Chapter 19:

Chapter 19

The Warm World, My Cold World

“Is everybody still alright? No signs of fatigue, hunger, thirst, or anything?” Arthur asked the three who trailed behind him.

“No, none at all.” The three answered. They felt no change.

“And you?” Erias asked back and received the same answer he had made.

They marched with quickened steps through the snow, using their body to plough right through it. They still had significant strength but compact snow was still difficult to push. Behind Esther and Arthur, who were at the front, were Zsally and Erias trailing behind them, following the path they made. They were close to each other they didn’t need to shout when talking.

“It’s less steep here compared to earlier. It’s good.” Arthur changed topic. “But now, it a wider area. No peaks at all.”

“Maybe we’re getting closer to the walled city?” Zsally answered, giving her opinion.

“I hope so.”

“But thinking of it now. Even if we reach the walled city, won’t we just be sent back and be cleaned?” Erias opened his mouth and spoke.

They were silent. They knew that was the likely outcome, but they clung to the possibility that it won’t happen. That there was a chance they could live inside it.

“I-I’m sorry.” He realised it was somewhat a sensitive topic and so he apologised. But Zsally took things a bit further.

“Do you think it would be as warm there like at the shelter?”

“What do you mean?” Erias asked, who didn’t quite understand her question.

“After learning more about the outside, about other shelters, I realised how boring it was inside there.” The three continued walking while listening intently to Zsally. “I always drew things or read books because it seemed fun. Even reading the same thing over and over and over and over again didn’t bore me one bit. But after being cleaned and learning from the others, it hit me. It was boring. I wanted to go more on adventures with Erias. With sis. And with… Ar… Arthur.”

“That hurts.” She forgot Arthur’s name.

“B-But! Now that I’m out here. It’s cold, and the shelter was warm. It was cosy in there. The people I knew was there. Now, it’s just a series of goodbyes. There’s a part of me that wants to go back.”

They walked on, not speaking a single word. Esther wanted to say something but, in the end, she couldn’t. Zsally’s words resounded in their hearts. Even in that mundane world, it felt like they didn’t have to worry about a single thing. It felt like everything was provided. But with what they saw after escaping, everything just turned for the worse.

“It will be. I’m sure the walled city is warm.” Erias confidently answered, shouted even. “Didn’t the whiteys say that as well? It’s a beautiful place with different kinds of people and buildings. A place much brighter and bigger that Avurgaevs. It’s exciting to know what’s in there.”

“… Yeah, that’s right!” Zsally replied with enthusiasm, albeit forced. Even Erias knew that she was forcing a smile. “I really do hope we can reach the walled city.”

The four chatted for some time. Chatted about trivial things like what they used to do in the shelter. The mood was cheerful and bright despite the cold weather, but it was a warm atmosphere. It was as if they weren’t hiking in the snow. But they chat stopped when Erias screamed.

From behind, they saw a soldier on a bike pointing a gun at them. Although Erias screamed, it was like he was unaffected. He was still standing still. The soldier placed the gun on his waist and drove the bike towards the four.

“Run!” Esther shouted as she began to run. She placed herself behind Zsally and Erias and lifted them up so they could run from the top most layer of snow.

She and Arthur climbed and also ran from the bike. In a matter of seconds, the bike caught up to them and the rider fired his gun once more but it hit Arthur. He screamed but continued running. The rider tsked and used the bike to overtake the running group and intercept them from the front. He aimed the gun once more and pulled the trigger, but nothing came out. It was still charging and loading up for the next round, Arthur took this chance and tackled him, dismounting him from the bike.

The rider had released the gun and Esther took it. She was about to shoot the rider but Arthur insisted that she take it with her and run with the children. While he was strong indeed, he lacked technique and experience in fighting and was easily outmanoeuvred by the soldier. Arthur was locked by the soldier’s leg and tossed like a plaything. Esther aimed the gun at him but was disarmed almost immediately. She was shoved aside so easily despite the codes she had. The soldier aimed at the stunned children who didn’t move. He pulled the trigger but Arthur tackled him, causing him to miss the shot.

“Run, you idiots! We’ll catch up!” Esther shouted at them as she tossed her bag to the soldier. The soldier escaped the lock of Arthur and shot Esther instead. “AAARRRGHHH!”

She screamed, but that was it. There was stinging sensation but that was it.

Erias and Zsally ran as fast as they could northwards, not even daring to look back.

As the soldier waits for the gun to charge, he dodges the punches of Arthur. Even if he survived the tackle, a direct hit from an Übermensch codes holder would be dangerous. It could even be the end of his life. So, he kept his distance, trying to make his way to the bike. But no matter what, Esther and Arthur kept him busy, not letting him near the bike or even run towards the escaping children.

Well, this isn’t so much as moving goodbye. But it would have to do. Reach the walled city for us, Zsally and Erias. After all, we’re too far into this and can’t back out now. I guess it was impossible from the start.

Esther contemplated even further, trying to reflect on her life choices. But only saw a bleak, cold, and dark future ahead of her. Not knowing what else could happen, she decided to give up thinking and let what happens, happen.

Those were her final thoughts while being shocked repeatedly by the soldier. She had to persevere with Arthur as much as possible to buy time for them to escape.

