Scarlet Finale! / スカーレットフィナーレ！
Earlier this morning, a young boy with brown hair sat across from Wish at the entrance of the building she had taken over.
“I see, I see.” Wish nodded to herself after listening to the boy’s explanation of the events surrounding the Organization of Hope and the Day of the End.
“But still, something isn’t right here.”
“W-What is it?” He panicked wondering if he did a bad job explaining. Interacting with this girl was incredibly nerve-wracking.
“First of all that uniform you are wearing is lame as hell!” Wish yelled and pointed at him. “I don’t care about whatever that organization does, you work for me now! And those lame clothes are clearly against the rules!”
“W-We have rules?!”
“We do now!”
“U-Um…” The boy stared at the floor.
“But I don’t really have… anything else. The organization took all our belongings too so…”
“The more I hear about that organization the more it sounds like you were all victims of a large scale scam.” Wish slightly tilted her head and closed her eyes to think for a moment. “Fine then! I’ll let you pick something from my wardrobe! This is like winning the lottery!”
Wish then stood up and pulled out a small cube from her pocket. She pushed a button on it, making it spring up into a large suitcase which landed on the table. It contained different clothes with similar patterns and different colors inside.
“Go ahead! Pick anything you like!”
“Um…” The boy nervously stared at the clothes. “Aren’t these girl clothes…?”
“So?” Wish shrugged. “Listen, it’s about time I teach you about the two main rules for picking clothes!”
“Two main rules?”
“Exactly! It’s rules you must absolutely follow every time you choose something to wear!”
“What are those rules?”
“First rule! Ask yourself: “Do I like these clothes?” If the answer is “Yes” then proceed to step two! If the answer is “No” keep looking until you find something you like!”
“T-That’s the first rule?! And what is step two? Are they instructions instead of rules now?”
“Here is step two! Do you feel comfortable in the clothes you chose? If the answer is “Yes” you are all set! Who cares if clothes have lame labels like, “for boys” or “for girls.” They are just there to cover your skin, might as well pick a style you like!”
Wish placed her hands on the boy’s shoulders and pushed him towards the suitcase with all her clothes.
“So if you find something you like, just wear it! And besides, I can assure you absolutely anything here would look better than that lame uniform you are wearing!”
“O…Okay. Okay! Got it!” The boy nodded with a little more confidence.
Even if Wish's reason was that it was "lame," he was glad that she brought this up. Wearing this uniform was making him uncomfortable, he didn’t want to have anything that associated him with the organization anymore.
He crouched down and started to look for new clothes to wear.
While he had to admit everything there looked nice, his heart was almost pounding out of his chest. He had never expected to go through an older girl’s wardrobe, or expected that he had to wear clothes from there.
In the meantime, Wish decided to give the boy some space. She walked just outside the building to check on the other person who was still unconscious, the one who wore a police uniform.
She checked on his pulse and confirmed he was still alive. In fact, she was certain it looked like he was fast asleep.
“Um… is this okay?” The brown haired boy asked as Wish walked back in.
He now wore a half-white, half-green hoodie. The size was clearly too big for him, so he ended up with baggy sleeves and a hoodie that almost reached his legs.
He had a short-sleeved white blouse underneath and he also wore matching white shorts. It was likely Wish had stopped using those a long time ago as they fit a lot better than the hoodie did.
“Hmm…” Wish crossed her arms and stared at him.
She reached for her pockets and pulled out a button badge. It had the drawing of a crossed out crescent moon that resembled her necklace.
She walked towards the boy and pinned it up on his hoodie.
“What is this?”
“It’s for protection.” Wish was fast to reply. “The moon is dangerous so we have to be careful.”
“Heh, your Day of the End prophecies are nothing compared to what the moon might do.” Her tone had dropped to an unusual serious and heavy one. “I don’t think you are prepared for me to tell you. But all I can say is: be careful of the moon.”
The boy gulped unconsciously and stepped back. Whatever Wish's intentions were with that ominous warning, she had succeeded at making him feel like a greater danger was in the horizon.
“Here.” Wish extended out her arm while holding a necklace in her hand. It was the necklace of a star with two orbits running across it. It also looked similar to one of the earrings that Wish wore. “Use this for protection too.”
The boy slowly reached for it and put it around his neck. Oddly enough, knowing that he was matching with Wish's earring gave him a sense of safety, like he finally belonged somewhere.
“No problem, no problem! You look amazing now!” And just like that, Wish was back to good-old Wish.
The boy was too embarrassed to reply but simply nodded in response.
“By the way,” Wish crossed her arms. “I did forget to ask you, but now that you work for me, can you tell me your name?”
“Yes. It is… um… that’s…” The boy looked troubled. He frowned, but no matter how much he tried he couldn’t remember. “I don’t know? I can’t remember? Why can’t I…”
“Never mind then! Your name is Starr from now on!”
“It’s not like you can remember it right? And you know, when people make wishes it’s usually upon shooting stars. In other words, stars are the messengers for the wishes. It’s a good name for a subordinate, is it not? And you can write it with two “Rs” at the end to make it sound cooler!”
The boy remained silent for a moment. Back when Faith was walking away he had wanted to ask for help, but he wasn’t able to bring himself to do it.
