(A/N: At this point in time, this is just a oneshot pilot chapter. It will be its own series at some point in the future. It isn't going to be a long-runner like my others, but a more compact story of around 24-26 chapters or so. I hope you enjoy this preview and remember to review! If you want more content from me, check out my other stories, especially my main project "Million To One".)
CROSS X WORLD
"A single wish… that was all it took to wipe the slate clean. A desperate cry in an endless sea of voices… the static that corrupts our minds and gives rise to the darkness within us… a reflection is all it takes… to reveal the truth…"
His eyes opened to reveal the stale grey ceiling above him. It was neither light nor dark, and all was immediately clear. For a moment, nothing else happened. His mind was blank and the room was silent. It would be a few minutes until the sound of a flowing breeze broke the quiet atmosphere.
"...!", the boy gasped for air, as if he had bring brought back from the dead. He jerked his back and sat up straight on the dirty carpet. Running his fingers across its surface, he could tell this floor had not seen a vacuum cleaner in a considerable amount of time. He rotated his gaze across his surroundings, which were unfamiliar to him.
It looked like a small inner-city apartment. He sat between a rugged couch and plain coffee table. Beyond a chest-high wall was a cramped kitchen area, and to the right of that was a short hallway with three doors. The boy pulled himself up off the floor and patted down his clothes, brushing off dust and lint.
His attire was simply, perhaps overly so. A long white button-up shirt, untucked as to flow past his waistline. Below that was baggy windpants of a muted green color, and ordinary brown shoes. There was a surprising amount of dust and lint on his person… he must have been asleep for some time.
He ran his fingers through his hair, which was cut short all around aside from one area. A small spike of hair that stood straight up no matter how hard it was patted down. His mother had tried to have the barber remove it many times, but it always managed to grow back within a few hours. His hair was also a shade of muted green.
The boy walked over to a sliding glass window and opened it. Stepping out onto the balcony, he looked over the edge onto the street below. There was a gentle breeze that slowly passed by, but the world seemed to stand completely still otherwise. The sky overhead was nothing but a neverending sea of grey clouds. Overcast as far as the eye could see.
"... Hello!?", the boy called out. There was no response whatsoever. The boy repeated this several times, each time waiting for someone to call back. But nobody ever did. He decided he need to find out what was going on.
He walked back inside the apartment and tried the doors. The first was a bathroom, the second was a laundry room and the third lead into a much larger hallways filled with doors. He went across the hall and knocked on the adjacent door. No answer. He knocked louder and calmly asked, "... Is anyone there?". He stood there in silence for another moment before he walked away.
The only sound was the tapping of his own footsteps as he approached the elevator door. From the view he got off the balcony, he discerned that he was atleast thirty stories up in the air. He pressed the down button on the pad beside the elevator, but there was no indication that that did anything. No backlight, no noise, nothing at all. Could it be out of service?
It was at this point that the boy looked back and realized that all of the lights were switched off. Perhaps the building was out of electricity. He searched for the fire escape stairwell for a few minutes. Once he found it, he learned that he was indeed on the thirtieth floor. It took the boy quite some time to walk down all the stairs until he reached the ground level.
There was nobody on that floor either. It was odd… there wasn't anyone around but the boy couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. He walked past the main lobby and left the building. There were many cars haphazardly stopped in the middle of the street, and the wind howled briefly as it picked up speed. The boy wandered down the street, pondering his situation.
He walked further and further into the heart of the city, whatever city it was. There was nobody around at all. He had seen a few birds flying overhead, and a couple of rats scurrying along the pavement, but no other humans came into his field of view. It wasn't particularly cold, but the boy's back began to shiver. He didn't want to be alone. What would he do if he couldn't find someone? Anyone?
He would occasionally call out to the winds, asking for any kind of sign that someone else was there. But the wind itself was the only response, a feeling a dread and isolation came over the boy. What happened? Where did everyone go? Why was he still here?
I didn't look like anything in the city had power. The clocks were all stopped, every screen was pitch black and there weren't any of the mechanical sounds one becomes accustomed to, like the hum of an AC unit. How long had he been asleep? What was he doing before?
Try as he might he couldn't remember what he was doing beforehand. This was too surreal… like a dream. You never remember at what point you fell asleep or how you got to where you are in a dream. Your brain just tosses you into whatever scenario it imagines without any kind of warning or elaboration.
The boy wandered for what felt like hours, when suddenly his stomach growled. His eyes quickly scanned for a source of food, settling on a nearby convenience store. When he got to the door, he pressed his face against the glass and peered within. His presumption was spot-on, as there was nobody inside. He tried to pull the door open, but couldn't. He tried pushing it just in case it was one of those doors, but still no luck.
He took a step back and sighed before his stomach growled again. He looked around but couldn't see any food out in the open. Then his eyes turned to a rather large stone on the ground by the edge of the parking lot. An idea formed in his mind, and he nodded to himself. Nobody was around to see him do this anyway, and the food inside was just going to waste.
