Events from the previous night flooded his dreams. He felt the touch of water on his face as it filled his mouth and nose. As soon as he felt himself slipping away, he was pulled back into the air.
Thrown to the ground, he laid there, listening as his friend approached the beast. Knowing what he had to do, he waited for the right moment. Flinging himself upright and into the woods, he ran as fast as he could, hearing his friend do the same behind him. Knowing that the beast would more than likely pursue them again, they needed to find shelter somewhere.
As the morning aged, the sun rose over the trees and shined directly into Atticus Anoethite's face. Opening his eyes, his surroundings became clear again. He was lying on a tree branch, high above the ground, his back arched against the tree.
"Marshall, wake up. It's morning."
After a couple more attempts to wake the boy up, Atticus succeeded. "Where do we go from here?"
Marshall, still soaked, wrapped his arms around the branch he was on — which was somewhat below Atticus — lying on his stomach as he surveyed the area. "We should be close to Silivia."
"You've said that several times already," Atticus replied.
"Yeah, but I'm certain of it this time. Let's get down from here."
Walking through the forest, the two made their way towards the direction Marshall had pointed out, carefully listening for any sound of the beast from the night before.
Eventually walking onto a pathway, they noticed a set of steel gates in the distance, a large city of skyscrapers, office buildings, and apartments behind it.
"Is this the city you were talking about?" Atticus asked as they approached the gates. "It's huge."
"Yep," Marshall assured him.
Walking up to the gate, Atticus and Marshall had a view into the busy streets ahead of them. People were walking across streets and driving cars around, tall buildings littering the background.
Once at the entrance, the two were greeted by five armed men. They were all dressed similarly and appeared to be guards.
"Stop!" The leader of the group called out as soon as they approached, steadily making his way to them until he was towering over the two teens. "Do you two live here? Something seems shady about you."
"Uh," Atticus started, looking over at Marshall, who simply shrugged.
"You encountered demons? And all of you lived, unharmed?" The guard replied in a bored tone.
One of the guards behind the leader began to scuffle lightly and muttered under their breath. "They're probably just drunk."
"Do you have to be a jackass?" Marshall spat out. "We need help."
The guard in the back laughed at that, pushing his way through the small crowd of guards and stopping when he was in front of Marshall. "What did you just say? I don't think I heard you properly."
Instead of responding, Marshall simply lifted his hand and punched the guard in the face.
"Fuck!" The guard screamed as he reeled against Marshall's blow. Another guard suddenly stepped forward, swinging at Marshall with both hands. Marshall ducked and jumped behind the man, kicking him in the back with enough force to send him to his knees.
The original guard then leaped forward again, lunging at Marshall and kneeing him in the stomach, causing him to fall to the ground.
"That's enough horsing around," a female guard came out from behind the gates, pushing past the guards. She was slightly short and had purple hair thrown up in a messy bun.
"Are you two okay? Do you need any help?"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, we're fine," Marshall spat, standing up.
Atticus stepped forward, glaring at Marshall before turning his attention to the woman. "We're not exactly 'fine' at all. We were recently separated from our friends."
"Hm," the female guard replied. "I can give you this." She pulled a map from a back pocket and placed it in Atticus' hand. "It's a map of the city."
Atticus wrapped his hand around the map, pulling it from the woman's grasp and then looking down at it, amazed at how well-made and detailed it was.
"I also apologize about my guards. They can be a bit.. immature, sometimes." She walked over to the line of guards, crossing her arms. All of the guards hurriedly moved to the side, opening the gate. "Oh, and in case you need anything, my name is Kailan."
"Alright, thanks... Kailan," he said, distracted by looking at the map. Once the guards had fully walked away, Marshall walked over to Atticus and grabbed the map from him, taking a glance as well.
"You could've asked for it," Atticus replied, rolling his eyes.
"That was more fun," Marshall said, glancing up from the map and looking around the city. "We should head over to Silivia Square and get something to eat."
"We don't have any money. We also need to be careful where we go. In case you forgot, we're probably wanted criminals."
"Do you think we need money?" Marshall responded ignoring Atticus' other statement. "Just follow me."
The strong smell of freshly-cooked food filled the air as Atticus and Marshall turned around the corner of the street and headed near the café. The café was a large out-door restaurant lined with a circular counter wrapping around cooking machinery and cooks who were working steadily on their creations. The counter itself was covered in plates filled with food, with waiters calling out and people walking from sitting behind wooden tables placed in front and around the counter to get their orders. Above the counter, a large sign read AQUALUNG'S: SEAFOOD AND DAIRY.
"Like what the fuck?" Marshall eagerly said as they walked closer.