Yet, this person didn’t question if he needed help or not. She never asked what he wanted to do and she never judged him as evil either. She simply forced him into a different path and deep inside he was relieved.
It might not have been the best method, but would he have chosen that path on his own if it was up to him entirely? Was that a decision he could make on his own?
“Mmhm.” Wish nodded to herself proudly. “Starr it is then!”
“I…” The boy finally decided to speak up. “Thanks.”
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing!” Wish laughed and then stared at the boy’s blue eyes. “There’s one thing you haven’t told your boss, eh- I can’t get used to be called that. Just call me your big sister. Yeah! There’s something you haven’t told your big sis yet!”
“What were you doing here in the first place? Someone with the Organization of Hope entering the police’s building sounds pretty weird if you ask me.”
Starr was overtaken by guilt. Not only was the reason a heavy one, but deep inside he knew all of this could have been avoided if he didn't do something as bad as joining the organization. That little moment of peace he had found with Wish was breaking apart before him. Was it okay for him to belong somewhere in the first place? He had been so caught up in the recent events that he had forgotten something really important to him.
“I was looking for someone. When I joined the organization, there was one person that didn’t agree. My brother- he… he said he would take down the organization. But, he’s weak, and I know he might have come here to ask for help from a close friend of his so-”
Wish stopped for a moment to think. While it was true his brother might have come here. What would have happened if he decided to do things on his own? More importantly, what if he had sneaked into one of the bases of the organization? To be more precise, the one May had destroyed. If that was the case, if only by chance he was there at the moment of the self-destruction, then this boy’s brother might now be…
Wish decided to cut off her train of thought right there, she knew it might be best to think of a kinder alternative. Got to stay positive, that's how she had made it so far up till now and that's how she would deal with this.
“Ouch ouch.” A voice suddenly reached them.
Someone else had entered the room.
A tall boy with spiky brown hair slowly walked in. He was wearing a black police outfit and was holding a helmet in his right hand.
“I’m sorry Mira, I know you told me to look after the place but-” He walked closer as he scratched his head.
For a moment it looked like he was talking to someone else, he clearly wasn’t paying attention to the people before him.
“Hey,” Wish pointed at the spiky haired boy. She couldn’t help but notice something familiar about him. “Starr, is this your brother?”
"Ah? It's him!!!”
“Oh no…” The spiky haired boy failed to notice Starr, instead, his sight was locked on the most dangerous person he had ever met.
Flashes of the one sided fight against Wish ran through his head as he stared at the blonde girl standing before him.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!!”
“Brothe-” Starr tried calling out to him but it didn’t work.
The spiky haired boy screamed, he dropped the helmet and ran away with all his might.
Wish and Starr looked at each other. Wish then shrugged and her lips curled into a smirk.
“Okay! Here’s our first mission! Let’s capture him!”
Both dashed at full speed in the direction of their new prey.
Just a day before, the spiky haired boy was sitting inside the police station. It was just another quiet day. Judging by his black police uniform, he was an enforcer of the law but... he didn’t have much to do. His assigned duty was simply to watch over the place.
“It’s not like anyone is going to come by today.” He complained out loud.
It was something he could only do at times like this when his boss was missing. At times like this, his worst adversary was his own boredom. A truly strong opponent he had difficulty fighting against.
“I wish something interesting happened for a change.” He yawned, crossing his arms and preparing to take another afternoon nap.
“Your prayers have been answered!!” An unfamiliar and energetic yell reached him.
With a loud noise, the front doors opened wide.
The spiky haired boy jumped out of his chair in surprise only to meet with the strangest scene he had seen here thus far.
His blue eyes met with a blonde girl who stood at the entrance. She was dragging an unconscious black haired boy by his coat and a nervous girl with a red ribbon on top of her head stood behind her.
“Are you the leader here?” The blonde girl spoke as she pretended to make her voice sound serious.
“Um, is there anything you need?” The boy in the police outfit was wary.
All the girl before him had done was to point at him with her index finger but that alone sent intense pressure his way.
“Hmm, something I need?” Wish moved her finger towards her chin as she stopped for a bit to think.
"..." This person was dangerous, that is what his senses were telling him. If possible, he would like to avoid a confrontation.
“Yes, yes, that should do.” The blonde nodded to herself while ignoring everyone else.
“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” Eri whispered under her breath, taking a few steps back.
“I am taking over this establishment!” Wish declared without the slightest hesitation.
“Huh?” He was unsure how to react.
What did she mean by that?
He was fully aware his boss had no intention of retiring any time soon and he didn’t hear anything about someone new joining them. Finding someone that would want to join in a city like this sounded ridiculous on its own.
“This place is mine now!” Wish smiled and then extended out her hand. “Here, hand over all the keys, IDs and anything else I might need to run this place. If you do well maybe I won’t fire you!”
“No.” The spiky haired boy defied her, he was acting purely on instinct.
He still had no idea of what was going on, but for her to make a declaration like that, this was exactly the kind of people he had to guard the place against, wasn't it?
“I don’t know what your deal is, but I must ask you to leave. Otherwise…” He clenched his fist. He hated conflict but he couldn’t fail at the one job that was assigned to him. “I’ll have to make you leave myself.”
A strange sensation enveloped his entire body. Everything was spinning, he felt very light and almost as if he was floating. But that wasn’t it, to be more accurate, it was correct to say that even if for just a moment, he was flying.
