"What are you doing looking through my stuff?" I said with a surprised look on my face.
She was as surprised as I was. "How do you know Ashley? Who are you?" she asked, surprised. Although I met her briefly for a day, how could I forget the time she beat up the huge men in the alley? It's only been a few hours.
"What the hell are you doing?" I exclaimed.
Her expression morphed into one of absolute shock and confusion. All of a sudden, she pounced on me, pressing a knife to my neck. I tried to push her off me, but she quickly locked my arms in place.
"How do you know Ashley? And who are you?" she snarled.
I stared at her, fearing for my life. I had no idea what to answer. I was so confused. Wasn't the person in front of me Ashley? Why would she ask me that?
I wheezed out, "I thought you were Ashley. Why are you so serious about this? Can you just get off of me so we can talk about it?"
She pressed the knife against my neck with even more pressure, drawing some blood. I felt the warm liquid drip down my nape, my nerve cells firing signals that could only mean pain.
"I might look like her, but I can assure you we are two different people," she growled.
"Now answer the fucking question, unless you want your life to end at this moment."
My eyes widened. This couldn't be good. I decided that telling her everything would be the best thing to do if I wanted to live.
I fessed up, "I don't really know Ashley that well. She was this new student at my school."
The knife on my neck loosened up a bit, allowing me a little more breathing room.
"And what school would this happen to be?" she asked.
"West Bridge High School," I said.
Immediately, I felt the blade being pushed against my throat for the second time.
"Liar," she snapped, "There isn't a school named West Bridge anywhere near this place."
I could feel myself becoming lightheaded. If I was going to clear the misunderstanding up, I had to do it soon.
"Okay, listen, please," I struggled to speak with the knife against my throat, "I'm not actually from here."
"I'm from another world, some angel summoned me to this world, and now I'm stuck here. I saw Ashley in my old world, and she had just transferred to my school."
I finally felt the knife leave my neck, and I sat up, trying to cover the wound with my hand.
She handed me a towel, and I took it. It wasn't the best thing to wipe the blood with, but it was better than nothing. As I cleaned my throat off, I asked her about what she was doing.
"Now that we have… cleared things up, I just wanna know why you are so serious about Ashley. Is she your doppelganger or something?"
She cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Eve, and I am Ashley's twin sister. Recently, Ashley went missing, and due to certain circumstances pertaining to her, it is of utmost priority we find her whereabouts."
Circumstances? Maybe they have something to do with the way her eyes were glowing red in that alley. I knew I shouldn't have, but I pressed Eve for more details.
"Can you tell me what type of 'circumstances' these are?"
Surprisingly, she answered with little to no hesitation.
"Ashley has a certain… condition, which makes her incredibly volatile and dangerous. It makes her a target to many people, many of which do not have the best intentions."
What Eve said made a lot of sense. This 'condition' might be related to why Ashley's eyes were glowing and how she was able to beat a large group of grown men in a fight. That certainly fits the description of it being 'dangerous' and 'volatile.'
I heard Eve continue.
"Most importantly, she is my sister, and I have to make sure she is safe."
I turned my head in her direction, and to my surprise, the hard and stoic face of Eve had turned somber, and I even noticed her eyes were glistening as they filled with tears.
Her feet were slowly curling in towards her body, going until she was able to hug them tightly, putting her head into her knees.
It was very discreet, but if I listened carefully, I could hear her quietly sobbing. The slight up and down motions from her head each sob didn't help to hide how she was feeling either. Eve must have been really worried about Ashley.
I decided to just leave her alone for a bit. Usually, you're supposed to comfort someone when they're feeling down, but I knew nothing about her. I didn't want to accidentally make it worse.
Her sobbing continued for a few more minutes. After that, they gradually waned, being replaced by slow-paced breathing. Before I knew it, she had fallen asleep.
