The incident was resolved, and we went back to the laboratory. Sayuri was trying to finish Takumi’s haircut. He was still wet. Nina was holding Takumi still and Haruto had fallen asleep on one of the work benches. Toshiko and the woman kept arguing about whether my Paroxys was cool or not.
“I only make weapons for Paroxys that I think are cool. Like Takumi’s. Why don’t you get that, Kei?”
“And how many times do I have to tell you that Ayumi’s Paroxys is super cool.”
A sigh escaped my mouth as they both intently stared at me. The woman’s light grey eyes were drilling holes into my soul. She took one step at a time until she was standing right in front of me.
She squinted at me.
I smiled at her nervously. She raised her eyebrows and turned around to look at Toshiko.
“What does she mean by she can’t show me her Paroxys?”
“It’s a long story.”
Toshiko walked over to her and whispered something into her ear. The woman squinted at me again. She scratched her head and pointed at a white chair that looked like the ones in a dentist’s office.
The sudden willingness in her made me feel on edge but I did as she told me. Toshiko was smiling from ear to ear. Takumi tried to resist but Nina was holding him down firmly. I could see in his eyes that he wanted to follow me. The woman sat down on a small saddle stool next to me and grabbed my arm that was closest to her.
“I’ll be needing some of blood of yours.”
A guy, also in a lab coat came over to assist her. He pulled up my sleeve and tied a tourniquet on my upper arm to slow my blood flow. The woman swabbed my skin with some alcohol and was ready to insert the needle into my arm.
“Whoa. Hold on. One second. Why the hell do you need my blood all of a sudden?”
I was deathly afraid of needles.
“Stop squirming around or I’ll might puncture something else.”
I swallowed hard and immediately grabbed her hand which was holding the sharp, long needle.
“I need your DNA. A lot of it if possible. Only then will I be able to integrate your Paroxys into a weapon.”
“Okay. But how about taking my hair or my nails or swabbing my mouth?”
My voice was getting pitchy.
“I could but I have decided to take your blood. And you’re kind of a special case, so stop interrupting me.”
Her bionic arm grabbed me by my wrist and forced me to let go. It felt ice-cold on my skin. I felt the needle cut my skin and go in. A strange feeling was going up my arm. I felt faint and closed my eyes. It took them a couple of minutes to fill up two units of blood. When everything was done, the woman told me to come back after a week or so. She would contact Toshiko as well when the weapon would be ready to collect. Everyone was kicked out of the laboratory. My legs felt like jelly and I was still feeling dizzy. I managed to get to my room with the help of Takumi while the others sprinted to their afternoon classes which they were late to. Toshiko had disappeared as well. I told Takumi to take a shower and wear some new clothes. They had given him a uniform, but he kept wearing my casual clothes. Not that I really minded. I fell on my bed and closed my eyes. My body felt weak and after a while my chest started to feel heavy. I couldn’t breathe. My hands felt something soft. I realised that I had dozed off and that Takumi somehow ended up sleeping on top of me.
“Takumi, wake up.”
I tried to push him away, but I had no energy.
“Help. Someone. I’m going to die.”
I tried to reach my phone that was on the nightstand. It unlocked and at the same time I got a phone call.
“Ayumi, are you in your room? I’m standing in front of it. Can I come in?”
I felt like crying.
“Yes. Please. I beg you.”
He could hear the distress in my voice. The door to my room was flung open and he stepped inside.
“What the hell is happening here?”
“Help me, Yu. Get him off of me. I can’t breathe.”
He shook his head and walked over.
“Couldn’t you just push him off yourself? He doesn’t seem very heavy.”
Takumi was gently shoved by him and he rolled off me. I took a deep breath and sat upright. I did it too quickly and everything started to spin.
“Oi, are you okay?”
Yu supported me with his arm before I could fall off the bed.
“Yeah, just got some blood stolen from me by a sadistic lady. That’s all.”
I explained to him the whole fiasco that went down just earlier ago. He sighed out loud and sat down on the bed next to me.
“So, Shimizu Takumi is back, huh? That’s a relief. He was one of the strongest Outliners that we had to offer. I heard that you convinced him.”
“No convincing was needed. We just had a sincere talk.”
Yu kept looking at Takumi who was knocked out. He was a deep sleeper. There was a short silence between us.
“Ayumi, about what happened in Kyoto.”
He started talking but I cut him off.
“Yeah, let’s not do that. It was no one’s fault. It happened and it’s not like we can change the past. I should be the one apologising but Toshiko told me that there is no need. So, I won’t.”
