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Rated: 13+ · Novel · Sci-fi · #2216357
Rivin and Roya finally talk, but answers only bring forth even more convoluted questions.

Chapter 9

Rivin

"So," Samantha began as she sipped on her cup of hot chocolate. "Where do we begin?"

It was now seven in the evening. Seven hours since we hurriedly evacuated the motel, and was promptly picked up by Roya to hide out beneath the church - which was coincidentally where Roya was first spotted back in the document - despite Samantha's obvious dissatisfaction. She had told me earlier that this was where she found Roya, and where she met her first Aerilosac.

It was not her first encounter with an Aerilosac, though. That driver was also one, we just didn't know it at the time. I know now, and for whatever reason, I just couldn't understand how I know.

Everyone except for Sister wanted to talk the moment we secured ourselves in the old-fashioned basement-slash-crypt of the church, but Roya and I were both too blasted to go on. Our sickness paralleled to each other, and after nearly two hours of complaining, we settled to different spots of the basement where we couldn't see each other and slept.

Sleeping with the pain was difficult as well. My head throbbed and felt like they were going to burst like a bubble more times than once during the rough hours, though once we did fall asleep, we did not wake up. It was about as peaceful a sleep as I could ever ask for. That was until Samantha forcefully woke both of us up five minutes ago.

And now here we all were. Samantha and I had found the very person we inadvertently set out to find, and Roya was... here. I still could not look him in the face for long before getting fits of coughing that didn't cease until I looked away, and so, we sat side by side where we would not need to see each other. The semi-old woman who we all called 'Sister' sat by the side of the basement, and continued to stare at us silently. I wondered what was up with her.

"You begin," my twin said as he pointed to Samantha. Even his voice sounded similar to mines, though it was obviously sore from the same sickness that we shared. "You two were the ones who barged into my life."

Samantha wanted to rebuke, but I stopped her before she made a big fuss about it.

"No, he's right, we should explain." I rasped.

Roya and I shared a grin, and for a moment there, it felt like we really were twins.

"Basically, we are both Raixiens from Oakwood. It's a small town, the details aren't important. We came here because we found a document about you, and we wanted to investigate by ourselves. Lo and behold," I said.

"Oh," Roya said simply, and he leaned back in his plastic chair. "Okay. Cool. I'm more curious about why I suddenly got pneumonia and Parkinson's, though."

Not even half a minute into our conversation, I clapped my hands to interrupt my twin.

Time to stop him there.

I still remembered the voice's parting words to me. Do not tell anyone about him, and only keep our conversation between us. Though I didn't know who 'us' entailed, I figured that if I wanted to figure out a way to relieve my pain,

I needed Roya to be on the same page as me, even if I couldn't let Samantha in on it. Not yet, at least.

"Alright, to the side we go." I stood up and dragged Roya's chair away from Samantha, who was kind enough not to pursue us.

I sat down on my own chair slightly turned so I didn't have to face Roya, and found that I didn't need to force myself to whisper, my voice already hoarse. "You know it isn't actually pneumonia, right?"

"No shit." Roya replied, and I blinked. Sister roared at Roya for his crude use of words.

We were really alike.

"Did you also get a dream?" I asked.

"What dream?"

"This morning. Did a voice talk to you in your dreams?"

"That would imply that I sleep comfortably enough for dreams to come to me." Roya joked, and I high-fived as we discovered something in common once again. "But no, to answer your question, I didn't have a dream. Tell me."

So I did. I recalled to him discretely about the bizarre dream that I had, and I studied his face as my story progressed. There was absolutely no reaction at all, as if he had already assumed something like this would happen. His eyes were far stretched out in front of him when I took a peek at his face, and once I finished the story, he simply nodded and drew his head up in thought.

"So this sickness of ours... He said that this was suffering we both must share because we exist together? And that one of us needs to die in order to cure this pain." He summarised, which I suppose was the only truly important think to take away from my recollection. It affected us now, and ever since Samantha woke me up back at the motel, I had taken what the voice had said very seriously.

"Uh huh."

"It sounds like a load of crap," he finally said. "Let's think about this ourselves, yeah? It's logical deduction time."

"Brainstorming time, you mean."