The next thing he knew, his body was ascending through the air. He had been flung out of the building by the girl with blonde hair.
How did she even do this? He didn't see her approaching, he didn't see her move at all. In the end, he had no time to analyze what happened. He had landed on the floor with so much force that it may have cracked the ground at the point of impact. Of course, after that, he lost consciousness.
Once he woke up, he tried to tell himself that it was just a nightmare.
Maybe he just clumsily fell asleep outside while trying to guard the building. There was no way something like that had really happened.
Deciding to put himself together, he slowly walked back into the police station.
“I’m sorry Mira, I know you told me to look after the place but-”
He thought about apologizing to his boss for slacking off. He had lost track of time so he was almost certain his boss should definitely be back by now.
However, the moment he lifted up his head, there she was. The girl from his nightmares was real.
He could see her talking but he wasn't processing her words. Was someone else inside there? No, that didn’t matter. His vision was going blurry and his hands were trembling. It was the same sensation as back then, this person was dangerous.
He screamed without realizing it, dropped his police helmet on the floor and ran away as fast as he could.
Back to the present time, he had been running for a pretty long time now, but he could hear the girl’s voice drawing closer and closer.
“This is bad.”
He realized his stamina was slowly running out, at this rate… at this rate…
“I’m sorry, Mira.”
He quickly took out a small stone out of his pocket. The memory of his boss when he was given this stone flashed in his head.
“I’m giving these to you, Ryuusei. Promise me you won’t use them unless it’s an emergency, okay? Right now we have no way to replace them after all.”
He could almost hear their voice clearly and vivid.
“I’m sorry, Mira.”
He repeated again, glancing at the stone in his hand. It was a round shaped stone without color. It reflected the light of the background with a beautiful shine.
He clenched his fist as he held the precious rock.
A flash of white light shot from within his hand and engulfed everything within that area.
The moment the light was gone… nothing seemed to have changed.
Wish and Starr had stopped running as the boy who they were pursuing appeared to stop attempting to escape as well.
“Hah! Finally giving up?” Wish scoffed at him, trying to keep up her usual attitude despite being tired after running so much.
“Man, you got me.” Ryuusei laughed nervously.
The boy turned around scratching his head and continued to walk towards his pursuers as if admitting defeat.
“Brother,” Starr who was also very tired, quickly approached the spiky haired boy. “Are you okay?”
But there was no response.
“Hmm, not too talkative, are you?” Wish stared at the boy curiously.
But there was no response.
An odd atmosphere covered the area.
Something wasn’t right.
Even though that much was obvious, there was something terribly off that they could not put their finger on.
The answer to that would come sooner than they expected.
Not even Wish would have been able to predict what happened next.
The boy had disappeared without a trace. There was no sound, no movement, nothing. There was nothing to indicate that something had happened, and yet, he simply was not there anymore.
There was silence for a few seconds, what happened was so sudden it had taken some time for them to process it.
“W-What just happened?!” Starr finally stepped back in shock.
“The moon?” Wish whispered to herself. “No. Was it an illusion? Or maybe… a mirage?”
Deep inside the lonely city, a red car was parked just outside a small building that stood out from the others.
The reason it stood out was precisely because it was very small compared to all the large structures surrounding the place. It also had a sign at the top with some strange writing in an unknown language.
“Do you really think there’s someone here?”
The girl with a red ribbon on top of her head walked forward while curiously examining her surroundings.
“It is the only building we’ve seen open all day, who knows!”
In contrast, the brunette with a light blue scarf around her neck walked forward without showing much concern.
The two of them continued to approach the entrance and just when they were about to take their first step inside, they were startled by a loud noise.
Something had fallen and landed on top of the car they had just parked outside. To be more accurate, someone had landed on it.
It was the boy with spiky hair who wore a black police uniform.
“Isn’t this-?” “—The guy we saw running around earlier!”
Eri finished Caroline’s sentence as both rapidly ran back to the car.
“Are you okay?”
Caroline asked but there was no response. She quickly grabbed his wrist to check his pulse and put her ear against his chest to confirm his heartbeat.
“He seems to be unconscious but he should be okay, what do we do?” The brunette pondered for a moment.
They still weren’t done with their job of spreading pamphlets through the city, but leaving him alone would make her feel bad.
“He was being chased by Wish before, so maybe we should take him somewhere safe?”
“You mean, somewhere like the company’s building?” Caroline suggested.
However, both of them couldn’t help but picture Faith and May’s annoyed reactions from them bringing in a stranger that could be involved with Wish.
“Impossible.” “No way.”
The two of them waved their hands back and forth to gesture how ridiculous the idea would be.
Getting involved in Wish’s affairs sounded dangerous, but on the other hand abandoning him didn’t sit well with Caroline.
“Okay then, we’ll just figure it out on the way.” Caroline lifted up the boy with one arm and threw his weight onto her shoulder. “For the time being, let’s keep exploring the city. Being with us sounds safe too, right?”
“My sister is going to kill us…” Eri stared into the distance for a moment. “But it sounds fun, so I agree~”
Caroline placed the boy on the backseat of the car after Eri helped opening the doors.
The two girls then went back to the front seats. Caroline who was in charge of driving, started the engine and took off.