Atticus sighed, slamming his palm against his forehead. "You've been going on about those guards for ages now. You're driving me insane. Can't you focus on something else?"
"What can I say? Kailan wa—" Marshall exclaimed.
"I don't know? Explaining what a demon is? Locating Melissa and Savannah?"
"You don't know what a demon is, huh? I guess you really do have amnesia."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Atticus asked.
"Nothing. Let's find something to eat."
The two continued walking again, going to the counter and being handed two menus by a waitress.
"The food looks great," Atticus said, looking over the menu. "But we don't have any money, so—"
Marshall chuckled, throwing his head back slightly and looking over at Atticus. "We don't need money. Just keep quiet and I'll handle all of the talking."
After ordering food and sitting down at a table close to the counter, Marshall began small talk with Atticus, who sat on the other side of the table. Eventually, they received the meals they had ordered.
"How do you think the chicks are doing?" Marshall said as he chowed down on his shrimp paella.
Atticus stared back at Marshall, thinking over the question while holding his hand against the side of his face.
After a few minutes of silence, Atticus went back to eating his meal.
"Well?" Marshall asked.
"They are probably fine, wherever they are," Atticus said slowly. "They were already gone by the time we escaped from Mulciber."
"And what about Chris? Do you think he's still at Alchem?"
"He is probably still there," Atticus responded, picking up a piece of fried fish and biting into it. "There's no telling what that Gabriel Alchemilia guy wanted to talk to him about. Anyways, so this is Silivia?"
"Yeah," Marshall replied. "I, uh, live here. Yeah. It's a huge city, and pretty important in the war."
Upon completing their meal, Atticus stood up from the table and ran his hands down his face with a napkin. "Alright, so how are we going to pay now?"
"Uh," Atticus began, looking over his shoulder and back at the café. "We can't just steal food."
"We can and we did. It's called dining and dashing," Marshall said as he got up from the table as well. "Now let's go."
He began to walk away. "Either come with me or stand there looking like a fool."
As Atticus began to walk off with him, he heard a loud shout, clearly from a man, from behind. "Hey! You can't just leave without paying!"
"Shit!" Marshall exclaimed as he started to sprint off back towards the street they had come from.
Atticus began to follow him, hearing the shouts of the café workers as they started to run towards the two.
"Atticus, wait!" A female voice shouted, stopping Atticus in his tracks. Huh? He thought, How did they—
Something seemed familiar about the voice, but he couldn't recall where he had heard it.
"Dude, run!" Marshall yelled, looking back at him. Atticus, shaking his head, ignored the girl's shout and followed behind Marshall, disappearing into a crowd of people walking among the streets.
Marshall navigated through the crowds of people, occasionally looking back to see if Atticus was still behind him.
Finally, Marshall exited the crowd into an alleyway filled with trash. Seemingly losing the angry workers, Marshall seated himself on a crate located amongst the scattered trash.
Upon following, Atticus knelt to the ground next to the crate, placing his hand on it for support and watching the busy crowd flow passed the alleyway entrance.
"So, what are we going to do now that we're also street thieves? How are we even going to find the others?"
"Now? We run," Marshall looked around at his surroundings — few trash cans, bags, old newspapers, and a dumpster. Then he spotted some old clothes, hanging on the corner of the dumpster. "Here, put this on." He said as he handed Atticus a ragged beige shirt. Marshall fished another shirt out from the dumpster and quickly threw it on.
"What are you doing? Why do I need this?" Atticus asked, standing up and taking the shirt, looking down at it.
"Chances are we've already been reported to the cops," Marshall paused for a moment. "And with Alchemilia also looking for us, we need to look different."
"Maybe we should stay here for a bit and get some rest?" Atticus suggested as he quickly changed shirts. "I want to find the others just as much as you do, but we need to make sure we don't tire ourselves out."
Marshall nodded in agreement. "Yeah, uh-huh. I suggest we find somewhere to stay, unless you want to stay in this gross alleyway with the rats."
"I think staying here would be our best option for now."
Finishing his sentence, Atticus looked back out into the street, keeping an eye on anyone that came near. "By the way, there's something I want to mention to you. It's kind of bothering me."
"Shoot." Marshall asked. He got up and started looking around the dumpster and trash. He pulled up some cardboard. He laid the cardboard on some crates and grabbed some trash bags. He stuffed some paper trash into the bags and placed them on the cardboard.
"Well, earlier, when we were at the Aqualung café, I swear I heard a girl call my name. It's so weird. I can't make sense of it. Do you think she knows me? Maybe I live in this city too?"
"Don't think too much of it. Maybe there's just something wrong with your head," Marshall made another makeshift cardboard cot and pillow on the other side of the alleyway by the trash cans. "Well, besides the obvious thing."