He bent over and picked up the large stone with both arms. It was quite heavy and he wasn't the strongest boy of his age, so he kind of awkwardly stumbled along towards the glass wall. He turned himself around to build momentum before chucking the stone directly at the window. First there was a smashing sound, then a crashing sound, and finally the sound of countless glass shards hitting the asphalt.
Once he was sure all of the glass had fallen, he carefully moved into the convenience store. The lights were off, so the shelves far in the back were hard to see, but the light from outside illuminated it well enough. As he passed the refrigerated section, he noted that anything that could spoil should be avoided. He had no idea how long the power had been off afterall.
He grabbed a bag of BBQ potato chips off a rack, tore open the bag and start jamming handfuls into his mouth. Tasted fine, and he didn't see any mold so atleast he hadn't been asleep that long. He grabbed a bottle of soda out of the fridge unit, which he noted was not warm, but was still slightly cool. But nowhere near as chilled as a soda in a fridge should be.
For awhile, the boy sat up against a wall and ate snacks. As he drank the soda, he noted that it had not yet gone flat. Then again, it was sealed so… maybe that didn't actually tell him anything. A fair bit later, he found himself needing to piss. He got up and walked into the bathroom without any problems. He left the door cracked open, as without the lights on, the enclosed bathroom would be unnavigable.
After he finished his business, he tried to flush the toilet. Surprisingly it worked. Maybe waterworks take longer to break down… as the boy began to ponder his, he heard a distinctive rumbling sound coming from outside. He slowly peaked out the cracked door, but didn't see anything. He breathed a sigh of relief… he must of just imagined it.
Until he heard a different sound… a chewing sound, with a hint of growling. At first the boy assumed it must be another person but… the more he thought it over the more he realized that it didn't sound like any noise a human could make. He grabbed the plunger from beside the toilet and slowly inched his way along the wall towards the main area of of the store.
That's when he saw something truly strange. It was definitely not a human, but a small creature digging through food it had knocked off a shelf. As it struggled to rip open packaging, the boy got a good look at it. It looked like a lumpy toad with razor sharp teeth, but its legs were the weirdest thing. They arched up and ended in a point, almost like spider legs but these were fleshy, not hairy. The main body looked so heavy that the boy was utterly puzzled at how those spindly legs were supporting its weight.
The flesh of this weird toad creature was equal parts white and magenta. Its eyes were black with many magenta rings inside… the boy couldn't tell if it had pupils or not. As he tried to back away, the boy accidentally stepped on a chip he had dropped earlier, which made a small crunching noise as it broke under his heel. Ordinarily it wouldn't have been that loud, but because there was a distinct lack of other sounds, it became more prominent.
The strange creature turned to face him instantly, hopped over a shelf and started crawling after the boy at a surprising speed. This was it… fight or flight time. What would the boy do?
The boy immediately dropped the plunger and ran away towards a backdoor down the hall. But he also saw a stairway leading down to his right… this was an important call. He could run out the door… or try and hide downstairs. If he went outside, who knows if he would be able to outrun the monster… but if he could make his way downstairs without the monster seeing him, the monster might turn back and go away.
It was a risk… if the creature saw him go downstairs, he may very well be trapped. The door… or the stairs… the boy had only milliseconds to make a decision. But he mentally nodded and pushed forward… the door was clearly the best option. But as he was about to reach it, he stepped in a puddle of water on the floor before him and slipped. It caught him so off-guard that he managed to slip and fall right over the railing and onto the stairway below.
As he slammed down hard on the concrete stairs, he made sure to protect his head from damage as he tumbled down. Once he stabilized, he ceased all movement and sound. He could hear the creature's rumbling for a brief moment, but soon it wandered off. After a long while of holding his breath, the boy sighed. It wasn't his plan but… it looked like he evaded the creature.
He got up off the floor and brushed himself down. He stood in front of a large metal double-door with a sign above. It read, 'MEAT COOLER'. Ah, he knew about these walk-in freezers. They were designed not to open from the inside for whatever reason.
Ordinarily the boy would have just ignored the room and moved along but the circumstances build up a series of minute connections in his mind that allowed him to make the decision to peer inside.
It was then that his pupils shrunk and his heart skipped a beat. He didn't think he would see anything but rotting meat, but instead he saw something much more significant. For the first time since waking up, his eyes were laid upon an actual human being. It was a girl, slightly younger than himself. She was sleeping up against a wall, her face looking very peaceful.
Her hair was straight and short, only reaching ever so slightly beyond her chin and hanging halfway down to her shoulders. Her hair was equal parts black and white, striped down from the roots almost like an umbrella. Her skin was pale but weathered, as if she had been on the run for some time.
She wore a long beige trench coat with countless pockets. Wrapped around her neck was a long scarf, made up of black and yellow stripes. From his particular viewing angle, he could see she wore black biker shorts underneath the coat. Her legs were bare until a pair of brown hiking boots that started just below knees. The boy was absolutely entranced by the sight of another human being in this situation.
