Chapter 8:

Chapter 08

The Warm World, My Cold World

Author note: SORRYYY! This should be the real Chapter 08. If you've read the previous chapter  last 02-03 July 2022, apologies.

   - Edited 03 July 2022

Erias stood in front of the entrance and gawked at the sight in front of him. There were many floating rectangular prisms of different shapes, sizes and colours and on them were things he didn’t understand.

Figures of a human body but with four arms and legs. A line that extended upwards diagonally with lots of dots below and beneath it. Texts with different value beside them, some changed and some remain the same. He didn’t understand what they were but he knew it had a relationship to whatever was at the centre of the room.

It was a cube. Or was it a rectangle? A Triangle? Erias stared intently at it and went around the table that lifted it up. His eyes were so focused he didn’t notice the person in his direction until he bumped her and fell.

“Ouch!” The girl shouted. “Huh? Erias?!” She shouted and called out the boy’s name.

“Zsally?!” He called her the same. “You were really safe?!” He asked.

“Yeah!” Zsally got up and ran towards Erias and hugged him. “Ahh! I was worried.” She squeezed hard to the point Erias had difficulties in breathing. He was lucky to be able to get out.

“Rather, I was worried about you.” Erias also spoke. “I thought you would returned yesterday after being cleaned. But… are you…?”

“Hmmm… I dunno…?” She tilted her head to the side and spoke indifferently.

“She hasn’t been cleaned… yet.” Lisanna walked up to them and answered his query.

“I told you, didn’t I? She’s safe. For now.” Kristof spoke as he sat on a couch behind the children. “Well, come. Sit.” He directed their view to another couch not too far from his.

Erias didn’t move and only stared at Kristoff with caution and prevented Zsally from moving. But they soon calmed down after Lisanna appeared from somewhere holding a tray with drinks. She placed it on a table in between the couches and directed the children to sit. And so, they followed.

“You follow her, but not me?” Kristoff sighed and shrugged at them. “Kids these days. Really…”

“It’s because you look like some bum on the streets begging for spare change despite having a substantial power withing Avurgaevs.” Lisanna spoke in a more relaxed and sarcastic manner, surprising the two.

“Ah, it can’t be. They’re just nervous around me but not a motherly figure like you.” After Kristoff spoke, Lisanna only stared at him with a blank expression. Even Kristoff didn’t understand what happened. “What? Cat got your tongue?”

“No. It’s nothing.” She said so indifferently. “Anyway, you should speak with the children.”

“Why don’t you sit beside them. It might make them more relaxed.”

“There’s no need. I’ll stay behind you.”

“Well, whatever suits you.” Kristoff then looked at the kids in front of him who were slowly drinking the beverage they were given.

As soon as he turned his back on Lisanna, she clenched her fist and did some kind of victory pose and shouted in a whisper, ‘Fuck yeah! He called me a mother. Me! A mother!’. Kristoff didn’t seem to notice as he was too preoccupied with the sight in front of him.

The two kids in front of him were taken aback by the beverage they were served. One could see stars and sparkles in their eyes if they took a closer look. They discussed the wonder of the thing that they were given, and by discuss, it meant they were just complimenting something that tasted amazing over and over again. They had their own little world.

“Lisanna, what did you give them?” Kristoff turned his back to see the upright and respectable Lisanna standing in attention. “It’s like they were given some uppers.”

“I just gave them juice, nothing out of the ordinary.” Lisanna answered.

“Hmm. I see.” He turned back immediately and raised his voice slightly. “Hey! Earth to Erias and Zsally! I know it’s you first-time drinking, but I have something to talk to you about. And it’s about the walled city further north of here.”

That immediately caught their attention. They snapped out of their own little world and faced Kristoff seriously after they put their cups down.

“Wow, that’s a great reaction.” He sighed slightly. “Well, now. Before that, I want to ask you two. Do you really want to go to the walled city?”

“Of course!” Zsally answered without a second thought. “Then I want to bring everyone there as well and show to them that it actually exists.” She continued.

“If it actually exists, then I would love to go with everyone.” Erias gave his serious answer as well. “But there’s something hidden, isn’t there?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Zsally asked.

“That, Erias. You see Zsally’s reactions and answers?” He pointed at Zsally while speaking to Erias. Zsally was surprised as well and looked over. “That is how an eight, nine-year-old child reacts. Are you really that young? Or has some other shelter delved into black magic and perfected reincarnation magic? Or are you a hacker?” He explained and thought to himself.

“You were the one who picked him up.” Lisanna replied to his question.

“I know but his reactions and state of mind isn’t like a child’s.” He commented back. “But anyways…”

“What do you mean picked me up?” Erias asked.