I approached her slowly, being careful as to not wake her up. I picked her up and laid her on the bed. After seeing her cry so emotionally, I felt kinda bad. Giving her a comfortable place to sleep was the least I could do.
After helping her onto the bed, I realized how late it was. The idea of sleep suddenly felt a lot more attractive to me, and I walked to another room and fell into the bed, letting the comfort of sleep embrace me.
When I woke up, the first thing I went to check on was if Eve had left. It would make sense if she did, but I just had to make sure.
I walked into the room I had left her, and I found her sitting on the bed. Seemingly waiting for me.
I asked her, "Are you feeling a little better after what happened?"
She nodded her head.
"My head is cleared, so I won't let my feelings get in the way again. I still need to find my sister, though. If kept unwatched, her condition could cause large scale destruction."
I blinked twice. Large scale destruction? That sounds very serious. Perhaps the 'evil' I was tasked to destroy was the ill-intentioned people who were willing to use her to achieve their goals.
I heard Eve speak again, "I know it seems rude of me to ask, considering I threatened your life and nearly killed you yesterday, but would you be willing to help me find her?"
Now don't get me wrong, I was definitely planning on helping her, but I wanted to get her back for that slice on my neck.
I smirked. "Nah, I'm good. Helping someone find their family would be nice, but I'm sure I want to work with someone who could just slice my head off whenever they get mad."
I expected her to beg for me to join her. She did seem pretty desperate to find Ashley.
Surprisingly, her head drooped, and she said with a dejected sigh, "Okay, I understand."
I thought she would ask me to help her even after I declined the first time. My plans were foiled. I was going to help her, but only after securing some more benefits. Maybe I could have made her promise to be my slave for a week if we found Ashley.
This wasn't looking good. Although this world seemed astonishing and all, I still needed to finish my task and get the hell back home. I still love my life there more. I had to find some excuse to join Eve and help her find her sister.
"Actually," I said, "I'm in need of some money, so I guess I could help you find Ashley. There is a monetary reward, right?"
Welp, my plans keep getting wrenches thrown in them left and right.
"Umm," I said, "You know what, I guess I will help you. A righteous guy like me would never let a girl do this alone."
She let out a chuckle.
"Yeah, that's absolute bullshit, and you know it," she mocked, "I knew you were in since the beginning. You just wanted to see me beg on my hands and knees, didn't you?"
I was busted. She knew. Was I that easy to read?
"Alright, you got me, but keep in mind I'm not doing this for you. I'm just trying to get back to my old world," I said.
She grinned, "Yeah, whatever. Whatever you say."
"Alright, let's just forget about that. So, where is our destination to look for Ashley?" I asked.
She replied, "We're heading to the capital city. They track all the people that enter and exit. If we ask for her records, they can lead us to where she was last."
I asked, "How do they track everyone?"
She explained, "At birth, everyone has a chip with a certain ID implanted into them. Whenever you enter or leave a city, the systems put a log of the time you passed the borders."
Eve added on to her previous statement, "The capital city also has a lot of useful sources, so even if we can't find my sister's whereabouts from their logs, I could always ask the people who lead massive spy networks for information. Now let's hurry, we want to get there as soon as possible."
After a few minutes of packing my stuff into the magical pouch and getting ready, we headed out. I hoped this wouldn't take too long. My room was pretty good. It was okay if we took an extended period of time, though, because my pouch could pay for anything.
We left the inn, and I followed Eve to this large platform that led to many different stalls. Each stall had a blue glow that would intensify each time someone entered.
I had a creeping suspicion that those rooms were teleporting people who walked into them. I turned to Eve and asked, "Are those teleportation devices?"
I was in absolute awe. This world did seem to be more advanced than mine, but for them to have discovered teleportation? That's absolutely insane.
We stepped into the one that was directed towards the capital, and in an instant, all of my surroundings had changed.
There was a massive amount of offices and shops all around me, and they were housed in what looked like buildings with well over a hundred stories. I thought the central tower in Sonali was enormous, but every single building in this area put that one to shame.