He bit his lip… it might be rude to awaken her, but he just had to talk to her! He threw open the door and walked towards her. He could feel sweat on his brow as he stared at her sleeping frame. How would he introduce himself? A first impression was very important.
He spend the following few minutes in absolute silence, just staring at her sleeping face. Her nose was small and mousy, and her lips were thin and nimble. As much as he wanted to speak to another person… he also wanted to keep watching her like this. He kneeled down beside her and leaned forward, his face less than an inch away from hers.
'Hm… wow, she's really cute...', the boy thought to himself. It was at that moment that the girl's eyes shot open, revealing striking golden irises that left the boy dazed as she lunged forward and kicked him right in the stomach. The impact sent him flying across the room and smack into a wall behind him.
"Get away from me, you creep!", the girl shouted as she retracted her leg into a standing position. The boy barely even heard her… he was still awestruck by her eyes. He didn't even notice all the pain building up in his back. She seemed surprised and irritated by his non-reaction.
"Hey! What's your problem! Quit staring at me like that! Who the hell are you anyway?", she snapped, clenching her fists. The boy swallowed a lump that had formed in his throat and opened his mouth, "Oh… my name is E… E… um…". Huh, for some reason that was all he could recall.
"E… so that's your code. Well, I'm out of here", she said as she tucked her hands into her pockets. This struck a chord in E's mind as his brain raced forward. 'No! I can't let her leave!', he thought aloud. He ran forward and grabbed the girl by her shoulders. There was a shocked reaction on her face.
She flung her arms up and knocked his away. "Don't touch me, scum! Get outta my way before I cut you down!", she demanded. E was nervously shaking at this point, he was desperate for answers.
"Please wait! What's going on? Where has everyone gone? Where are we? What was that monster upstairs!?", E barraged her with questions, his tone frantic.
The girl raised an eyebrow and shoved him out of the way, "Nice try, idiot. But nobody would fall for that naive act, now stay down if you know what's good for you", she remarked callously. E jumped to his feet and grabbed her wrist as she walked away.
"No really! I need you! I don't have any idea what's going on!", E shouted in desperation. 'If I lose her… I'll be all alone again! I don't know what I'd do then!', E thought hysterically. The girl turned back to look at him, her eyes wide with curiosity.
"Wait… you can't be serious", she muttered, more to herself than to him. There was an honesty in this boy's eyes that she had not seen in a long time. E gripped her wrist tighter as he spoke up, "I mean it! I just woke up in someone's apartment a few hours ago! I'm really freaked out… I don't know what's happening!".
There was a brief moment of silence after that. The girl looked down at her wrist and then back up at the boy before her. "...Let go of me", she stated bluntly. E hesitated but decided to give in and gradually loosened his grip until she pulled her wrist away violently.
"How long have things been like this?", E asked, his voice a bit more calm. The girl sighed and admitted, "A few weeks. Nobody knows what really happened, but that's when nearly everyone up and vanished into thin air. It wasn't long after that the power shut off without anyone to maintain the grid".
"Nearly everyone? How many people are left?", E demanded to know. The girl shrugged, "Nobody knows. I've only run into maybe a dozen people since then… everything is empty", she said.
"B-But… What do we do?", E inquired directly. The girl chuckled, "Heh, what do you mean, 'we'? I'm out of here, you can do whatever you want". E couldn't believe she just brushed him off so casually. But he wasn't about to give up. As she was about to turn away from him, he shouted, "But! What about that monster upstairs?".
The girl rolled her eyes, "There's no such thing as monsters, you idiot. You're getting on my nerves. I'm leaving now", she declared harshly. E's heart stopped beating altogether when those words reached his ears. He broke out into a cold sweat in about a second's time flat.
'No! No No No! I can't let her go! Even if I have to-', E thought, before he was interrupted by the girl rushing forward at him. He saw a strange symbol on the girl's forehead… it was a circle marked out with an X… and it was glowing orange. Before he could open his mouth, the girl swiped the air between them with her fingers. For a split-second, everything was fine.
Then a sharp pain spread across E's entire body as blood spewed out from his torso. As he fell to the floor, he caught a glimpse of his legs standing firm before him. 'I… I've been… I-I've b-been cut in half...', was his last thought before passing out.
But it was not to be. His vision turned pitch black except for the image of that strange symbol… an image that seemed to be burned into his mind. The orange glow grew stronger and E could feel an intense heat overcome him. It was at this point that his eyes shot open and he stared up at the ceiling of a familiar cold storage room.
He immediately felt his stomach area to check for injury but to his amazement, there was nothing there at all. The girl staggered back in shock, her face dumbfounded, "N-No way… I cut you down… b-but your legs vanished and then… t-then you grow grew new legs and…", she mumbled to herself.
E picked himself up off the floor, "What's going on? S-Shouldn't I be dead?", he said in a dissonantly calm tone of voice. The girl soon regained her composure and had a devilish grin on her face, "I see… so that's your Xign power…", she stated.