A few minutes later, the boy slowly came back to his senses.
The first thing he could perceive is that the air was unusually cold and refreshing. Everything was dark despite it being bright and sunny outside as far as he remembered.
The next thing he noticed was motion. He noticed the feeling of something moving around him. Where was he? The sensation felt similar to that of being inside a vehicle but he was still dazed so there was no way to tell for sure.
"Huh? Did that really happen?!”
“Of course it did!”
“Woah! Part-time jobs are really something!”
Ryuusei could faintly listen in on a conversation going on not too far away from him. They were voices he couldn’t recognize.
(Wait a second.)
He didn’t even want to think about it, but the mere thought gave him a deep feeling of worry and that feeling would quickly snap him wide awake.
(Unfamiliar voices. Wasn’t I being followed?)
“D-Did they manage to catch me?!” He yelled out loud without realizing it.
Caroline and Eri’s conversation came to a sudden stop.
Ryuusei, now fully awake, stared at the two girls that sat in the front seats of the car.
What was going on? Why was he in the backseat of a car and who were these two girls?
The two girls stared back at a startled Ryuusei and an awkward silence covered the atmosphere for a few seconds.
Caroline and Eri then stared at each other as if ignoring the boy’s presence altogether.
“Hey, he’s awake.”
“He’s finally up ☆!”
The two then moved their sight towards the boy once again, as if waiting for him to say something.
The silence continued for a few more seconds until there was finally a response.
“W-W-Who are you?! Where is this?! What is happening?!” The boy broke down in panic.
Usually, he’d be a lot more carefree when it comes to taking in situations like this, but after the events with Wish, there was no way he could lower his guard at all.
“Hm.” Eri smiled mischievously before giving a response. “What does it look like? We are kidnapping you!”
“Calm down.” Caroline's soft voice did a good job at making him go silent.
She found his reaction quite amusing but she decided it’d be better to explain properly before things went south.
“You were just passed out on the street so we decided to take you with us to keep you safe until you woke up.”
Ryuusei was taking some time to clear his thoughts, the images of everything leading to the moment he passed out slowly returned to him.
“The city is currently quite dangerous, no?” Eri added and crossed her arms. “You never know what could have happened if we left you there.”
“I see.” Ryuusei took a deep breath and tried to calm down. He thought that if he saw this from a logical point of view it’d made a lot of sense.
Still, people driving a car around the city was a strange sight given the way things had been lately.
For now, they didn’t seem hostile, he’d try to get along with them and try getting as much information as possible.
“Thank you for your help.”
“Don’t mind, don’t mind. Eh? What’s your name again?” Caroline pondered.
“My name is Ryuusei.”
“Hi Ruru! I’m Eri and this cute lady here is Caroline. Pleasure to meet you." The black haired girl took care of their introductions as Caroline continued to focus on driving through the streets of the lonely city.
“Here, you should have one of these!”
Eri rapidly handed him over one of the pamphlets advertising their new company. A chance to do some quick advertisement is a chance she wasn’t going to lose.
“Anything Scarlet?” Ryuusei repeated out loud as he examined the pamphlet in his hands. “How long have you been active in the city?”
“Well, to tell the truth…” Caroline laughed nervously.
“Today is our inauguration day!” Eri announced proudly and gave him thumbs up.
He was lost in thought for a moment. He couldn’t tell for sure if these people were related to the scary woman that had knocked him out earlier. On the other hand, these two seemed to be very reasonable, getting to know them better was definitely a good idea.
“Does this mean I can ask for a request from you?”
“Of course!” “Go ahead!”
Caroline and Eri’s eyes both lit up at the prospect of a new customer so soon.
“Hm, for starters…”
There were many things he could ask for. Maybe some help trying to find his younger brother would be the best. Contacting his boss and reporting on what happened was top priority too. What if the blonde girl came back for him? Could he hire them as bodyguards? Or maybe…
“Food?” Caroline and Eri repeated out loud a little confused.
“The way the city is like and with my boss gone lately I haven’t really had the chance to eat anything in a very long time.” He used his hands to hide his face in shame as he accepted this.
“Come to think about it… Everything here has been closed so far. What are we all going to do about food?” Eri had a sudden realization.
Shocked by this, Caroline abruptly stopped the car.
“We have no supplies…” The brunette stared into the distance with a dead look in her eyes.
“Wait.” Ryuusei looked at the buildings around, scanning the area. “I actually have a solution. I know where you can get food here. My request is for you to take me there and we will be all set!”
“Ruru! I knew we could count on you!!”
“It’s nothing,” The boy smiled. “It’s the least I could do for you!”
He stared at the street through the window of the car and let out of a small sigh. He wasn’t being chased, the air inside the car was fresh and nice. He could finally relax for a bit.
He then realized something: he was still wearing the police uniform. While it was true that these girls weren’t hostile, it wasn’t a good idea to walk around in the city while wearing this. He had no problem doing it when guarding the police station, but with the current state of things, doing it here would be trouble.
The spiky haired boy began to unbutton the black shirt of the police uniform with the clear intent to remove his clothes.
“R-Ruru…” Eri who was watching through the mirror at the front of the car promptly covered her face with her hands.
“So we picked up an exhibitionist, I see.” Caroline who was focused on driving once again, didn’t seem disturbed.