“I’ll answer that later on depending on the flow of the conversation.” Kristoff deferred his question. “Now, where were we? Ah, yes. There is a trade-off, as you suspected.”

The two gulped hard one can hear it across the room. They waited for his answer. They wondered what they have to do in order to travel. But were shocked with Kristoff’s answer.

“It’s simple. Be my personal assistants.”

Lisanna was calm as Kristoff spoke meanwhile the other two were perplexed. Erias didn’t know why he wanted them to be his assistants or why he was so interested in them. Meanwhile, Zsally was perplexed because she simply copied Erias’ reactions. She didn’t know what the words of Kristoff meant.

“And what do you mean by that?” Erias asked.

“Nothing complicated, really.” Kristoff answered. “You just have to learn a few things and follow instructions. Simple, isn’t it?”

Erias was thinking through it and Zsally, who was beside him, leaned closer and asked him a question.

“Hey, Erias. What does he mean by all that?”

“We can have a chance to travel to the walled city.” With what Erias said, Zsally lit up with joy. But her expression became sullen immediately after hearing his next words. “But we don’t know if the walled city exists. And there’s a chance he’s tricking us.”

Erias thought long and hard while Zsally internally panicked, switching gazes between Erias and Kristoff. On the other side, Kristoff and Lisanna were looking at her with confused faces.

“Does the walled city exist?”

“Perhaps.” Kristoff responded vaguely to Erias’ question. “Before I answer any questions regarding that walled city or something, answer mine first.”

“Then…” Erias wracked his head to see what else he could ask. “What would we lose?”

“Wow, that’s a nice question.” Kristoff took a sip of his coffee, crossing his legs. As he spoke, he used his fingers to list the things they would lose. “Nothing much really. You just lose your sanity. You won’t be paid in currency, and luckily you won’t have to worry about that given you are a resident. You won’t be given nanobots under normal circumstances unless you work your way up. And you would have to abandon majority of your sentiments and emotions towards other residents. Nice, easy, and simple, right?”

Kristoff ended his statement lightly, as if it was really an easy task to do. His smile looked lazy and relaxed but to Erias and Zsally, they felt fear inside his gaze and smile. Lose their sanity? Abandon the residents? That was what they had concluded after Kristoff’s answer. Erias was ready to dash shout out his answer but he had second thoughts.

I would abandon everything in that place? Esther, Arthur, and the other guys. I’m not particularly close to any of them besides Esther and Zsally, but…

He had a flash of thought as he had his monologue. As he was about to accept his proposal, Kristoff interjected.

“Ah, right. If you accept, your actions would be extremely restricted and your thought processes would be altered. We don’t want you residents tampering with anything critical and maybe even setting the others loose. We can’t completely remove your emotions for them since there would be lots of errors and you would essentially be dead. So, if you’re thinking of doing it, Erias, better stop. At least until after a year” Kristoff smiled lightly as he rested his head on his hand.

Erias remembered what that whitey said in the meeting room. There was something Kristoff and other others are going to do after a year and at that time they would all be monitored, forcing them to do an all or nothing attack of some sort. Anxiety rushed into his head, causing his mental state into disarray.

“Then… what would happen to all of us after the LCCC is fully activated after a year?” Erias asked another question to the indifferent Kristoff. “And I presume that black thing is the LCCC?” He asked another question on top of the other as he pointed at the black object on the table.

That black object was so dark one could not see the inside edges unless they feel it through. It also emitted some blinking lights and flashed towards the floating holographic screens overhead and around the room.

“The LCCC would just enable us whiteys to observe you more. The best part would be the fact that you could go out sooner than later with it.” Kristoff sipped some of his coffee as he answered. “As for the second question, yes, that small thing is the LCCC, but at the same time, not quite.”

“What do you mean?”

“Answer my initial question and I’ll tell you.”

“Let me get this straight.” Erias cleared his throat after a brief pause while staring intently at Kristoff. “If we accept, we would basically be under your mercy and abandon everything from our home. We won’t be our old selves and we might not even remember our close friends from there.”

“Essentially, yeah.”

Erias thought that he could bargain by letting Esther inside too. He was only close to her and Zsally. He also bet on the chance that she might be someone exceptional to Kristoff. So, if the three of them could be together, everyone else didn’t matter to Erias.

After a brief pause, Erias gave his answer. “Then, we –“

But Zsally interjected “We don’t want it!” 

“Eh?! But, Zsally –“

“No! We don’t want it!” She adamantly answered for the both of them. “Erias, were you about to accept his… whatever you call it?”

“Offer?” He answered the last bit. “Yes! We could go out of this place and travel to wherever the walled city is and –“ He tried to explain to her but was interrupted yet again.

“No! I don’t want to leave everyone behind! I want to be with them.”