"Xign? What are you talking about?", the boy asked politely. The girl held up her hand as that strange symbol appeared on her forehead. She held out two fingers, which appeared to be coated in a weird orange glow that reached about an inch past the tips. "All survivors have a Xign… it gives you an advantage of one kind or another. It enhances what you're already capable of in some form. My Xign is the Power of Cutting, meaning I can slice through anything I want", the girl disclosed, seeming rather enthusiastic as she spoke.
"How did we g-get these… um… powers?", the boy asked, his tone both curious and concerned.
"Nobody knows, it's just something that happened. Now that I've seen your Xign in action… I've changed my mind. From now on, you're my slave. You'll do whatever I tell you to and be my loyal meatshield… or else I'll just keep cutting you into pieces", she proclaimed. E looked her right in the eyes and felt almost mesmerized… absent-mindedly, he nodded.
"Sure. I'll follow you anywhere", he stated as a matter of fact. The girl was almost stunned how easy that was, but she wasn't one to question good fortune. "Good. Now get up, we're leaving!", she ordered. E did as she said and walked up to her.
"I'm E… I guess. I'm thirteen years old, what's your name?", he said as if they had never met before. The girl almost laughed, "Pfft… what is this, orientation? Don't waste my time, idiot", she retorted, her tone harsh. But E persisted, "If you're going to be my master… I should know your name, right?", he plead.
The girl sighed and punched him straight in the gut, causing him to keel over in pain. "Whatever. My code is X and if it's so important for you to know, then I'm twelve. Are you happy now, moron?", she told him bluntly. E smiled as he stood up straight, "Yeah!", he exclaimed proudly.
X seemed even more ticked off now. "You're a fucking weirdo… hopefully you aren't as worthless as you look", she mused as she used her power to slice open the freezer door that E let close like a dumbass. Seems it completely slipped his mind that he accidentally trapped himself inside.
E followed X up the stairs, not letting her out of his sight. 'I am pretty worthless… There's nothing at all special about me… but X… she's… she's just incredible!', he thought to himself. Suddenly X stopped in her tracks, causing E to stop as well. "What's wrong?", he asked in a friendly tone.
She turned to look him straight in the eye, "I should mention something else… you better not be thinking any perverted thoughts… because I can see everything that runs through your head", she stated as if it was nothing. Immediately E stared at her bare legs and imagined X naked in the shower… rubbing soap all over her soft body…
X's expression turned violent as she activated her Xign and sliced E's arm clean off. "Gaaaaah!", he screamed in pain as he collapsed on the floor. It was only a moment until his severed arm disappeared, turning into red mist. Then red mist started to pour out from his body and formed a new arm in the old one's place. He moved it around a bit to test it… incredible… he could regenerate entire body parts!
But X seemed more pissed than ever, "What the fuck did I just say, you idiot!", she shouted, stomping her foot down. E flailed his arms around and with a panicked tone tried to defend himself, "I-I-I'm s-sorry! You j-just put the i-image in m-my head and I j-just-". X crossed her arms and frowned, "I'm not taking that crap! Just remember to watch what you think, because I can read your mind inside and out", she said angrily.
"Is that another Xign power?", E asked as he stood up.
X shook her head, "A person can only have one Xign, that's just how it works. I don't know why, but I can hear every stupid worthless thought that comes out of your head. So be a good slave and just obey silently. If you annoy me, I'll cut you down!", she decreed. E followed her out of the convenience store, noting that the strange creature from before seemed to be long gone.
The two of them walked along the city streets without saying a word. E took the opportunity to stare at her from behind. 'The way she walks… no… her whole aura… it isn't just confident, it's assertive! No… more than that…', he thought. E found himself completely enamored with this girl. He didn't care where they were going… he just wanted to keep following her. He counted how many stripes were in her hair… six. Three black and three white.
Six was just a great number really. So even and so simple. Six six six six six six. For a while, E began to subconsciously associated X with the number six. Until she turned around and kicked him in the gut. "W-W-What a-are y-ou t-thinking, you sicko!", she stammered out in a blind fury.
"W-What are you talking a-about!?", E asked as he clutched his stomach. X's face was red with rage, "D-Don't y-you e-ever think about that again! I-I w-would never d-do anything like that w-with a worthless maggot like y-you!", she screeched.
This outburst lasted several more beatings… E never figured out why she was upset but he didn't care. He decided he would follow her anywhere, though he couldn't articulate why.
He decided to keep their previous conversation going as they walked along the desolate cityscape. "What are these code things? I keep trying but I can't seem to remember my name. I can remember everything else just fine…", he said aloud. X seemed to be deep in thought about something, but she answered him regardless.
"Nobody seems to be able to. When we think of our identities, all that comes up is a single letter. As for why we call these things codes and Xigns, well… it's not like it was a consensus or anything. For some reason, we're just drawn to calling them that", she explained. E scratched his head in lieu of understanding.