I gave him a smile.
“You’re right. Let’s not.”
He returned my smile and stood up. His hand was on my head. He kept stroking my hair. Why did everyone keep doing that to me? I looked up and our eyes met. He immediately took away his hand and cleared his throat. I was told to rest up. The next few days went by without me making any development in bringing out Xykoss. And then the long-awaited moment had arrived. I was called into the laboratory again to get my weapon. The design was left to Yukimura who had interviewed Toshiko about Xykoss. I didn’t understand why she didn’t directly ask me. She concluded that I was an all-rounder. My offence and defence were pretty decent. She came up with something that would aid me in battle and hopefully control Xykoss better.
“It’s over there.”
Yukimura was playing shogi again. She didn’t even bother looking at me and just pointed with her finger to one of the work benches. Toshiko had come with me and so did the others. It made me a bit nervous having an audience.
“Come on, Riri. Tell Ayumi how to use it.”
Toshiko started massaging her shoulders and led her to me. I was already standing in front of what looked like my weapon. It was a black hammer with a long handle which was made of glass in some parts. A dark, red liquid was inside of it. There was a knob at the very end of it. The head of the hammer was big. Like the size of a large cardboard box. Yukimura grabbed the handle and lifted it up with her bionic arm with no problem. She rested it on her shoulder and looked me in the eyes.
“I will only explain this once, so listen.”
I nodded my head.
“It’s a hammer as you can see but that is only one option of two. I’m not going to explain what I used to make it or how I made it. Your brain wouldn’t be able to comprehend it, but one part is your blood. Like I told you before, it’s the most important part.”
She tapped on the glass part of the handle with her long fingernails. They were still painted.
“But didn’t you say that you were going to do something with it? Like taking the DNA from it or something?”
I questioned her. Seeing my blood, swirling around like red wine was making me feel faint again.
“Oh yeah, I did. The amount I initially thought I needed was wrong. I still had a lot left in the end, so I tinkered with and modified it a little. Doesn’t it look cool?”
I froze in place. She looked really happy. The memory of her taking my blood resurfaced in my head. It made me feel dizzy. Did she really use my blood to make it look visually more pleasing for herself? Some broken laughter escaped my mouth.
“I think Ayumi just lost it.”
It was Ohta who said it.
“Show us the second option that you were talking about.”
Toshiko told her and rested her arm on my shoulder.
“Ah, you just twist this knob and you’ll be set.”
She said out loud but didn’t actually demonstrate it. The hammer fell to the ground and Yukimura returned to her game of shogi. I blinked several times. Was that it? The end of her instruction? I was slapped on the back by Toshiko, telling me that I should try it out. My hands grabbed the handle of the hammer. I was prepared for it to be heavy, but it was surprisingly light. It went up into the air. I twisted the knob once, but nothing happened. I twisted it again and again. It was still the same.
“Oi, Riri! It’s broken.”
Toshiko yelled across the room.
“It’s not broken, stupid. She has to use her Paroxys for the second option to be available to her. I mean, even the first option will not be of any use if she can’t use her Paroxys.”
She clicked her tongue and proceeded ignoring us again.
“You heard her, Ayumi.”
I hesitated. Xykoss didn’t listen to me anymore.
“You’ll be fine. The reason you couldn’t use Xykoss was because you had emptied your tank. Remember, your emotions and feelings act as fuel. The feeling from which the Paoxys was born, will of course have a higher affinity to it but other feelings are important as well in that equation. You were out of your anger and that monster of yours runs on that. If you don’t have any left, he won’t come out. But I think you should be fine now. You got stronger too.”
I took a deep breath and held my earring between my fingers.
“Xykoss. Devour those who stand in thy way.”
It felt like it had been ages since I had last seen him. I didn’t think that he would come out but there he was, standing right in front of me. He was strangely calm. The hammer was still in my hand. I twisted the knob again and this time it worked. Xykoss was sucked into it, and it was no longer a hammer anymore. It twisted around my arm and became a claw. The moment it finished its transformation, my arm was immediately dragged down and hit the floor. It was insanely heavy. I broke out in a sweat while trying to lift it up again. Takumi ran over to me.
“Are you okay, Ayumi?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just that I can’t move my arm at all. How the hell did it become so heavy, all of a sudden?”
I looked over to Yukimura who was still showing us her back.
“The extra weight is coming from your Paroxys. That’s why I made it as light as a feather, but I guess it didn’t make a difference in the end. Have fun training with it until you can use it efficiently.”
She turned around and her smile confirmed it. I was in for another nasty training session.
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