“If it’s about Esther, then maybe Kris can bring her too.”

“Esther? That red-head? Yeah, I can include her too as an assistant of mine.” Kristoff answered the question quickly and turned silent again.

“See? Esther can –“

“I said no!” Erias was interrupted once more. “Even if I don’t know everyone, I still like to be with everyone. Sis, Arthur, the other kids even if they didn’t like us, the adults who I don’t know their names, and even that whitey. Even if I don’t know them, I still like everyone to be together when we go out.”

No one spoke a word more after Zsally said her piece. But she continued after the brief silence.

“That man said that if we join him, then we won’t be able to talk with sis or anyone else. We might even be different people after we accept. I don’t want to lose the warmth of that place we call home and other people, especially you and sis. And besides, even if we refuse, we might be able to really go outside after a year. Although I think he’s lying, but there’s a chance we can travel to the walled city.”

“I’m not lying, though?” Kristoff spoke lightly from the background.

“We don’t want your offer or something!” Zsally shouted her answer at Kristoff who was looking blankly at her.

“Is this child maybe a genius?” He turned towards Lisanna and asked. But she just shrugged.

Zsally was silent the whole time and was assumed that she didn’t understand majority of the topic. After all, she hadn’t been asking anything. Was she listening the whole time and actually taking in the information and processing it?

“Well, what about you, Erias?” Kristoff turned to Erias and asked.

Erias thought long and hard about it. It was true that even if he refused the offer now, be cleaned, and go about his daily routine, he would still be able to go out after a year or with the help of the whitey he and Zsally has been talking with. And with that, he gave his answer.

“I also reject the offer.” He said so with confidence. Zsally had brightened up and her sweet smile floated up once again.

“Aww, that’s too bad. Well, that’s fine.” Kristoff stood up and took out his gloves. Lisanna did the same as well.

“What are those?” Erias asked.

“Something we use to make life better around here.” Kristoff answered as he walked closer to the black object. “Well, it’s too bad. So, good –“

“Wait wait wait!” Erias frantically stopped Kristoff from continuing. “Won’t you explain those things to us before cleaning us?”

“Why? You won’t remember anyways? What’s the point?”

“I… just want to know them. Maybe I can still remember what happened here even after cleaning.”

“Hahaha!” Kristoff laughed loudly. “That’s impossible. We have never encountered a situation like that ever since the nanomachines were installed in your bodies. Now, goodbye.”

“Huh?! Wa –“

After Kristoff pressed something on the holographic screen, Erias and Zsally dropped on the floor like ragdolls. Their expression was like that of those with rings on their necks. Kristoff walked up to the two and placed them gently on the couch.

After he did, he paced slowly towards a desk somewhere in the room. In that area was a glass pane about four metres high and wide. He stood in front of it and stared blankly into the distance. They were not in his regular office near all those cubicles, but another office located somewhere above the other floors, above the main entrance to the shelter. His view was an amazing sight of the frozen hell. Blizzard continued to rage and the snow pile don endlessly. Snow as far as the eyes can see and even the mountains increased in height after a few years. Who knows how long will they be able to survive with the snow slowly blocking the entrance?

And with the limited resources they have left, even from the capital, they could only build two or three more floors above. It would only give them about 15 years before the entrance is completely sealed. This was why Kristoff wanted to perfect the use of nanomachines for the Übermensch Project.

Once it’s complete, the people wouldn’t need to worry about trivial things like hunger, thirst, and sleep. Their bodies would also become largely resistant, if not immune, to extreme climate changes such as extreme heat or cold, and even physical illnesses would practically be non-existent in their bodies as the nanomachines would cure it. Kristoff’s plan of anti-ageing was also incorporated into the Übermensch Project using the System Image Core and Legacy-Centralised Interchangeable Code. There were lots of probabilities with it.

But now Kristoff was furious and Lisanna even more so.

“Lisanna, let’s quickly finish cleaning their codes and deal with the other thing.” Kristoff clenched his fist as he watched the blizzard outside.

“Yeah.” Lisanna took a seat on the couch Kristoff was seating on earlier and used the gloves to drag multiple screens floating around near her.

Her face was no longer the usual calm and stoic expression during work or the cheerful and casual one when with close acquaintances. It was a rather bland and expressionless one but her eyes were dead as a fish. If everyone had feared Kristoff while he was enraged, Kristoff feared Lisanna when she was truly angered.

It’s a good thing she’s on our side.

Kristoff always thinks of such a phrase whenever Lisanna is enraged at something not directly involving him.

But Kristoff was too distracted to think of such things. He also dragged multiple screens floating about to his area and started typing. He was extremely angered by the conclusion the both of them came up with.

“I wonder who the rat is?” Kristoff changed code after code whilst rage wells up in him.

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