"What do you mean?", he asked. X shot him a glare as if she was about to hit him again, and E reactively tensed up, but she ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort that time.
"Like… when I use my power, my brain is telling me 'that's called a Xign'... it's not really a conscious thing but it's there. Like when we think of our identities and can only come up with a letter, our brains tell us 'this letter is my code'... if you don't get it now, I'm not explaining any further!", she continued.
"No I get it now… it's just a lot to take in", E affirmed. X's scarf billowed in the wind as it picked up. "You seem almost unnaturally calm about all this… then again maybe you're too stupid to fully comprehend our predicament", she said. E shrugged, maybe if he had gone a while longer without finding anyone, but now that he wasn't alone, he didn't feel as worried.
"I mean, what about your family? They're gone, you know", X chanted in an almost taunting tone of voice.
E stopped walking for a brief moment, "Huh… yeah. I guess they are", he said in an almost robotic tone of voice, before continuing onwards. It was a bizarre occurrence, E felt a sensation like he should be more concerned but… he wasn't.
"Damn. You're pretty cold", X remarked.
"I don't think so", mused, his tone wavering.
"Pfft. You're creepy", X told him.
"So what about you? Are you worried? What was your family like?", E asked, in a tone far more concerned than before.
"I never said you could ask any personal questions, you idiot", X stated clearly, laying down the law, as it were. E felt a bit saddened by that, as he looked up the darkening clouds above.
"But… But I want to get to know you more", E plead solemnly.
X stopped in her tracks and stared the boy down. "Listen. We are not friends. I'm only letting you follow me because you might make a good meatshield. That's it. No matter what you say or what you do, that's never going change. You aren't even a pet to me, you're lower than livestock", she declared, her voice so chilling it nearly froze the air in front of her.
E stood in silence for a moment before responding, "I won't deny it hurts when you put it like that. But I'm used to being worthless, so I think if I can keep you alive… that's the best I could ever hope to accomplish with my life". X seemed put off by this at first, but shook her head.
"I've never met anyone so strange, and I'm not finding it pleasant", she muttered to herself. 'But it's true. If this power can protect this girl… then atleast I'm finally good for something', E thought.
"What were you doing in that meat freezer?", E inquired.
"Someone threw me in there with a can of sleeping gas. My old partner, trying to weasel his way out of a deal. It couldn't hold me, as you saw… but it gave him enough time to run off", X explained. The two of them stopped in front of a front department store chain.
"Which brings us here. That asshole ran off with my pack, so I need to resupply. Good thing I have a new pack mule with me", X stated cheerfully. E perked up immediately when he heard those words.
'A pack mule!? Me? Great, another thing I can do for her!', he thought. X groaned when she picked up on his inner thought. The unusual pair walked up into the supermarket, X having sliced the door apart since it wouldn't open by itself without power. Hundreds upon thousands of large shelves awaited them inside.
"Sweet. Can't believe nobody's looted this place yet… then again, there ain't that many survivors", X remarked casually. E found himself struggling to see very far… "It's so dark in here…", he announced as if it were news.
"No shit, sherlock. That's why I nicked a flashlight from the last place. Now come on, we need to get rucksacks to start with", X ordered. E nodded as he followed her into the darkness, only a small flashlight guiding them.
"And since I know you're thinking it, I should tell you I ain't afraid of the dark. So don't expect me to start clinging to you if this light goes out", X warned sternly. E was a little disappointed at first, but changed his tune rather quickly.
'That's really something though. Being in total darkness still freaks me out a bit, so if I anything I'd be the one clinging to her', E thought.
X punched his arm. "Ow!", he squealed. "That's not happening either. Shut your brain and look for some large backpacks, the kind hikers would have. That's the good stuff, that's what we want", she explained.
As they walked through the dark pathways, they could hear the creaking of metal from above. It probably always made little noises like that, but in the silence, it was far more prominent.
E scanned the area to the best of his ability as they worked their way through the aisles. He saw a lot of stuff that they should probably grab, but they needed packs to put them in first.
X grabbed something off a shelf and turned to face E. "Here, put this on. It suits you", she said, holding out a dog collar. E shrugged and reached for it, but X pulled it away and tossed it back on the shelf.
"Ugh. Forget it. It's no fun if you don't even care", X whined, stomping her way down the aisle. E couldn't help but wonder if he should feel relieved or disappointed. Suddenly E picked up a rumbling sound from across the aisle and peered steadily into the darkness.
"Did you hear that?", he asked aloud. X pointed the flashlight in the general direction of the noise. "There's nothing there, idiot. You're just imagining things", she said, brushing him off. 'Yeah… maybe but…', E thought to himself.
A while later, X exclaimed, "Jackpot! C'mon, this way!". They had discovered a line of thick brown rucksacks lining the wall. They were rather large and had many spare pockets and compartments. They each grabbed one and slung them around their backsides. "Alright, now we grab any supplies we need for now", X ordered.