Marshall fished a bottle from behind the dumpster and placed it by the trash cans. "Welcome to our new home. That's the toilet."
Atticus sat down on one of the crates and stared at the bottle with a blank expression, thinking over various insults to call Marshall over suggesting such a thing as their toilet.
"If you say so."
"Melissa, wake up. There's this man walking towards us."
Hearing Savannah's voice, Melissa opened her eyes. She was lying on a park bench, curled up still. Savannah sat on the bench next to her, and in front of them, a middle-aged man with solid white hair was approaching.
For a moment, the girls were startled as they remembered Gabriel Alchemilia and his similar-looking features. However, the man looked a bit older and noticeably shorter — around their height. He had a neatly groomed mustache and was dressed formally: a dark gray vest, collared shirt, and a blue tie.
Stopping in front of them, the man bent down and placed an arm on the bench. "Melissa, you've been gone quite a long time and you haven't contacted us at all." The sense of relief in his voice was strong.
"Do you know this man...?" Savannah asked.
"W-what? What do you mean? Do I know you?" Melissa asked, almost in unison, as she sat up on the bench.
"What, Melissa?" The man reeled back, confused. "Of course, I'm your uncle. Never mind the contact part, I'm just glad you are okay. Who is your friend here?"
"My uncle? What are you talking about?" Melissa wrapped her arms around herself, feeling lost.
Sitting on the bench next to her, the man surveyed her. "Oh dear, I fear there is something wrong."
Shifting away from him, Melissa replied. "I don't know who you are! I don't even know where I am, who I am, or anything."
"She has amnesia," Savannah said. "I'm Savannah Whitesmith, I met her recently and I've been trying to get her some help."
"I see, thank you for your help," the features on the man's face turned into a look of pity at this moment and he reached over and pulled Melissa into an embrace.
He began to speak slowly. "Listen, you're Melissa Devlin, my niece. Right now, you're in Silivia, the largest and most well-known city in Thales. I'm Richard Devlin, your uncle, and I run a laboratory here. Is this clear? Walk with me. I know Steven will be so happy to see you."
Pulling back from the embrace, Melissa stared at him as he got up from the bench, processing the information he told her.
"If we're family, do you know what happened to me then? Why I was on my own? I woke up in a barn yesterday randomly."
"No, dear. All we know is that you left about a year ago, after I sent you on an errand to buy some candles. We've been so worried about you."
"We?" Melissa asked.
"Yes, we. You'll see soon," Richard looked at the girl quivering in front of him. "You look exhausted and cold. Come, Savannah."
Melissa and Savannah paused and looked at each other for a moment, before both of them got up.
"How far are we walking?" Savannah asked. "I've never been to Silivia before."
"Then welcome!" Richard exclaimed. "Where do you live?"
"I live in Gladea, I found Melissa in a barn there."
"Gladea? Why would she go near there? We aren't that far, I'd say. Perhaps ten minutes from here," Richard replied. "I take a walk here every morning from there."
"Alright," Melissa replied.
"Come, walk with me." Richard said. The two girls proceeded to follow him.
As the trio walked, they spoke to each other. "Did you ever get the candles?" Richard asked.
"Oh never mind. I'm just happy you are here."
"Weird," Savannah muttered.
They passed a medical center, very geometric in shape, with multiple buildings — including a small brown one to the side. It looked well-lit for being the early morning hours and had an abundance of windows. Several ambulances were parked outside under the entrance canopy.
"What's this?" Savannah asked.
"That would be the Silivian Masquerade Hospital, the largest hospital in Silivia. I read somewhere it used to be the old site of Panacea University centuries ago. It was then renovated to become a hospital shortly after the outbreak of the Second Great War. I shouldn't bore you with a history lesson. Sometimes, when I finish my work, I visit patients there. I always thought it seemed a bit lonely, wouldn't you agree?" Richard explained. He stopped to admire the bright building, then continued onward.
"I think that's very noble of you," Savannah said.
Dawn began to break and lit the front the building in front of the three.
"Is this where I live?" Melissa thought.
Richard smiled as they walked up along the sidewalk and stood outside a large black iron gate, an enormous white building located behind it. After Richard unlocked it, the trio began to descend down a blue and white checkered pathway and stopped at columned entrance of the building. Nodding, he pulled his keys from his waist and they entered.
Beyond the hallway, the inside was vast, with light blue walls and a white floor. Several tables lined the place, chairs scattered around. High-tech computers were placed atop the tables, with various people working on them. A large staircase was placed in the middle of the room and continued to a higher floor. Assistants were typing away at most of the computers, others worked at counters with equipment.