"No, logical deduction time. And hurry, before your sister or whatever gets impatient and shoot us both." Roya pointed at Samantha, who is now pacing around the basement, overturning stone tablets and dusty vases of flowers while Sister gave her a tour guide.

"Okay, you go first."

"This pain of ours began at around noon today, right? And not before that," he said.

"Yep."

"What time did the two of you arrive here in Chicago?"

"This morning, around six."

"That means we were in close vicinity to each other the entire time, because I was here when it was six in the morning, sleeping soundly. And yet-"

"The sickness didn't plague us until I had that dream." I said, my mind starting to connect two and two together.

"And that was also when I think I started to have the pain, too. So, we can agree that you having that dream was the catalyst to all this."

"Yep. And it was after I had that dream did vicinity between us both affected the degree and intensity of our pain." We both nodded to this, and I was sure he noticed it too. We only managed to fall asleep after we all escaped to this basement by moving our sleeping spots as far away as possible from each other. The pain didn't lessen by much, but it was noticeable enough for me to sleep.

"Why would that be?" Roya muttered. "Any thoughts on why the voice was the catalyst to this?"

"No idea. I don't think we should be thinking about that right now. I know next to nothing about that voice, and jumping to conclusions this early would not help in any way. We should be discussing how we could relieve this pain. Without killing each other as suggested, of course."

"Right. That would disregard the entire reason why you two came here to Chicago. I agree, we need to solve the problem."

"Damn. We're making very good progress. I like your directness." I noted.

Roya laughed, though it was more of a gasp of pain than something joyful. "Self-compliment. Nice."

This was around the time Samantha had enough, and shouted over to us while Sister tried to shush her down. "Are you two done whispering to yourselves yet? I'm still here, you know!"

Both of us accidentally looked at each other, and a wave of nausea rolled over us so violently that we ended up tipping over the side of our chairs, the sudden feeling completely unexpected. Despite that, Samantha pointed at us and laughed while Sister rushed forward to help Roya up. I glared at my sister for being oh so supportive, but eventually picked myself up to form a triangle of Raixiens.

She was right; while I did care about our sickness and how to beat it, there was another pressing concern which required everyone's hearts and minds, and we needed everyone to first be on the same page. That included Sister, who joined our triangle of chairs with her own.

"Self-introduction time." Sister clapped her hands cheerfully. "Hello, children. I am Sister, and you may call me as such."

"You don't look much like one." I pointed at her robes. "And why are we calling you Sister if you aren't a nun?"

She made a rather childish face at me and smiled at me sweetly. "Kids these days, questioning everything and not doing what they were told to do. Come on now, introduce yourself to the group!"

I sighed, and couldn't resist snorting at the situation I found myself in.

"Hi, my name is Rivin." I didn't say I was a Raixien. The Sister seemed like a human, and I found no signs of her being anything else. Though she seemed to be the one taking care of Roya, she might not know of his true nature. Or any of ours. For that reason, we'd all have to tread a little bit more carefully than usual.

Then, as if Sister could read my mind, she chuckled.

"My goodness, you already were this thoughtful at your age. Don't worry, Rivin. I know your strange ability. You can speak freely here, I won't tell," she said, which made Samantha flinch and look over at her strangely. Huh. "It's your turn, Samantha. Introduce yourself to the group."

"You already mentioned my name out loud to everyone, so there's no point in doing that again." Samantha rebuked. "I'm Rivin's older sister, though. The more you know."

"And I am Roya." Roya said frankly. "Good, now we all know each other's names. Let's just get to the point."

"Agreed," everyone said in unison.

I took it as my opportunity to talk about Samantha and I, since no one else seemed to want to say anything first. I wasn't sure where to start other than when we discovered that cavern underneath our house in Oakwood, and my explanation wasn't as long as I thought it was.

I stopped talking halfway through to let Samantha pick up the story, since I was asleep while she got chased around by Aerilosacs, and what she said was new to me, too.

Roya and I especially took it all in stride. Sister didn't seem too invested in our long and detailed recollection of what exactly transpired from last night to today, and began to count her own wrinkled fingers in solitude. It perturbed me to no end. She was like a child stuck in an old woman's body.