“Y-You are wrong!!” Ryuusei's face became red as a tomato. “I am properly wearing clothes under this uniform!!”
Minutes later, the three of them had reached their destination.
Ryuusei adjusted his purple jacket as he stepped out of the car.
He wasn’t wearing the police uniform anymore. Instead, he wore a half-black half-fuchsia shirt, and a jacket with a long collar on top. Now that he didn’t feel tied to his policeman duty for the time being, he had also put a black piercing on his ear, with a matching choker around his neck and a ring of the same color on his hand.
“You know.” Eri stared at him as she closed the door of the car behind her. “I didn’t want to sound rude but… who wears two layers of clothes under a uniform?”
“W-What?! Isn’t that totally normal?!”
“Ruru… It’s not. I’ll give you props for those accessories though, they look cool!”
“Oh,” Caroline reacted as she stared at the building before them. “We are back here.”
“Hm?” Ryuusei was confused.
“We’ve been here before,” Caroline explained. “This is where we found you to be more precise.”
Even if he was familiar with the place it came off as a shock to him. Why did they find him here of all places? How did he make it all the way here? There was a strange gap in his memory that was starting to concern him more and more.
For now, maybe it was best not to think about it.
“Maybe Ruru was just so hungry he passed out ~” Eri teased him a bit.
“L-Let’s just go.” The boy smiled shyly, unsure how to react.
“Are you sure we can even find any supplies here?” Caroline was a little hesitant. While it was true that this building stood out from the others, there wasn’t anything like a sign pointing at a restaurant or shop. If anything, it looked like a really shady place.
Ryuusei simply nodded in response.
“I have been living in this city for quite a bit now, you can trust me.”
Even if they didn’t feel fully convinced, he still came off as someone trustworthy by nature. On top of that he looked far from being aggressive.
The girls stared at each other and then nodded before following Ryuusei into the building.
Once inside, the atmosphere had changed completely.
The air was a lot fresher and the environment had gotten darker as only a few rays of sun would enter through the main door behind them.
At first glance, Caroline could tell that it was a restaurant, but she knew this was on a completely different level as the one she had visited with Faith.
All the tables and chairs were made of wood but they were covered with what looked like very expensive silver silk. The next thing she could notice is that there were no windows. Adding up the fact that there wasn’t any kind of sign outside to tell you that this was a restaurant, it made her wonder if they were trying to keep this place secret.
The room where they stood was quite large and wide. The place was extremely clean, to the point it made them feel guilty to just enter without taking off their shoes. There were very fancy and expensive looking ornaments in the walls, mainly golden colored birds that resembled a phoenix.
There were also fancy chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling over every table but all of them were turned off at the moment.
The place was empty, just as much as everything else in this city had been thus far.
“This looks impressive.”
The brunette admired the place as she walked deeper in. She walked all the way to a counter at the very end of the room.
There weren’t any menus at the counter and while the cash register was still there, there was no one to attend them or take their order.
“Ruru…” Eri crossed her arms and pouted. “Are you sure we can get anything here? It makes me feel like we are breaking in without permission. It’s like hanging out with my sister all over again.”
“I-It’s fine! I come here all the time.” The spiky haired boy nodded repeatedly to reassure them.
“You know,” Caroline slightly raised her hand as if asking for her turn to ask a question. “I have been wondering for a while, but isn’t this place kind of shady? At least it looks like it’d be hard to get any customers if you can’t even tell there is a restaurant here.”
“Ah, you two are relatively new to the city, correct?”
Ryuusei tried to confirm before explaining properly, and both girls nodded.
“As you may know by now, the situation here is really bad. It’s gotten really dangerous for the regular citizens but they still have to find a way to survive, you know? So this restaurant is here to provide them with support. It’s a safe zone that also gives them good food at affordable prices!”
“Wow, this seems like a much more efficient way to help than our dumb boss’ plan.”
Eri said her thoughts out loud. Caroline chuckled and accepted she couldn’t argue with that statement.
“It does sound quite admirable,” The brunette girl agreed. “Wouldn’t this place have way more people then? Or is it always this empty?”
“Regularly… It’s not. In fact it’s making me a little concerned now.”
“If there’s no one I guess I have no other choice but to make the food myself again.” Caroline placed one hand over the counter before suddenly jumping to the other side.
“W-Wait!! What do you mean again?! And you shouldn’t just go there without permission like that!!!”
“Calm down.” Caroline smiled at the boy. “Besides, look, you are on this side now as well.”
“But that was just to stop you from-!!”
“It’s okay Ruru.” Eri who had crossed over to the side behind the counter as well, gave him a pat on the back. “We’ll just take a quick look~”
“Weren’t you complaining about feeling like you were breaking in a moment ago?” The boy glared at the black haired girl.
“Oops. I never said it wasn’t fun~ ☆” Eri winked at him in response.
The spiky haired boy sighed. Maybe these two were actually more trouble than what he imagined.
“Fine, I’ll go with you just to keep an eye on you.”
However, something unexpected stopped them the moment the boy finished his sentence.
At first there was just a very faint noise, it was a strange noise, like something heavy was being moved.
In seconds, the noise became much louder, the noise resounded from the roof and the walls.
The earth had begun to tremble.