"Where are we going? How much stuff do we need? I mean… like… what's our objective?", E inquired earnestly. X scoffed at him as she stuffed various things into her rucksack.
"Objective? You think this is some kind of game? Nearly everyone's gone, there ain't no going back. We're just trying to survive now… or atleast I am. One of the guys I ran into before said he was gonna try to find out what happened. Personally I think he's a fool who'll wind up dead before long", X explained her view on the situation.
"But that can't be all, right? We just have to have some kind of goal, or else what's the point? Why don't we just lie down and die?", E argued.
X clenched her fists and started to speak, her voice seething, "Because I don't want to die. But face facts, there's nothing left anymore. Any hopes and dreams you once had, you better give up on them fast… or you're just going to make yourself miserable".
E scratched his head, "Maybe you're right… but that doesn't mean we can't set new goals, right? It doesn't matter that everyone else is gone… because we're still here! Surviving is great and all, but why don't we try to accomplish something with our lives anyway?", he stated with a strange passion in his voice.
X just stared at this odd boy with a blank expression on her face. "Like what?", she asked impatiently.
"Well… maybe we can figure something out on our way. But for now, maybe something simple like… maybe just have all the fun we can?", E suggested, his tone absolutely chipper.
"...Fun?", X asked back, almost mockingly.
"Yeah! Think about it! Haven't there always been things you've wanted to do, but couldn't because of other people? Like right now! We're looting a supermarket! We can take whatever we want and we'll never get arrested!", E said, giving his first example.
"But this isn't fun, we're just taking what we need…", X stated bluntly.
"Okay. But what about… cars? Normally kids our age would never be allowed to drive them, but now there's nobody to tell us we can't! Hell, we can even have a race if we wanted!", E stated enthusiastically.
"B-But… we don't know how to drive!", X stammered out, her voice irritated.
"There's bound to be instruction manuals around somewhere! And the rest we can figure out by instinct", E reassured her. X bit her lip, still skeptical of the words coming out of this boy's mouth.
"We can explore! With your cutting power, there's no locked doors anymore! Think about it, all those places we were never allowed to go before. Now we can! That employee's only area back there? We can go there now. We could even go up to the roof if we wanted", E continued on.
X crossed her arms and sighed, "Ugh, why are you such a weirdo? Don't you realize the situation at all? Does the fact that humans are nearly extinct mean nothing to you?", she demanded.
E shrugged, "I only have one life. What happens after I die is none of my concern. I'm still alive so nothing has changed. Right now, I'm excited. I know it seems grim, but take a step back and think of all the possibilities! This isn't the end, it's a new beginning! Right now, all I want to do is have fun with you!", he blabbered on.
X punched him in the gut. "Grr… idiot! Why would I want to have fun with you!? I can't stand you!", she shouted. E took a brief moment to catch his breath after she knocked the wind out of him.
"Fine then. Let's just both have fun separately in the same place", E suggested as some sort of stupid compromise. X stomped the ground and barked back, "How exactly is that any different!?". 'It's all in how you look at it...', E thought.
This ticked off X. "Hey! Don't go finishing your arguments in your head!", she yelled. "What does it matter? You can read my mind anyway", E argued back. X crossed her arms again, "It's still rude…", she said.
'I'm so sorry, master', E thought in his mind. X pointed at him angrily, "There you go, doing it again!", she barked. After that exchange, they continued to fill their rucksacks in relative silence.
When they were finished, they walked back out of the superstore, their rucksacks filled with everything they'd need for the time being. E glanced at X's backside as they walked, "That isn't too heavy for you, is it?", he asked out of concern.
X seemed more annoyed than appreciative. "Don't underestimate me", she snarked. 'I would never', E thought. X glared at him, "That better not have been sarcasm, idiot", she said.
"Not at all. I decided I would be completely honest with you. I don't want to lose the one person I managed to find", E defended him. X chuckled at first but then her tone became more serious, "Funny. My last partner said the same thing".
'Huh… she acts like she doesn't care… but maybe she doesn't trust me because of how her last partnership turned out', E thought. X immediately picked up on it, "Quit over analyzing, you're too stupid to do it right. I don't trust you, because I don't like you. Doesn't help I only met you an hour ago and you've acted like a creep the whole time", she elaborated.
"I don't think I'm creepy at all", the boy stated.
"You wouldn't. Insane people always think they're the only sane ones", the girl argued back.
"I think you're generalizing", E commented.
"You think there are insane people who… are aware of their own insanity?", X asked aloud.
"I think that such a tragic thing must exist", E mused, his tone rather… whimsical.
"Make up your mind. Are you a cynic or not?", X demanded to know.
"Well, according to you, I'm an idiot", E said jokingly.
X seemed almost pleased, "Glad you know your place", she stated.
It was at this point that their Xigns appeared on their foreheads and they clutched their faces in agony. A message was being etched into their minds.