Learning that Samantha had essentially duelled an Aerilosac with a kitchen knife made me want to scream at her for being reckless, before I realized that our entire journey here was exactly that when we said it out loud. Nevertheless, I made the split-second choice to come here, and now, we might just die here without mom ever knowing where we went.

It was pretty obvious in hindsight, too. What else could the golden dots have meant?

And mom knew about it for... how long? When was that cavern made? When did that map come online on that computer?

That explained why mom continuously forced us to train as if we were fighting Aerilosacs despite our complaints of it being useless. Because it wasn't useless. They were practical simulations of what our lives might one day be, and thanks to us coming here, the two of us fifteen year-olds just jumpstarted our running-away career. Could mom have planned and anticipated that beforehand? Why didn't she tell us?

Once Samantha and I finished our story up to when we met Roya, it was the Chicago duo's turn.

"See, I can tell you what I did that drew the Aerilosac's attention to me. But before that, we need to start from the beginning. I'm sure you two are very curious about why I exist. Yet, I am also equally as intrigued by you two existing, plus your mother. We need to clear things up first." Roya said, and we all nodded. "I'll go first. Sister, can you help me tell them? I think you have a better memory of it than me."

Was that a lie?

That felt like a lie.

Sister finally pulled her head up, and an aura of... something washed over my headache, nullifying the pain for just a brief moment.

"It's true that I am no nun." Sister raised a finger as if she were lecturing us all. "But I have worked with Southeast Unity Church for a long time now, and I am the primary caretaker for Roya here."

"Since when?" I asked. "You're not a Raixien like us."

"No. No, I am not. Unlike your mother, I am just a normal human given access to this archaic crypt under the Church for me to use as I see fit. I am not married, and Roya is not my son."

"No shit." Samantha muttered, and Sister shushed her. Huh. She didn't yell at her for using vulgar languages unlike how she did with Roya. Guest-right, perhaps. There was an awkward pause between all of us, as Sister seemed to have lost her words for a brief while. We Raixiens stared at her uncomfortably, and that was when she continued on.

"It was fifteen years ago when I found Roya lying on the steps to this church. I tried to find his parents, but I couldn't find them. He was bundled up so cutely, you'd never have imagined this was the same guy!" Roya shot Sister a menacing glare, and the two of them shared a laugh afterwards. "He was an orphan. And I took him in to live with me here, underneath the basement."

"That can't be right." I said.

"Hm?"

"Roya, you must have been to school, right? So what did you put-"

Roya cut me off. "No."

Samantha and I tilted our heads simultaneously. "Huh?"

This was when Roya started to fidget in his own chair, and I frowned to myself.

"No, I'm not going to school. For as long as I can remember, I'd been stealing money off of people and businesses, and nothing else." Roya reaffirmed us, and we all looked over to Sister for her explanation. She shrugged, and looked back at us innocently.

"What?" Sister said. "There never was a need for him to go to school. Him helping out at the church and performing good deeds for the community is far better than going to some silly after-school club. He learns everything from me, and that's good enough."

"You mean you're home-schooled. At a church." I pointed at. "Also, how ironic is it that you're stealing and doing good deeds for the community at the same time?"

Roya and Sister both nodded seriously, and I wondered if they really thought keeping Roya home-schooled was a good idea. Mom recognized the need for Samantha and I to go to a normal school so we could mix in with normal people better, and she was right, but Sister just kept Roya around? And she has no problems with Roya walking down a path of crime?

What a strange woman.

"So that's how you two lived your lives, then. Does anyone else know about you, Roya?" I asked.

"Do you want to know if I have any friends?" Roya belted out in laughter, and immediately tipped back in his chair to stop the blood from spurting out of his nose. "Ha. But no. I don't have friends."

Samantha gave him a thumbs down. "That's so depressing. You're just like Rivin."

I ignored the indirect jibe at me, and proceeded to summarise everything that he had told me so far, plus a little bit of patch-working inside my own head just to fill in the blank spaces in his rather sparse but adequate explanation. It wasn't hard. All I had to do was make a few educated - and I mean common sensed - guesses here and there and I could figure out his story.