"Welcome to the Laboratory of the Unexplainable," Richard exclaimed proudly.
"Woah, this place is cool," Savannah remarked.
"Why is it named the Laboratory of the Unexplainable?" Melissa asked, suddenly distrusting.
"We investigate the things most scientists can't even begin to understand. The strange phenomena throughout Euclid. The 'unexplainable'. Come, it might be easier to show you," Richard explained.
Melissa paused hesitantly, before speaking again. "Alright, show us."
Just then, a tall blonde-haired young man walked in from a door on the right of them. He had multiple files in his hands and seemed intent on searching through them as he walked. The man appeared to be around Melissa's age, and wore a long lab coat over a casual green shirt and gray pants.
Bumping into Richard by accident, he looked up from his work and instantly started to apologize. "Uncle, I'm so sorry. I was just—"
He was then interrupted by Richard. "You're fine, Steven, but—" the older man then beckoned towards Melissa and Savannah.
The man, Steven, looked towards her and stepped back in surprise. "Melissa, you're here!"
He dropped all of his files and jumped towards her, hugging her tightly.
She shoved him off her, stepping back. "Don't do that please. Who are you?"
"It's me, Steven," he said, confusion heavy in his voice. "Your brother...?"
Lost and confused, Chris Wellington took a look at the building he was in. It appeared to be some sort of vacant bookstore. After escaping from Alchemilia, he found his way to this city and eventually took refuge in this building for the night.
Warily stepping outside of it, he found himself once again on a busy street. Maybe he could keep a low-profile in this city, until he had managed to find his companions, assuming they were in this large city. A young man with brown hair and a gray jacket approached him.
"Excuse me, sir, are you lost?"
"My precise coordinates are unidentifiable, so absolutely," Chris backed away, a bit bothered that the man was inching towards him.
"I'm not gonna hurt you, just saying, a lot of people are lost these days. Mighty funny way of talking you got there." The man said.
"And your appellation is...?" Chris began.
"Oh, sorry, my name is Lewis Johnson. I'm an employee at the Laboratory of the Unexplainable." The man replied.
"And what brings you here?" Chris asked. "Considering you work in a laboratory?"
"Well, you see," Lewis replied. "I was actually picking up some beakers for my boss, Doctor Richard Devlin. He's been having a hard time since his niece disappeared and we've been trying to help him with the shopping."
"I beg your pardon," Chris began. "But am I supposed to know who Richard Devlin is?"
"Indeed. Doctor Devlin is quite respected around these parts," Lewis answered.
"Does anyone else work at your laboratory?" Chris asked.
"Hm, let's see. There's me, of course. And then there's Beth Darwin," the man continued to go on and list various names. "His nephew, Steven, also works there. Which is surprising, I thought he'd have quit after Melissa disappeared."
"What did Melissa look like?" Chris wondered. He recalled that his companion, Melissa, also seemed to be lost.
"Well, she's kinda short, and has dirty blonde hair."
"Oh, really?" Chris asked.
"Yep. These are some unusual questions, but those beakers won't buy themselves. It was nice to meet you, but I have to get going," Lewis said, walking away.
Could it be the same Melissa? Chris thought. I wonder if she's okay now. She seemed to be in rough shape, along with Atticus Anoethite.
Chris also wondered what had become of Savannah and that Token boy who had hitched a ride with them. Feeling a sense of resolve, Chris walked into the streets and continued forward.
Baptiste eyed the golden fields surrounding eastern Silivia as he hung out of his small aircraft, an Alchemilia hummingbird. Before long, his troop had flown over the city, and the nine of them were preparing to drop. In groups of three, the armored soldiers exited the aircraft and entered into freefalls. Baptiste reviewed the images of the various fugitives, before jumping himself.
When he reached the ground, he quickly discarded his parachute and reunited with his subordinates. By the time he had reached them, however, an elderly member of the Greater Silivian Metro Police had accosted the Alchemilia employees.
"What is the meaning of this!?" he shouted, "You got no right comin' here like you own the place."
"Shut it, old man," one of the soldiers responded. "We're here on direct assignment from Alchemilia himself." The old man quieted down. "Does that change things?"
The man stepped back, "W-Well..."
"Hey," Baptiste responded. "It's going to be fine. We're just dealing with something very important that was stolen from him. It'll take a few hours at most."
As the old man conceded, scores of civilians ran past the group. Baptiste calmed his men, who were growing annoyed at the interruptions.
"Listen, a couple hours, in and out, and you get to put this on your resumes. It's not like we'll mess this up."
The group chuckled at the idea, and continued down Silivia's streets.