"The capital sure is amazing," I said.
Eve spoke, "This isn't even the capital yet."
Confused, I asked, "Wait, what? Didn't we go through the teleporter?"
She answered, "Yes, we did, but we still have to go through the main gate to enter the city. This area is just the transportation center."
We walked past the massive buildings, and I admired how grandiose they looked. These rows of skyscrapers just never ended! If this world had something better than mine, it would be its technology and architecture.
After a good five minutes of strolling, I saw the gates come into view. They were colossal. Standing even taller than the skyscrapers, they towered over everything else. The sides of the gates had screens built into them that were displaying: "Welcome."
As we made our way past the gates, I noticed many cameras and sensors around the entrance, presumably for that tracking system Eve told me about earlier.
"So," I asked Eve, "Where are we headed?"
"The police station," she replied, "They have a large database that is available for people to search if someone they know is reported missing. I reported Ashley missing a few days ago, so it should be in their system, and they will let me in."
That sounds like it could be abused easily. If I randomly reported someone as missing, I could stroll into the police station and then ask to search their database. After that, I would have access to every single person's records, which could open up some great crime opportunities.
I kept my worries to myself though, the fewer people that knew about it, the less that could actually abuse the idea. Our top priority was to just get in and out of the police station with more information on where Ashley was.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT NUMBER ISN'T IN THE SYSTEM?"
Eve was furious.
She told me to stay back and that she would take care of everything, so I couldn't see much of what happened. Based on the little snippets I heard, Ashley's ID number didn't have any results in the database. It was almost as if her record had been entirely wiped by a third party.
I walked over to Eve and tried to calm her down.
"Hey, let's accept it. There are no records. That means that someone has tampered with the evidence. At least that gives us a clue that someone is already after her."
Eve controlled herself.
"Alright, but I am definitely getting to the bottom of this. I've heard the rumors about there being some underground organization manipulating this city from the shadows. Still, I never expected them to be true. The complete lack of data on my sister just solidified my belief in them."
An idea suddenly popped into my head. I told her my solution.
"Hey Eve, maybe if we apply for jobs in this city, we can familiarize ourselves with the people and the environment. Then we can maybe use our connections to find out about this organization you're talking about. Maybe they have something to do with Ashley's disappearance and how she appeared in my world."
"That does seem like it could work."
So we went off searching for jobs that were open to all applicants, and I noticed a simple profession titled "Muscat Plumbing." It was a government-funded job that involved going to different houses and just basically checking the pipes. You didn't even have to learn how to do anything.
I did some research and found out that Muscat Plumbing was essentially a way to make easy money for the lower class because the modern technology used in pipes rendered it virtually impossible to clog or break them. The 'inspections' were just to keep the general public comfortable and feeling safe at home.
This job would be perfect for what I'm after. I wouldn't have to work hard while at the same time I'm gathering information about this hidden organization Eve had told me about.
You didn't even have to mail in an application. It was as simple as walking into one of their stores and asking about the job. I entered the nearest branch I could find, and mentioned to the staff that I was interested in working there. They immediately sent me to the manager's room, where he sat in his chair, ready to interview me.
"Thank you for choosing Muscat Plumbing as your occupation of choice," he said. "Would you mind telling me why you chose us? There are many different jobs out there. Why specifically us?"
"Um, I don't really know."
That question caught me off guard. I expected them to ask why I thought I would be qualified.
"Maybe, I just thought this job might be fun?"
His eyes immediately narrowed, and the pressure in the room instantly increased by tenfold.
He pressed a button, and the room suddenly opened up to be many times its original size. There were blueprints of the city posted on the wall and many types of advanced machinery all around me.
The manager spoke again to me, this time with a much more dark tone.
"Welcome to Sanctum, my friend."
"We hope you enjoy your time with us and contribute to our goal of overthrowing the government."