would eventually be killed in secret, or they'd succumb to their wounds as most were fatal.
Ultimately, the world is now a strange place.
"And this is what they call a scanner," Runo explained as he held his tool in front of Dolly. "It can copy the construction of an item one per time. I did this so if you lose your napkin, then my scanner can generate one for you."
She leaned over curiously. Her hand subconsciously reached over to try and grab it, but Runo pulled his scanner away from her and placed it back into his toolkit. The man's shimmering earring chimed as he turned away for a second as the noise of his zippers echoed inside the cave. The android was rather intrigued at the amount of information Runo just told her, for she only knew so much from her master.
That is, her curiosity now dawdled into Runo's past, and what got him to act like a jerk. She tangled her fingers together and glanced at the floor, not feeling sure whether now's too early to be asking him about himself when they literally just met.
Although, the android can get awkward with social skills as she found herself attached to Noah when she only knew him for a day too. Alas, the burden of understanding human interaction; she still couldn't grasp why she got attached so easily.
The man finished adjusting the tools in his toolkit, then placed it aside by the rock it was resting on. He stared at the sleeping Netty who was mumbling to herself strange cryptic words, and that's when he realized she was probably damaged too.
"Sigh, and she had to recharge now," he said hopelessly as he rested his head on his hand. His eye darted to meet with Dolly's.
"So," Dolly raised her voice as she licked her lips from the dryness as a result of anxiety. "What happened?"
"What happened?" she repeated. The man raised an eyebrow as she added clarification. "I mean, why are you so nice and mean at the same time?"
Runo scratched his silky hair and adjusted his side bang. Dolly wondered how he could be fighting with half his face covered as she observed the man cocked his head to the side. His earring twinkled while his shoes scraped the cave's patchy floor.
"Huh, I guess I do come off as someone like that."
Runo gazed towards the cave walls in front of him and observed its rough features. "Just felt like I have to be leading, you know? Netty and I used to have teammates, but they were all killed."
"Ah," Dolly glanced towards the same cave walls and blinked. She could see there were a few scratch marks on the walls like wounds, and a few lines scribbled by someone as if they were counting the days. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Don't," Runo interjected rather bluntly, "It's what they get for signing up to work in this realm. We understood the risks when we came here."
The knot in Dolly's throat made itself obvious once more as she threw a judgemental look. "How could you be this cold? Don't you miss them?"
The water drops from the ceiling plopped onto the floor.
"There's nothing I could do," his voice rang the truth into Dolly's ears as her gaze widened. The man sighed and then turned to look at Netty, a fierce look of determination to keep her safe.
Ah...so this is why Netty is fond of him...
Dolly watched as Runo stood up and walked to the other android. He eyed her calmly as he stepped over her sleeping body to grab a bunch of towels he kept at the back of the cave. She could see that these two must have collected a lot of necessities throughout their time here, or perhaps someone from outside the realms gave it to the duo when they had access back to the headquarters.
The man pulled out a large blanket and placed it over Netty. The android was still asleep, her snores softly vibrating the walls of the cave while Runo rested his hand on her forehead. It was a heartwarming sight, seeing their friendship blossomed like flowers intertwining with trust and care.
He sat by Netty for a few minutes; the silence inside the cave became deafening as the android's overanalytical thoughts took over her mind. She started to think about how she'd enjoy Noah's company again, and how he'd love to get to know the duo more. Ah, the lingering feelings of sadness still remained.
"Hey." Runo patted his jacket as he sat back down next to Dolly, who had her head on her knees, her eyes lowered with the feeling of hollowness.
"Hey," she replied softly, her gaze still focused on the pool of water formed by the water drops falling from the ceiling.
"Curious," he laid his back against the wall. "What if I told you I know who the scientist is?"
That immediately got Dolly to gaze back at him with her eyes popping out, and she was ready to pound him for information. "Excuse me?"
"It's just hypothetically."
"Well, if you hypothetically don't know who the scientist is, then you hypothetically wouldn't be saying that," Dolly retaliated, her words came out as if she was half-joking but half-serious.
"Hmm," Runo stared at her with the first smug she'd seen on his face, "What a compelling statement."