"You were home-schooled by Sister for fifteen years since she took you in as an orphan. You'd lived a life thinking you were the only Raixien on Earth, and Sister knows it too. You stole money from businesses for..." I trailed off to let Roya fill in the blanks.

"For... uh, the good of mankind. I also used most of the money for donations to the church, so you can't label me as the bad guy, alright?" He coughed, and I rolled my eyes.

"For the good of mankind. Then, for whatever stupid ass reason, you decided to go and steal some alien tech from the Aerilosac? Why?" I questioned.

Samantha and I had mom to teach us about our Parallel Eyes and our history. That was how we came to know about the Aerilosac, since the eradication and destruction of our people happened over fifty years ago. We know because someone had told us.

How about Roya? Sister is just a human, so she wouldn't know. Roya would have had to learn how to use his Parallel Eye all by himself, and somehow, he grew up knowing his specialty in all its glory? How would he know that he is a Raixien? How would he know about the Aerilosac? He should not have the knowledge that we do, but somehow, he does. And I got the feeling that he knew about the Aerilosac being on Earth longer than we do.

I gave my twin the stare, and as if our minds were linked together in a hive-mind, he responded to my silent questions first.

"The better question is, why I know everything that I know. I don't have a Raixien mother like you two do. I don't even know who my parents are. That's what you two are thinking, right?" He pointed out, which made Samantha freeze. I simply smiled and egged him to go on. "The thing is, I didn't know all of this until last night."

"Explain." I pressed him.

"To make it clear: I knew about my own ability to predict movements. I always knew I was different. I just didn't know that I was a 'Raixien' and had 'Parallel Eyes' before I saw Samantha at the church. I also didn't know they were 'Aerilosacs' until I went into that warehouse. Those three terms just flew into my head. Why do you think that is?" He proposed, though I already knew the answer to the question.

"Vicinity." I said to Samantha, who seemed to be utterly confused and had half her brain circuits fried. It contradicted the private conversation Roya and I had earlier, that vicinity was the trigger to the sickness, but this wasn't about the sickness. This was about Roya suddenly gaining knowledge to things he shouldn't have knowledge about. And looking back at the time at which he got his knowledge, it matched up with his contact with us aliens.

He didn't know about Raixiens and Parallel Eyes until Samantha entered his vision. He didn't know about the Aerilosacs either until he must've broken into the warehouse. I could conclude that seeing us and the Aerilosacs was the catalyst for him gaining his knowledge...

... But now my head also started to hurt, and I wanted to just plop down on my mattress and fall asleep again.

"Correct. It wasn't until I laid eyes on all of you personally that I knew the correct terms for everything. Call it intuition or black magic if you will, I just know. That's not the point, though." Roya said. "You want to know why I decided to steal from the Aerilosac even after I learned about their true nature."

"It has something to do with the deal you made with the insurgents. Tell us about that." I asked.

Roya followed up perfectly. "Yep. To make it clear, after I broke in and saw the first patrolling guard, I was already panicking and getting ready to bolt. I thought I made my successful escape, but I didn't. I was caught by that Aerilosac guy, and he made a deal with me, the infamous phantom thief of Chicago."

"What deal?"

"He never mentioned the terms 'Raixien' and 'Parallel Eyes' to me, but he referred to it as my ability. He wanted me to break back into the warehouse the following night and steal the latest shipment from somewhere, and hide out with the wares for three days without getting caught."

"Wait, so you learned of the Aerilosacs two days ago, and not last night?" I had to clarify. "And you broke back in twice?"

"Honestly, they had a shitty security system." Sister hissed and barked at Roya again, and he sighed. "And yes, that was two days ago. I imagine it was before you and Samantha discovered your secret cavern."

"Alright, I can get that. What's your reward for the deal?"

"My reward?" Roya grinned tiredly. "I should rephrase it. It wasn't a deal. It was an order from them for me to do it, or else they would personally find and kill me. They would have been able to do that, too, so really, I had no choice. The trap was getting caught in the first place."

"And Sister, did you do nothing about it? Why did you let him continue stealing? Why didn't you try to send Roya away from the city?" I switched over to face her.

It wasn't about actually escaping. It would have been near impossible with the Aerilosacs on lockdown and with the insurgent Aerilosacs threat, but did she not try at all once Roya came back with a mystery crate?