The very ground below their feet slowly started to move from side to side.
Caroline and Ryuusei both reacted at the same time. They hid under the counter dragging Eri down below with them.
They planned to stay there until the tremor stopped, but instead of stopping, it started to gain intensity.
The earth began shaking a lot more furiously. The faint noise from before was soon accompanied by the noise of falling chairs and tables. They could hear the noise of the chandeliers falling against the floor and breaking apart, as well as the metal noise of ornaments all falling one after the other.
The two of them embraced Eri instinctively, burying her under their bodies to make sure they could protect her.
They didn’t even have the time to say anything, or even run away, or scream. The earth continued to shake in a way none of them had ever experienced before.
The intensity only continued to rise with every passing moment. How much was this going to last? Ten seconds? Thirty Seconds? None of them could tell but it had been way beyond a minute.
The three of them couldn’t help but to continue curling up into a ball and endure what felt like an eternity.
The sound of what seemed to be an entire wall crumbling and falling over reached them, followed by the shock wave of the impact shaking up their bodies.
Had it been inside this building, or had it been somewhere else nearby? Could this place even hold for much longer?
And then, just as sudden as it started, the tremor finally came to an end.
All the noise and sounds of things falling came to an end as well. There was only silence accompanied by a soft and cold breeze.
The three of them didn’t move for a few more seconds, waiting to confirm that it had truly ended.
And then, the terrifying silence was quickly disrupted by a cheerful tune. It was coming from Eri’s phone.
The black haired girl quickly reacted and pulled out her phone from the pocket of her skirt.
Her voice was trembling a bit. After the other two had rapidly moved aside. Eri tried standing up, but Caroline noticed how her legs were notably shaking.
The brunette adjusted her scarf and began to scan the area around her. She was trying to get details on their current situation.
It didn’t look good.
Everything was wrecked beyond repair. There were fissures in the walls around them and some had even spread through the floor just beneath them.
She stared at Eri who was still on her phone. Even if she visibly looked nervous, she was trying to keep up her usual and cheerful tone. Caroline wasn’t sure of who was calling, but she could listen to Eri say phrases like “Yes, Yes! We are fine!” and “Don’t worry! Are you okay over there?” So it was likely that she was speaking with her elder sister.
Next, she looked at the boy that had endured the quake together with them. He was sitting on the floor, completely frozen solid. He was staring at the floor and at his shaking hands.
Seeing this scene made Caroline question something.
Why were they shaking? It was true that the quake just now was very intense. It was true that it had caused a lot of damage. It was true it put them and everyone else in a lot of danger. But to her, it was all just an inconvenience, something that took time from them, something that stopped them from reaching their current goal, something that might give them more work in the future, but that was all it was.
It wasn’t anything that would cause any other kind of reaction from her. So, what is this? She couldn’t understand.
“That was my sister!” Eri spoke in an awkward tone. She was trying to sound cheerful but was having a hard time doing so. “She says she and Faith are fine, our building didn’t get too damaged.”
Caroline was still lost in thought and Ryuusei continued being frozen solid, so Eri didn’t get much of a response.
“Anyway,” She put her phone away. “Are you guys okay?”
“Y-Yeah! I’m fine!” Caroline nodded repeatedly once she realized Eri was interacting with her.
“What about you Ruru?”
Eri kneeled down in front of Ryuusei to check on him. The spiky haired boy slowly raised up his head. There were tears in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks. He was probably trying to hide it until now but easily broke down.
He was still very scared and hugged Eri tightly without realizing it.
Eri patted his back. As the younger sister, May had never relied on her for support. This time however, it was her turn to act like a responsible older sister towards the scared boy.
“That was really surprising, ahaha.” Caroline laughed awkwardly.
(Why is he crying?)
She couldn’t understand. She couldn’t understand at all.
(What is wrong with them? Why are they acting like that? What are they feeling?)
It is true that she had tried to save Eri earlier when she shielded her in the middle of the quake. It was true that she had saved May’s life when she made a building collapse. But there wasn’t anything deep to it.
Could you call it worry? Could you call it obligation? Even as someone who used to take part time jobs in many different places, Caroline’s values were always the same: complete your task at all costs and make sure all your companions are always safe.
She had done it because it was the logical thing to do. But she didn’t feel any other pressuring emotion that would drive her to do that.
(What is this? How should I react? Why isn’t my body trembling as well? Why am I not crying? Why am I not feeling anything?)
She couldn’t help but feel something was missing. That something was wrong with her.
“Sorry,” Ryuusei let go of Eri and wiped away his tears. “That was really scary.”
“It was,” Eri took a deep breath. “But it’s okay now!”
“For the time being,” Caroline decided to push her thoughts aside and think of the best course of action. “We should head back and regroup.”
“Agreed.” Eri gave her a faint nod.
The place around them had become a mess.
They were standing in the area just behind the counter, but all the ornaments in the wall had fallen. Some had barely missed them for a few centimeters.
Ryuusei was hesitant for a moment. Not only was he scared, but seeing Eri get contacted so fast reminded him of something: his brother.
Where was his brother? Was he okay? Did he survive this unscathed? These thoughts clouded his mind, yet, being with a group of people at a time like this sounded reassuring. Maybe it was selfish of him, but reuniting with Caroline and Eri’s friends sounded like a good option.