The two kept their gaze for a few seconds before Runo blinked his eye and fluttered his hair. The chime of his dangling earring hit the cores of Dolly's inner eardrums as it glimmered like a show-off.
"I want to know the scientist too," Runo added, turning his gaze away from Dolly and stared at Netty instead. "That person is a disgusting piece of a human to have caused all this mess. Filthy. Evil."
His last line seemingly struck an inner chord in Dolly. It was the same feeling she felt when she heard Noah cursed the scientist. But what of it? She didn't know why it made her feel sensitive. The thought of her possibly knowing the scientist before suddenly came to her mind as she scrambled for answers regarding her feelings.
"Um..." She was at a loss for words.
The man stared at her intensely. He found her anxiousness rather amusing. "It's OK, don't worry about it. You got us now, we can work together to meet this week's quota."
Dolly paused her frolicking fingers and questioned what he meant. "Quota? You mean the monsters you need to kill?"
"Exactly," Runo scratched his chin and yawned, the tiredness slowly overwhelmed him. "Every week, monster slayers send a report of how many they've killed."
"If you score well, the researchers will hand over lots of good stuff. We once owned a mattress until it got destroyed by a monster. Now we have blankets and a bunch of unused towels."
Runo pointed at the corner of the cave behind Netty. Aside from the blankets neatly folded on one side, the other side was covered with several stacks of towels. There were also a few pillows, some canned food, a baseball bat, and a family-sized bag of chips. Talk about a closet mess of random goods.
Dolly softly snickered, her eyes squinted over the thoughts of what Netty and Runo could use with all of those random materials. Perhaps the baseball bat would come in handy, she would have to keep that in mind.
"Also," the man scratched his chin, "try not to hurt yourself again, I don't know how much longer I can keep fixing you till you permanently break."
"Eh, thanks for the warning I guess." The android rolled her eyes and rested her sullen face onto her knees. She could still imagine the scent of Noah's cologne, his presence lingered in her mind. A person she simply can't forget and move on. Talk about attachment issues.
The rest of the day went by with weariness as Runo took out a bunch of towels to form a suitable place for him to nap. It was intriguing since he had mentioned to Dolly prior to sleeping that he has a hard time falling asleep. The growing guilt that unsoothed his heart was gradually eating him as he tried his best to numb himself from any memories of tragedy, bloodshed, and loss.
At least, that's as much as Dolly concluded after speaking with Runo today. Until a few more hours would go by and the duo is ready for a new journey, she would find herself blocking out her own reminiscent thoughts of Noah. Her eyes closed, and soon she drifted off to sleep, this time, safe inside the hideout of the only people she could rely on for now.
"WOOHOO! New day, fresh start! Come on!!" Netty rapidly shook Runo's shoulders as he tried to pack his belongings into his duffle bag he kept hidden behind the stash of random goods.
The duo had woken up earlier than the sleeping android who seemed to be experiencing nightmares near the entrance of the cave. Runo had finally fixed Netty's battle wounds after she woke up in the middle of his nap and started bugging him about her headaches. Talk about timing.
Runo turned to look at Dolly. The rays of sunlight highlighted her faint scratches that she forgot to heal hours before as her fluttering eyebrows moved in rhythm with whatever she's dreaming. The android was still groaning, her eyebrows furrowed from what was assumed to be a nightmare. He sighed and gently pushed Netty's hands away from his shoulder as he proceeded to walk towards Dolly.
"Hey," He squatted and shook Dolly lightly, "get up, it's time to go."
Dolly suddenly jolted awake, her legs clunked as she shook. "OH!"
Her gaze fell on Runo, who was awkwardly squatting in front of her, his expressionless face inches from hers. The man parted his lips to inhale before he sighed and flicked Dolly's kneecap.
"GOOD MORNING!" Netty interrupted the man, her giddy hands collapsed onto his chest and shoulder as she threw herself onto him. The poor guy was tackled down onto the floor as Netty sat on his back, yet his face only depicted boredom and insomnia. "How was your sleep, Dolly! It looked like you had a huge nightmare!"
"Yeah, no kidding," Dolly responded, her eyes only focusing on the man who laid on the ground like a dead fish. "But I'll be fine. Just some stuff I have to get over, that's all."