Sister blinked.

"I never doubted that my little child would lose to someone. He always finds his way out of a tough spot, and that's why he's still here to help me!" she said joyfully.

What?

Roya laughed and wiped his eyes groggily, before moving out of his chair to hug Sister. She hugged right back at him, and suddenly, the same aura that soothed me earlier returned.

It was a touching sight for anyone but us to behold.

On one hand, it was wonderful to see how much trust Sister placed on her orphan. Mom would instantly rein both Samantha and I in the moment we mentioned we were in some sort of danger, and would have refused to let us do anything about it. On the other hand, it was a little irresponsible of her to let Roya be in this potentially fatal situation without doing anything about it. I wondered if Sister was senile - it didn't seem like it, but looks can deceive - and perhaps doesn't fully understand the gravity of everything that's going on.

I still allowed myself to feel a little bit of bliss, though, seeing Sister and Roya embrace each other like that. It was wholesome, and I'd leave it at that. Nothing more.

"Let's get back on topic." Samantha impatiently broke their happy little bubble, and Roya finally detached himself from his foster mother to sit back down. "The deal was for you to steal something from the Aerilosac and hide it here for three days. If you do that, then they won't kill you."

"Yep."

"Why three days? What did you steal?" Samantha demanded.

Roya shrugged. "I don't know. They told me not to open the crate either. All they provided me was two things: One, they needed me to steal the crate so the Aerilosac guy can become the new general, or something like that. Two, they gave me a button for me to press if something goes south during the three days of hiding." He reached into his pockets and drew out a little yellow button the size of a... well, a button. He passed it over to Samantha to inspect for herself.

"Where's the crate, then?" Samantha asked.

Roya turned back on his chair and looked around the basement-slash-crypt, and pointed at a rectangular-shaped box hiding underneath a muddy old tarp next to what seemed like a stone sarcophagus. I pulled Samantha back to her chair as she tried to walk over to it. We needed to finish talking before we do anything.

I squinted at Roya, hard.

"You weren't supposed to get discovered during the three day hiding period, right?" I asked.

"Yep."

"And you did."

"I never miss my daily prayer session. It was the devil himself that cursed me with the misfortune that Samantha would walk in with an Aerilosac in tow." He scowled at my sister, and she scowled back. "Thanks, by the way."

"Hey, no problem." Samantha replied, and the two refused to look at each other.

Goddamnit. Why must they fight now?

"But you know what that means." I said grouchily. "All of us attracted the attention of the Aerilosacs - all of them in Chicago - which wasn't supposed to happen. Plus, you angered that Aerilosac that purposefully let us escape seven hours ago. What are the chances that he'd let you and all of us live after this incident?"

Roya nodded. "Practically zero. He'd definitely kill all of us after I hand the stolen wares over to him and his group. I'd be straight up dumb if I hadn't thought about that since he made the 'deal' with me."

All three of us Raixiens sitting grimaced. Sister merely chuckled and stood up before she left to go back upstairs for something. She definitely did not find this serious at all.

"We're all caught up now." Samantha noted. "All of us are on the same page, yeah?"

"Yep." Roya and I answered as one.

"Then we need to discuss about how we're going to send the Aerilosacs to hell."





As I sipped on my fourth cup of English tea given to me graciously by Sister, I wondered how many cups I would have to drink before it was considered copious. I despised coffee, unlike most kids back in my high school. I found the bitter taste irredeemable, and no amount of sugar could ever take away that initial bitterness. Tea was the next best alternative for me, and so, I felt just right at home when Sister pulled the cord on the water boiler and carried it down into the basement for us to use, along with a box of cheap tea bags that Roya and I have practically ripped through within five hours.

It was now midnight. Sister went ahead and made us all delectable chicken dishes from the church kitchen, since we were deathly afraid of resurfacing above if we didn't really need to. The basement of this church, despite its archaic looks, had everything a cave dweller would ever want: A bathroom with flowing tap water that we could collect in a bucket and splash over ourselves, a table with a functional desktop, and though there was no air conditioning, there were fans placed all over to provide air flow.