“I think that is a good idea. If possible please take me along with-” His sentence however, was cut midway.
He tried standing up and placed a hand on the counter to balance himself.
The moment his hand applied pressure on the counter behind him, it fell down.
An unexpected feeling of panic followed this.
The entire counter did not just fall to the floor. It continued to fall and fall until it hit solid ground at a much deeper height than they expected.
Now that the counter was gone, they could see everything clearly.
A large part of the floor had collapsed and fallen down.
All the solid ground that supported the area between the counter and entrance had turned into a giant crater leading into an unknown abyss beyond them.
It was a miracle that the floor where they were standing had not fallen down like this. Even in this situation, they were all still safe, but there was a new major problem.
“Ah,” Caroline realized it.
She stared at the abyss just a few steps away and continued to scan the area. The exit to the building was all the way across that large gap.
“Just to confirm, let me ask something.” She added.
“W-What is it?” Ryuusei wanted to avoid this conversation if possible. A realization had hit him far too well.
“We only have access to the kitchen at the moment. Is there an emergency exit on the back there?”
“There isn’t.” The reply was immediate and absolute. “The only exit is the one all the way on the other side.”
“What about windows?”
“None. This place is a secret safe zone. In order to reduce the risks, places where dangerous people could sneak in like windows or alternate exits were all removed long ago and sealed.”
The gap was too large to get across with a rope. And there was no ground to stand at all that could help them across either.
They were trapped with no way out.
“Now this is a problem,” Eri scratched her head. “I’ll let my sister know.”
“Asking for help does seem to be our only option right now.” He knew his boss wouldn't manage to come and help them even if he tried to contact them, relying on Eri's friends was the only last ray of hope.
“Hm, that’s weird.” Eri stared at her phone. “I don’t have any signal.”
The spiky haired boy rapidly took out his phone to check. No signal.
“None here either.” The girl with the light blue scarf shook her head.
“W-What are we going to do?!” Ryuusei began to panic. “If we don’t get out of here fast, another tremor might make this floor collapse as well! We’ll just fall down into that abyss too!!”
Caroline tried to order her thoughts. However, something the boy said clicked in her head, letting her find an answer.
“Then we just need to fall.”
“Caro… That would be troublesome even for me.”
“When the counter fell it didn’t take too long for us to hear the sound. Maybe it’s not that deep? If we can go down, we can find a way to climb back up to the entrance.”
“Wait a moment, wait a moment!” Ryuusei put a hand on his forehand to stop himself from fainting.
He was already feeling lightheaded and this was just making it worse.
“There are too many problems with that plan! How do we find out how deep this really is?! And how do we even climb back up?! We’d have more luck breaking down a wall and going out that way!”
Caroline didn’t reply. Instead, she focused all her strength on her legs and kicked the solid wall next to her with all her might.
Despite the damage the building had taken, it wasn’t enough to bring it down.
“Breaking down the wall doesn’t seem possible, not so easily at least.”
“Of course not! What I meant is that we really have no options! And taking a dangerous one is just going to be an even worse idea!!”
“You do have a point.” The brunette walked closer to the abyss and stared down into the hole. “But I can’t let my co-worker stay in a dangerous environment for too long either.”
“WAIT!” The black haired girl suddenly yelled.
Immediately, Ryuusei reached for Caroline’s arm and pulled her away from the dangerous zone with all his might.
Eri and Ryuusei weren’t sure why they had reacted like that.
It happened in a split second.
A cold sensation had covered their bodies and the image of Caroline jumping down without hesitation came to their heads.
It happened so fast they weren’t sure if they had actually seen anything at all. Was it intuition? A bad feeling? They weren’t sure, but whatever it was, was strong enough to make them react immediately.
“What’s wrong?” Caroline tilted her head as she stared at Eri.
The red ribbon girl took a deep breath, trying to collect herself before giving an answer. Her head was full of static followed by a piercing headache.
“Just now, were you about to jump down there without a plan?”
“Well, it’s exactly what I had in mind. How did you know?”
Listening to her response made Ryuusei’s grasp on her arm to get tighter. No matter how reckless or strong she was, there was no way this would have ended well.
“Don’t do something like that, you will just look like that crazy blonde, or worse.” Eri scolded her in a serious tone. “I’m not saying your plan to check down below is entirely bad. But if we are going to do it, we have to be careful.”
“What Eri says is right.” Ryuusei added. “However I still believe it’s a bad idea, we have nothing we could use to secure our way down and-“
He was cut off by the black haired girl.
“We do have some options, give me a moment.” Eri pulled a small tube shaped metal from the pocket of her skirt. “I’m used to getting stuck in dangerous situations with my sister all the time, so it’s not like I’m entirely unprepared.”
The girl clicked the tube. With a strange motion, it expanded and took the shape of a megaphone. Realizing it’s not what she was looking for, she pulled another one, this time it took the shape of a red cape.
Caroline stared at her as she continued to pull more items out of her pocket. It was surprising to see how many things she was carrying.
“What is this?” Ryuusei was puzzled.
Using small silver tubes, Eri had taken out a large arrangement of items, including: a megaphone, a red cape, a music player, a rope, a makeup kit, a camera, a microphone, and scissors.
