Chapter V : Revelation I

Chapter V : Revelation

“ Save Me “

Hand in hand, the tamer and the historian walked down the stairs. The town hall was completely empty. There were no signs of a struggle, as if people just… vanished.

“ Steel left first, “ the golden-haired girl said, her voice shook a little, “ Thyme followed him. I thought they were just going out to the markets… but I went to the highest floor and I looked out a window… “

“ And there were no markets, no patches, no farms, “ Hunter understood.

On the ground, it was difficult to check his location since he was new to the town. When he did not find an animal farm on one of the town’s corners, Hunter simply thought that he was on the wrong end of town. But Rina, who had seen the town’s layout when she looked out the window, knew that there was something wrong with 144. However, she didn’t think much of it back then, not until she spoke to Hunter about it.

The tamer let go of his friend’s hand when they reached the large, wooden double-doors that would lead them out of the town hall. He told her to stay behind him and, with one strong pull, he opened the doors. Bright light flooded the hall and Hunter’s eyesight was blurred for a moment. Therefore, when he looked at what was in front of him, he thought that it was an illusion. Hunter blinked a few times, but he realized that it was not a dream when Rina grabbed his arm; she was obviously frightened.

“ What are they doing? “ the historian whimpered as she tightened her hold.

In front of the town hall, the townsfolk were gathered around the black-haired woman. They just stood there staring at her with blank eyes. It seemed as if they were mesmerized.

“ – ter… tch… “ said a familiar voice, “ Hun… ter… “

It was Thyme; he stood with the crowd, but he tried desperately to look at his friends.

“ R-run… “ said another familiar voice which turned out to be Steel. The farmer stood beside the guard; both seemed to be unable to move but they had no physical restraints.

“ Hold on, I’ll… GAH! “ Hunter fell to the ground when he walked towards the two, “ My head! It hurts! “

His arms went numb and the boy fell onto the soft, sweet grass.

KYAAA! It’s moving! There’s something… Hunter! “ Rina screamed and ran to her friend.

She looked at the back of his head and sure enough, she was not mistaken. Something was moving under his skin. It looked like a spherical thing with six limbs, but she couldn’t see the exact shape. When the historian looked up at the townsfolk, the backs of their heads looked normal, but Thyme’s and Steel’s didn’t. Much like Hunter’s, something moved under their skin.

“ … can’t… can’t feel my arms… and my legs… “ the tamer managed to speak, but the light in his eyes seemed to be fading away.

As Rina cried beside her friend, the crowd parted. With dainty steps, the black-haired woman walked towards them. She stopped just in front of Thyme and Steel.

“ I thought you smelled weird, “ her voice was cold and breathy, “ Desert snakes, hmm? “

She then looked at Rina who could barely see through her tears.

“ And you, haven’t you been to town? “ she asked.

The woman then snapped her fingers and a snap dragon burst from the ground beside the historian. It opened its mouth and from within it, a spherical plant with six sharp limbs emerged. It was much smaller than the sphere that grew on the back of Hunter’s head, but the shape was similar.

“ Ah… ah… that thing… “ Rina’s eyes widened as the creature hissed at her.

“ Para- “ Steel spat out with much difficulty, “ –site. “

“ Hmm? I guess you’re not familiar with the hydnora, “ the unnamed woman had a cold smile on her lips, “ Such an obedient little one… unlike this boy. “

At that, her right hand grabbed Hunter by the neck and lifted him so that they ended up face to face.

“ Your scent, “ the woman closed her eyes for a moment, “ A tardigrade? “

She closed her eyes again, breathed deeply, and then she opened her eyes. Those orbs which looked like beautiful, shining gems before now looked like hollow, endless black holes.

“ And not just any tardigrade, “ her eyes narrowed down to slits, “ It’s hers. “

Her voice was calm but Hunter could see the anger on her face. He felt it too when the woman’s grip tightened around his neck. He wanted to move, but every time that he tried, a sharp, numbing pain ripped through his skull and his limbs fell limp. He gasped for air as the woman closed her hand around his throat.

– Save them, – screamed the thoughts in his head.

He wasn’t even thinking about himself. Hunter thought about Rina and Thyme who were engaged; he thought about Steel who sacrificed most of his life so that 27’s farms could flourish; and then, he thought about his mother who believed that someday, he would return to their town.

– Save me, – he finally wished.

He wanted to say those words, but he couldn’t  The woman tightened her grip even more. Rina cried in the background and from the corner of his eye, the tamer saw the hydnora which was poised to leap onto the historian’s nape. Hunter’s thoughts became muddled when he felt that his windpipe could be crushed at any moment; all would be lost, they would die in the middle of the desert- yet before he blacked out, he heard a familiar voice. It was that voice that he thought he’d never hear again.

“ Oi, “ said a small, black-haired figure that stood on a moving grey rock, “ Hands off my human, bitch. “

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