“Bring it on!” She yelled. If fighting spirit was visible, she would be engulfed in flames of fiery passion.


Zsally had tears rolling down her check. They didn’t frost but it felt cold to her. She had to leave behind her sister and someone else. They didn’t know how long it has been since they escaped. But they have been running non-stop. Erias spotted a curved formation and headed there first to stop and take a quick rest. They didn’t need to but it was to let Zsally relax.

While both of them sat on the ground inside that space, it was strangely peaceful. The raging blizzard continued rain upon them, the sound of the wind was deafening, but it felt relaxing. Erias stared quietly at the frozen hell thinking of completely nothing; there was nothing, but it was comforting. Even Zsally, who had stopped weeping, did the same.

“Now that I watch it like this, it looks beautiful. The blizzard.” She uttered.

Erias didn’t speak but nodded while he kept his eyes glued onto the scene. For quite some time, there were no signs of people passing by or any vehicles. Have they given up or perhaps abandoned the thought that they are still alive?

“Erias.” She called out to him. He didn’t look her way but was listening. “Did we make the right choice? I know I’ve said that I always wanted to go to the walled city. But with everything…”

“… I don’t know either. Maybe we should have never joined… I really don’t know anymore.”

They spoke softly to each other. The sounds of the turbulent wind echoed across the land and raged everywhere, yet they heard each other just fine. Crystal clear, even.

“Should we… go?” Erias suggested. It took a while for Zsally to answer but she nodded in the end.

They both stood up and continued walking while carrying their bags. It has been a long time but yet no one has spotted them. They could have been easily caught if they were. Even as they travelled a more open space, no one was there besides the both of them.

Their codes were still fully functional so they felt no fatigue whatsoever. They continued their hike for who knows how long but they know they traversed such great lengths the entire terrain changed from a flatter surface to a more inclined one with many obstacles sticking out. They tried walking in a straight line as much as possible and only curved when they faced an obstacle. But their strength wouldn’t last forever.

Erias started slowing down, little by little, and Zsally noticed this but kept it to herself. She slowed down slightly just to match the speed of Erias who also started breathing heavily. Although he tried not to show it, it didn’t escape Zsally’s eyes.

Erias had hit the limit and stopped to catch his breath. Zsally’s expression tightened, filled with sorrow and loneliness after seeing him. But Erias pushed one. He even grabbed the hand of Zsally and forced himself to march. Perhaps, he led her on to cover his weak self.

But his fatigue continued to worsen every step he makes. His breathing, heavy, but fortunately he didn’t feel any temperature drop. His eyes were heavy and his shoulders slumped. He stood still and was silent. He wanted to rest but shouldn’t. He needed to continue but lacked the strength.

“Erias! Leave the bags! You’re tired, so just drop them!” She shouted.

“No! We might need these later on!” He insisted on carrying his things but Zsally was slightly furious.

“No! Let go of these! I still have my bag and your temperature is still normal. I’ll pull you ahead, so leave those things.” She complained to him as she forcefully stripped him down to his scrubs.

“Alright, alright!” Erias gave up and discarded his bag and some of his thick clothes. “There! Happy?” He spoke.

“Yup!” Zsally cheerfully replied.

“Good, now let’s go.” Erias pulled on her once more, leading the way to what they think was north.

Zsally started singing a song during their hike, their journey, their adventure to the walled city. She sang about how warm and amazing that place was. How it was every child’s dream to enter that paradise. A paradise with lights and where dreams come true.

“What song is that? I’ve never heard of it?” Erias asked while still pulling Zsally.

“I dunno! It’s something I made on the spot.” Excitedly, she replied. “I just thought of things I find amazing. From the things we read and we saw from the shelter. I hope it’s all real thought.” She spoke.

“I hope so too.” Erias spoke while walking forwards.

Zsally continued singing but ever so slowly, her voice started to become softer. It wasn’t noticeable at first until Erias looked back to see Zsally without her thick clothes and bag.

“Z-Zsally?! What happened to the clothes? The bag?!” He exclaimed.

“I dropped them. It was starting to become heavy.” She replied so casually.

“Y-You could have given it to me.”

“Nah. You were already weak. And now, you’re even weaker. I’m stronger than you. So, if I’m weak, you’re waa~~ay weaker than me.”

“That doesn’t make sense. But what about the clothes? You should have at least saved the clothes.

“It’s fine. I don’t feel cold. And their big, so it’s heavy.”

“How did you even remove them?”

“Didn’t you notice? I let go of my hand before.”

Erias had a confused face. He knew he had always held her wrist, but those thoughts left his mind when he saw his own hand. It was stiff. There were no decolourisations nor did it feel cold, but it was still. He couldn’t feel anything from it even if he pinched it.

“I-It’s okay! It… It might recover soon! So, let’s go to the walled city.” Zsally noticed his actions and lead the conversation to a more cheerful one.

This time, she grabbed his hand and lead him, walking towards north. She continued singing with a bright tone, she sang with a full voice. It was the only thing that kept them from moving, it was the only thing that was on Erias’ mind. Her voice was so soothing that the winds felt like a calm breeze that only caressed his skin.

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