“My sister made these.” Eri replied as she checked on everything she had put on the floor next to her. “I’m not sure how they work, but it’s they let me carry a lot of items inside small capsules. How did she call these again? Oh! “Silver Memories” I think?”
“May sure has an interesting naming sense.” Caroline said her thoughts out loud before realizing it.
“Of course she does. She’s the best! ☆”
“I’d say what is unique is this assortment of items. Why would you usually carry things like a microphone and a rope with you?”
Ryuusei kneeled down, touching the red cape. The feeling of the silk between his fingers confirmed to him that he wasn’t seeing things. He still couldn’t believe these items had come from such small containers.
“They are mostly props from acting school!” Eri smiled at him. “Microphones are useful if we are performing on a big stage. The rope may come in hand too, you know, like the times we have to pretend someone can fly and lift them up using these?”
The boy couldn’t help but wonder where Eri was from.
There weren’t any acting schools in Glint City and he hadn’t heard of any at all in the nearby towns either. So, what did she come to this city for in the first place?
Eri was holding the final item in her hands. It was a small flashlight and didn’t look like much. But the moment she turned it on, it was almost as bright as the sun itself. Ryuusei looked away, the sudden surge of light was hurting his eyes.
“We can see what’s down there properly now!” Caroline nodded approvingly.
“We are just going to see first, don’t do anything rash.” The black haired girl reminded her before walking closer to the abyss and using the flashlight to illuminate it.
What they saw below was completely unexpected. It looked like an entire different place.
It was a silver room, covered with walls made of steel. They couldn’t see the floor properly as it was covered with rubble from what had fallen down. However, there seemed to be passageways that led into other areas. Whatever this was, it looked like someone had built it on purpose.
“Ruru, do you know anything about this?”
“I am as lost as you.”
“Woah, that’s about ten meters of distance.” Caroline nodded to herself. “Yup, just jumping would have been a bad idea.”
“Think about that first next time!” Eri and Ryuusei glared at her.
“Sorry, sorry!” Caroline smiled awkwardly at them. “I think we can somewhat make it if we use some of Eri’s items though.”
“Can we use Eri’s cape as a parachute?”
“Ruru… I wouldn’t try that if I were you.”
“This rope seems to be long and sturdy enough.” Caroline held part of the rope with both of her hands and stretched it out with all her strength to test it out. “We can climb down with this.”
“It’s still dangerous but it could work.”
Ryuusei was still uneasy, but the girls seemed optimistic enough about it, so he didn’t want to ruin the mood.
“Let’s get moving then.” Caroline jumped short hops while firing herself up, she wasn’t too good at being patient to act when a companion was in danger.
They had tied one end of the rope to the handle of the door that led to the kitchen. The rope was extremely long, so it perfectly covered the distance they needed.
Ryuusei was the first one to go down. He was nervous about it, so he preferred to get it done and over with already. His hands were sweating and his breathing was unsteady. Climbing down felt like an eternity to him. Every time he moved lower, he couldn't shake away the feeling that he would mess up and fall.
Eventually, his feet finally touched solid ground. It was still hard to stand because of all the rubble, but he had managed to make it.
Making his way down however, was a lot less stressing than watching someone else descend.
The next one was Eri. It was clear that she didn’t possess too much physical strength. Her movements were unsteady and it looked like she would fall down at any time. Ryuusei couldn’t help but stand closer to the rope with his arms open ready to catch her in case the worst would happen.
In the end, there was no need and she too made it down safely.
“That was, something.” Eri was lightheaded.
Even if she was used to going through dangerous experiences because of her sister, there were clear limits to what she enjoyed and this situation had clearly surpassed it.
“Yeah, but we made it at least.”
While the two of them were speaking, the last one to come down was Caroline. Instead of climbing down slowly, she was using the rope to slide down at a high speed.
If watching Eri descend was scary, the moment Ryuusei saw this he felt close to having a heart attack.
He prayed everything would go smoothly, as it looked like she knew what she was doing.
However, by sliding like that, she was forcing the rope to withstand more than it could. Just as she had come down midway, the rope tore apart.
The moment this happened, the lifeline supporting Caroline was gone and she began to fall down at full speed.
Ryuusei ran to the best position he could and stretched out his arms to try and catch her.
Thankfully, he managed to succeed, but the impact of her weight falling on his arms so suddenly made him lose balance and tilt forward.
He tried regaining his balance, but that only made him tilt backwards instead. Eri quickly tried to push his back to stop him from falling, but instead he fell right over her while still holding Caroline.
“That was close!”
“You seriously need to be more careful with what you do!!”
“R-Ruru get off me, I can’t breathe like this!”
The three of them had become a human pile lying on top of the rubble but they had managed to make it without any major injury.
Caroline apologized and stood up. Her legs were shaking a little, not out of fear, but because of the impact. Even if she had been caught by Ryuusei, her body had still taken some damage.
“I seriously, seriously, seriously need to ask you to PLEASE be more careful from now on. Please.”
Ryuusei moved away from Eri and sat on the floor. He couldn’t feel his arms and didn't have the strength to stand up.
“Wait a moment.” Eri who was still lying on the ground reacted. “Wait a moment!!”
“The floor is-!”
She raised up her sight to see the exit of the building getting further and further away.
“We are sinking in deeper!”