Runo forcefully pulled himself up; the android on his back eventually slid down and plopped onto the cave grounds. His finger brushed against the mini-compass dangling from his right ear, before turning back to grab the baseball bat resting on the side of the cave.
"Oh!! Are we bringing that today?" Netty gleamed with excitement as Dolly could hear the sparkles twinkling in her eyes.
"Sure, why not," Runo flipped the baseball bat around playfully, before tossing it straight at Netty. The android jumped like a frog and caught the bat, her wide smile plastered on her face.
"It's been a while since we used this for one of our missions," Netty said as she walked out of the cave and stared at the sunset, "I just have a good feeling we will need this today!!"
Dolly and Runo glanced at each other for a moment. He shrugged at the android, who in return, raised an eyebrow of curiosity. In what world did the duo experience before that they had to use a baseball bat for combat?
The trio eventually sauntered out of the cave, passed the grass field, and into the forest within. Runo decided to carry his scanner in his pocket while Netty was playing with the bat, hopping onto it and swinging it like a kid. They didn't travel far when the sounds of crumpling leaves reached their ears, and their eyes saw a couple of trees at the distance falling until they disappeared from view.
It was the same scene Dolly saw before she met Runo and Netty. She immediately froze, her legs stiff as a statue as Runo and Netty's instincts kicked in. They furrowed their eyebrows.
"Let's go," the man started sprinting ahead; his shoes crumpled the leaves and grass on the ground as a trail of wind followed.
Netty turned to look at Dolly. The expressions on that android's face only depicted anger and fear. Netty wasn't sure if Dolly was emotionally ready for another fight.
"Hey, it's OK, you have us," Netty placed her hand on Dolly's back, which seemed to have taken her out of her trance. The two androids nodded at each other, before following Runo and ran ahead towards the looming trees beyond.
Runo stood confidently with his hands out in a battle position as if he was ready to fight. The androids turned to look in the direction he was looking, to see a girl wearing a black uniform several feet away from him.
Does everyone who enters the monster-slaying realm wear black?
Dolly watched as the girl turned around to look at them, her breathing uneven as she panted while gripping her injured arm. Her back was still facing them, and one of her eyes was closed. The sight of blood smothered all over the poor girl and especially on her face made Dolly feel sick.
"Wait, Iris?!" Netty suddenly yelled, her foot took a step forward, but Runo blocked her from moving with his arm.
"Hold on," he said calmly, before taking out a couple of blades he kept hidden inside his pocket. He pointed one at Iris. "Turn around."
The girl panted some more before her eyes became watery. "R-Runo, please, help me!"
"I said turn around."
"N-No, please, PLEASE-"
Dolly couldn't stand the sight of a frightened individual being threatened like this anymore. "Runo, she said she needs help-"
"PLEASE HELP ME!"
Iris drastically turned to reveal a gaping hole in her stomach; the dried blood suggested that she had been bleeding for a while and was barely clinging to life. Her eyes wavered as she bit her lips aggressively, her thin legs shook like wavering noodles.
The entire scene was pretty gruesome, and Dolly could feel the tingles traveling through her back and arms as her eyes fixated on the open wound left on Iris' stomach. The girl was whimpering to herself now while she continued looking at Runo with her desperate attempts to get his help, but he wouldn't budge.
If anything, the man was gripping onto his blade harder, his fierce eye glare at Iris' stomach. He wouldn't move either as if he was waiting for something to happen.
The silence became deafening asides from Iris' heavy panting before she started to limp aggressively towards Runo.
"RUNO PLEASE! HELP M-"
Her shivering body suddenly jolted upwards as a monster from behind her threw its elongated tongue through her chest. Blood started splattering everywhere, painting the grass soil below. She coughed a couple of times, before the colors on her face drained and she became unresponsive. Her lifeless body fell onto the ground with a loud thud, and the trio could see the abomination behind her.
A grin with a typical set of hollow eyes. A monster that walked with its hands.
For it only has its upper torso; its tongue was made of steel as it tasted the air of blood lingering within the atmosphere.
"Get ready," Runo stated to the androids as he positioned himself, "There are two monsters we'll have to fight now."