'KILL CODE X. BRING HER CORPSE TO THE OBELISK. ALL WILL BE MADE CLEAR'
The voice in their heads spoke awkwardly, as if they had never done it before. It was a high-pitched screeching voice that invaded their minds and blocked all original thought.
X knelt down on the pavement, still clutching her forehead. "Not again...", she mumbled to herself. E was confused as well, "Who was that!? Why do they want you dead? And w-what… what is the obelisk?", he asked aloud.
"Ugh. That was a set reminder, that same message plays in all of our heads every now and again. Whatever caused all this wants me dead", X explained. E gulped, "Y-You mean… there are people after you?", he asked nervously.
X bit her lip, hesitant to speak of it. "Not everyone, but there are plenty willing to obey the voice if it means they can get answers", she said. E's face held genuine concern as he placed his hands on her shoulders.
"X. What's really going on? This is just… crazy", he said, before X knocked his hands away. "Don't touch me! And I have no idea! Back off it, okay!?", she shouted defensively.
E took a deep breath and calmed himself down. "Sorry. But I suppose it doesn't really matter. I'm your meatshield, right? That means all I have to do is protect you… I don't really need to know why", he said, more to himself than to her.
Suddenly E felt a strange sensation on the wind, and jumped in front of X. A bullet come down and struck him in the shoulder. E quickly looked up to see where it had come from. There was a man way high up, perched on top of a nearby building.
The man had dark skin and golden sunglasses, his hair twisted up into dreadlocks. E felt intense throbbing pain as his body absorbed the bullet and regrew the flesh it had pierced. "Shit, he's back… I didn't think he'd find me again so soon", X remarked quietly.
"Who is it!? It's another survivor, right?", E asked rashly, trying his best to cover X's body with his own. "He's one of the ones trying to kill me, he must've been tracking me for awhile now. His code is D. His Xign is shooting… if you're in his sights he'll never miss", she told him.
From what E could tell, D was using an old bolt-action sniper rifle. That means he only got one shot before reloading. The problem was E had no idea how long it took to reload one of those things. E knew he had to cover X completely… if even a bit of her was visible, D would make a direct hit.
Another shot was fired, this time straight at E's head. As the bullet made impact, E's head was knocked back and his stance staggered. It took only a second or two for him to regenerate and regain his blocking stance.
"Gruah! That really… really hurts…", E moaned. X looked like she could panic at any moment, but was trying her best to stay calm.
"Okay… I have an idea. You have to trust me here. Stand behind me, line up perfectly. I'll take the next hit and then we make a run for the building as he reloads. Every few feet, we'll stop and you'll get behind me again. We'll inch our way inside", E suggested.
X seemed cautious, "I've dealt with him before, the building will be rigged with traps", she warned. E nodded, "Then stay behind me. I'll take them all on myself. Makeshift traps are only designed to work once", he stated clearly.
X seemed frustrated, "Why are you doing this!? Are you stupid? Or are you just trying to show off!?", she whisper-shouted angrily. E shook his head, "I'm your slave. That's all there is to it", he said as a matter of fact.
The next bullet went directly into his face as expected. E didn't even wait for the regeneration to finish before he and X dashed forward as fast as they could. After they covered a few meters, they stopped. X took her place behind E again, making sure every part of her body was covered by his.
D tried shooting at E's limbs next, probably hoping the bullet would pass through. But E's regenerative powers always kicked in before that. Together, the two of them slowly worked their way up to the building's entrance. Once they were out of D's line of sight, they both leaned against a wall and gasped for breath.
"I can take him out instantly if I could just get close…", X muttered in frustration. E took a glance inside the building and got a smirk on his face.
"You might not even have to, take a look. He's lined the interior with proximity explosives, expecting us to blindly rush in and die on the first one. But he's placed way too many… if I run as far as I can and set them all off, the building should come down under him", E explained his plan.
X nodded. "Once I run inside, go around the corner and down the back alley. Get as far away as you can. I'm bringing this whole place down with me", E instructed. X clearly didn't like taking orders, but she could see the merit of his plan.
"Aren't you scared at all? Scared of dying?", X asked calmly, without a single hint of concern, but instead mere curiosity. E smiled back at her.
"No. Because my life isn't worth anything. It'd be like feeling sorry for a dust speck disappearing. But with this power, I know I'll live. I have to live, because there'll be plenty more where this guy came from", E explained. His words didn't carry any regard for himself and this greatly disturbed X.
E then kicked open the front door as X ran around the corner and down a back alley. He rushed through the main lobby and straight up the stairs, setting off every explosive he came close to. As he continued to run, he could hear and feel the explosions behind him. Some came dangerously close to catching him in the blasts, but he kept ahead of them… barely.
By the time he was halfway up the building, he could already feel the integrity of the floor weakening. He was actually bringing the building down! 'It was foolish of this guy to turn the entire building into a bomb…', E thought.