At the moment, Samantha was taking her time cleaning herself off in the bathroom, and if I paid close enough attention, I could hear her cursing at the water tap for getting stuck every five seconds. To that, I simply laughed as I laid on my mattress tucked away in the corner of the basement, and enjoyed hearing my sister despair in her modern-day struggles. It wasn't every day that we got to experience using water buckets for shower, and I found it to be quite interesting.

Roya had spent the last two hours surfing the internet, and my god was he so silent in his pursue of worldly knowledge. I had attempted to peer over his shoulders to see what he was so engrossed in, but it only turned out to be him browsing some news app. Last I checked, he was reading an article about a meteor estimated to land in Hong Kong in the next day or two. I had no idea why he was so interested in it, but everyone has their own interest. Just because we were twins didn't mean we had to like the same thing.

That was something I wanted to talk about, and Roya had promised to get off the computer three minutes ago. I'm going mad from the lack of Wi-Fi on my phone, which meant I basically ran out of things to do early on after our talk. The sickness gradually lessened in intensity, but it was still there, churning in my stomach and threatening to make me throw up my dinner at any time.

We had a plan for tomorrow. And we should be sleeping again, especially for me and Roya in our current... condition. This plan of ours needed to succeed if we wanted to have any chance of living through the next few days. It would be risky and dangerous, but it was a combined effort from all three of us Raixiens with our knowledge on the Aerilosac. It needs to work.

I pumped my fists in the empty air when Roya finally seemed to realize that it was three past midnight, and whirled around in his roller chair before he scooted it over towards me. I sat up on my mattress to face him properly.

Then both of us coughed into our fists and blinked rapidly to shake away the nausea. Still can't look at him in the face. We ended up centring our eyes on somewhere else.

"What are your ideas on us?" I started. "What do you think we are?"

Roya thought about it. "Based on what you found in your underground documents, I was first spotted around this church. Nothing strange, since I live here. Was there anything indicative in that file about me?"

"No, nothing that I can particularly remember. Mom had your exact measurements, though, and she knew that you had our ability. Speaking of, how many-"

"One second. Never past that." He answered in a hurry.

"Why would that be?" I mused. "I thought I would be a lot more surprised to find a twin in the next state. I guess I'm a little sicker in the head than I thought."

"Ha. Nice." We high-fived each other again, but Roya was the first to turn back into serious business mode. "But really, I have no clue. Not a single bit. It also didn't make sense that you had a Raixien mom, because I was an orphan delivered to the steps of this church."

"That's another question. Who delivered you, and who were your parents? It can't be my mom."

"It could be." Roya frowned.

"No."

"It could be."

"Fine. It could be." I threw my hands in the air. "But it's likely improbable, because on that world map, I saw five purple dots including myself. If all those dots represent 'us', then that would mean all of the other dots are our identical twins. Does that mean mom gave birth to all of them and then mail delivered them world-wide?"

Neither of us said anything for a second, and then we burst out laughing at our own imaginations of babies being stuffed in envelops. That would be hilarious.

In the midst of his own laughter, Roya spoke. "Alright, when you say it like that, it makes a bit more sense. There's something fishy going on with how we look alike and have practically the same-"

"Train of thought. The last similarity would be our-"

"One second limit on our Parallel Eyes." Roya finished, and we grinned madly to ourselves. It was an unnatural high. Never have I been able to finish someone else's sentences like I just did, and the fact that Roya did the same thing back to me was amazing. I forgot all about the dangers of tomorrow for a moment there to truly take in the incredulous situation I found myself in.

An identical twin! Hah! I would never have thought that.

"That's the thing. From now on, we need to be on the lookout for these sort of things, hints or clues about ourselves. I haven't told Samantha about the voice, and I don't plan to, so we have to do it by ourselves," I said.

Roya did not question why I didn't want to tell anyone else about the dream I had. I knew Samantha knew I had a nightmare, but if I can continue to stave the topic off and distract her from it, I'm certain she would forget all about it soon. I could also sense that Roya wanted to know more about it, but frankly, I didn't want to talk about it just yet.

It was terrifying, and I saw no point in trying to relive any more of that than I needed to. Even if it claimed to be on my side. Roya saw this, and chose to get off his chair to sit down beside me on the mattress.

"But whatever the case, we need to reach a consensus now," Roya said grimly, and our eyes flickered to the sound of Samantha humming a tune in the distant bathroom. "Before she comes out."

"What consensus?"

"The cure to our sickness. If what the voice said was true, this is happening because of us co-existing. It implies we're not supposed to co-exist."

"So you want to listen to him and kill one of us? We need to properly assess how far we take this before we even consider that. Which, by the way, means one of us has to die." Roya squinted at my jibe at him, and I snorted. He can't really be thinking about that right now.

"And we will. We'll test our own limits, but in the worst-case scenario, if we don't get the chance to do so because of the Aerilosacs, then we need to prepare ourselves." My twin looked up at the brick ceiling, as if he were listening for footsteps above ground. "We must always prepare for the worst-case scenario, otherwise, we'll be caught off guard again."

I scowled. While I wanted to say there was likely more than one solution to revitalize ourselves, I understood the need to reach a consensus now. We were being boxed in by Aerilosacs in such a small area that we wouldn't be able to properly test how far we can get away from each other and still feel completely fine. If we didn't have this problem with freedom right now, I would not have worried about death from existential plague.

But as things were, we might not even live through tomorrow. Hell, maybe they'd raid us in our sleep tonight. I could get used to the nausea and the headache and the pain now, but there's no telling how much damage it could do tomorrow. And the day after. What if I needed to physically defend myself, but found myself unable to do so because I was hindered by this frailty? It was a ticking bomb, and I didn't know how much time we had left. If only that voice was more specific in his words...

"Alright, then." I finally sighed. "What do we do?"

"We need to agree on this: If we are corned so badly where fighting is the only resort left, then we will kill one of us," Roya said firmly, and I wondered how he could so easily say that. "Agreed?"

"Yeah, agreed. Who will it be? Which one of us will have to die?" Saying the word out loud was also another thing. I never thought I'd had to consider death at my own age, and I always assumed I'd be fine with it when the time comes.

But I wasn't ready for it. Just the thought of getting shot and sent into the afterlife scared me. It felt sickening to imagine myself dying so early. There was so much that I wanted to do-

What do I want to do, though?

Why do I want to cling onto life that badly?

I scoffed to myself abruptly, which made Roya frown in confusion. I was also surprised at my own thoughts, and waved them away as I listened to Roya talk.

"It's not like we're going to shoot each other or stab our throats out. We'd take stock of the situation, figure out what the best course of action is, and then we'd make our decision on the spot," he said quietly, and my eyes darted over to him despite the headache.

He was shaking, too. It was subtle, and one could easily miss it from how confidently he spoke about killing what was essentially himself.

Did seeing that make me feel better about myself?

"Yeah. Yeah, I can work with that," I managed to say, and before he could respond, Samantha kicked the bathroom door open. As my sister started to fling complaints to Roya about the water tap and the lack of hygiene in the bathroom, I spotted Sister thundering down the stairs into our basement. She had both her arms crossed, and stared at all of us with a murdering gaze.

Oh no.

My Eyes. I couldn't predict her movements at all.

"All of you will go to bed right this instant!" she roared, and like obedient little children, all three of us Raixiens scrambled into our respective mattresses while Sister trotted over next to the bathroom wall to flick off the ambient orange lights. She continued to scold us even as she closed the lights. "I can't believe it! It's midnight, and you're still making big noises downstairs? Can't you let a sister like me sleep peacefully?"

"In our defence, it was Samantha who was using the shower. Roya and I finished showering super long ago," I said, and Sister whirled on me. She hurled a pillow she picked up from Roya's mattress at me, but I caught it in mid-air to hurl it back at her.

Sister laughed and reached down to hug Roya as the lights flicked off. Even in the dark, I could make out both of their figures as a small beam of moonlight pierced in through a slit in the roof, and I smiled. It was so heart-warming, and no one can tell me otherwise.

"Goodnight, my little child" she whispered. Then, she stood up straight and spoke to both Samantha and I. "And goodnight to you all, future children. Rest well and win tomorrow!"

Sister left us all alone in the crypt of God, and for once, I prayed that I didn't go to sleep lest I encounter the voice once again.

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