Just as he was almost to the top floor, E began to gradually slow down and run out of breath. 'No! No! I can't stop now! I'm so close!', he thought to himself. He needed something… something to push him forward… something to keep him going…
He pictured X's face… her cute face. But it was an annoyed face… a disappointed face… and that didn't sit well with E.
'No! I have to keep moving! I haven't… I haven't seen her smile yet! I'm sure… I'm sure it's the most beautiful thing ever! She seems so sad… being hunted, having to get by on her own… even if she hates me now, I can change that! I want to show her fun things that she can do, even in this world!', E chanted in his own mind.
He found the strength to push himself, as he ran up the final stairway up to the rooftop. But once he arrived, he saw the dark-skinned man ready a parachute. D held up a handgun and mockingly saluted E as he took a dive off the roof.
'Dammit! I should've known! It was too obvious, of course he'd planned for this!', E mentally screamed at himself as the roof collapsed beneath him and he tumbled down with the rubble.
E regained consciousness a moment later, but found himself pinned under a heavy concrete slab in a lot filled with rubble. There was a lot of dirt and dust in the air from the destruction. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice call out, "Hey! Hey idiot! You here? Where'd you go?". It was X's voice.
'Dammit, no! Get back! Run away! He's still here! D's still alive!', E desperately tried to warn her, hoping that she was reading his mind. Through the smoke, E could make out two figures standing atop the mountain of rubble.
That was when D made the fatal error of trying to grab X. She swung her legs around and knocked the handgun out of his grasp. She then swiped her fingers downward and sliced D's arm clean off. The man screamed as the bloodsplatter hit the rocks below. Without any hesitation, X pulled her arm back around and made a clean slice at the man's neck.
D's severed head rolled down the hill of stone until he hit the pavement. The last expression he made was one of shock and regret. X casually walked over to where E was pinned by the rubble.
"Well well, looks like you were pretty useless after all", she said mockingly. E shoved his face in the dirt, ashamed of himself. X sighed, "Then again, I never expected anything out of you to begin with…", she said, sounding a bit tired.
She sliced up the rubble holding E down until he managed to free himself. E leapt to wrap his arms around her but she pushed him back, "Hey Hey! What did I say about touching!?", she shouted in defiance.
"Er… sorry", E muttered sincerely.
"Look… I know what you're about to say… it's not that I like having to kill or anything, but it's just-", X began to say before she was cut off.
"That was awesome! I was right here watching the whole time! He thought he had you but you showed him up without even flinching! Hnng, you're so cool, X!", E exclaimed with pride.
X blinked in disbelief. "Y-You… You aren't… s-shocked that I j-just killed someone?", she stuttered out. E shook his head, "Nah! He was trying to kill you after all! Ah man, that was exciting stuff!", he rambled on.
Despite the praise, X seemed irritated still. She gave E a good whack to the face, "Gah! You're such a creepy weirdo idiot!", she yelled out. E rubbed his reddened cheek as it healed itself, "Aw… atleast pick an insult and stick with it!", he cried out.
Just then, E spotted something crawling towards them in the debris. "X! Look out! It's the monster!", he shouted, pointing to the same weird toad creature he had seen in the convenience store earlier. The monster lunged at X, tackling her to the ground and then… started licking her face.
"Easy easy! Down boy! Where have you been?", X said cheerfully, holding the little mongrel in her hands. E was shocked, "Wait… you know this thing?", he stammered in disbelief.
"He's not a thing, that's what you are. This is my pet, Munch. Say hi to the meatshield, Munch", X said, holding out the weird monster to E's face. Munch immediately took a chomp to E's ear and bit it clean off.
"Erugh! Goddamn, that hurts!", E cried as his ear grew back in a flush of red mist. X put Munch back down on the ground as she picked herself back up. "Well atleast we don't have to look for you now", she said, a bit relieved.
"Where on Earth did you find him?", E asked honestly.
"Oh, Munch has been following me around forever. Eventually I just sort of adopted him", she said.
After a while, the three of them walked off past the city limits. E perked up to ask, "So where are we going now?".
X hoisted her rucksack up properly and answered, "We're gonna go find K. He's an ally… of sorts. He might know where that obelisk thing is. It might take us awhile to get there, but I picked up all sorts of navigational equipment".
"Why do we want to get to the obelisk? Wouldn't that make it easier for the survivors trying to kill you?", E asked aloud.
"Maybe. But it's also the only lead we have about why any of this is happening, so we gotta check it out", she said, her tone serious.
E glanced at X from behind for a long time. He would protect her… no matter what. It was all he could do to make himself useful. X looked up into the cloudy sky as she spoke, "Along the way… if you want to show me that… uh… fun you were rambling on about before… I wouldn't mind, I guess".
E smiled as those words reached him. "Yeah! I have a few ideas, master! Just wait and see, I'll make you smile yet!", he proclaimed. X punched him in the shoulder, "Idiot. Don't get your hopes up!", she shouted. Munch made a growl that sounded eerily close a snicker.
This was the beginning of a strange journey.
First Note Complete