Chapter 5: Who Wants to go Explore?
“It’s been twenty-four hours since the shining domes appeared all over the world and not a single government has found an answer for them.” The reporter moved aside from the shot as the camera zoomed in into the humongous purple dome at the distance. “As you can see the intelligence service has cordoned off the whole area and hundreds of the blue agents guard it to prevent any civilian from approaching the dangerous structure. But they still provide no answers for the hundreds of families missing their children.”
The camera then zoomed in into the woman’s face as she continued her speech. “The investigation on the thousands of residents that found themselves removed from the streets, their homes, vehicles and workplaces and thrown unconscious all over the edges of the dome continues against their will in order to ‘ensure they’re out of danger’, as intelligence executive Diana Rodriguez announced this morning. We’ll continue reporting on that and all new findings here, in Valevision news.”
“Nice work.” The cameraman put down the camera.
“Yeah…” The reporter nodded absentmindedly as she stared at the dome in the distance.
“Don’t worry, Alisa, your father will come back safely.” The cameraman approached her and lifted his hand to pat her shoulder.
“I’m not worried about the geezer.” She turned her head suddenly and looked at the man with a scoff.
“Oh…” The cameraman stopped his hand midair and used it to scratch the back of his neck.
“It’s those jerks at RMTV that get me.” Alisa went back to look at the dome. “They whored themselves to get access to the area right in front of the dome.” She pointed at a news van and filming crew just a few meters away from the dome and the intelligence agents. “You’ll definitely hear nothing bad about the way the intelligence institute is handling things, that’s for sure.”
“Right…” The cameraman muttered.
“The old man will be fine anyways.” She smiled wryly. “He always finds a way to keep himself from getting hurt, at whatever cost.”
“Ugh.” I groaned as I brought my aching body up from the cold and hard ground.
It had been the worst night of my life and hurting all over my body wasn’t even the main reason.
All night I jumped at the slightest sound and woke up just to find it was nothing but more people arriving at the plaza or just the wind. That repeated for at least five times until morning came and as if that was not enough, just turning sideways on the brick floor caused me pain. One of the biggest mercies of sleeping in such rough conditions was that goblins never even came close to the plaza as if repelled by magic.
I also had a way of making the pain go away, so that part was really not that bad.
Thirty seconds and 1 mp less later, I was ready to begin the day. With an empty and hurting stomach.
Not too long after I woke up, Ronel came to me and asked me to heal some people again. This time it was only two guys and both of their injuries were not that serious, so it only took around five minutes and 6 mp to heal both of them. Apart from the guy from our classroom, there were two other healers around, so they had already healed the worst injured people by the time I woke up.
On our way back to our side of the plaza I saw a small group of people gathering as someone beckoned more people to come closer
“… and for that reason I want you children to stay here.” A black man with a thick moustache stood on the edge of the fountain addressing the people around him. I could recognize that caterpillar moustache anywhere. It was Mr. Torres.
Ronel pulled a person from the crowd and asked. “What’s the teacher saying?”
“That guy wants to go with the other adults to look for food and he wants the rest of us to stay behind and wait.”
“Oh, okay.” Ronel nodded and then stood there with his arms crossed, lost in thought.
Mr. Torres continued rambling about ‘the adult’s responsibility’ to look out for the children—us—and how he would make sure to bring food for everyone.
I knew the guy well enough to know he was just trying to win some good-guy points with the crowd. He always tried to act concerned and friendly even though you could easily see he didn’t care about anyone deep in his eyes. The only thing worse than a bad guy was a fake good guy.
I left Ronel immersed in his thoughts and returned to our side of the plaza. I was not interested in what Mr. Torres was plotting now. For the looks of it, he wanted the students to remain idle while the adults took care of everything but I had a different idea.
It was a reality that the world had turned into a magical and dangerous world, so I would need to get stronger to be able to survive in that kind of world. That meant going out there and fighting with monsters. The biggest group of goblins I’d seen consisted of only 5 goblins, so the logical thing was to form a group with other four or five guys to hunt the goblins and finish the quest.
The problem was, I did not have exactly a reputation for being strong. It was the opposite, in fact. My safest bet was to ask Ronel—the guy would surely agree.
Now the question was, ‘when and how to ask’. The teacher had already said he wanted the students to stay behind and Ronel was the kind of guy to follow the teachers’ words to the t.
I kept on mulling over the matter as I saw a group of almost 20 adults head to the north of the plaza and into the city. Basically half of all the adults. The remaining 20 adults were two elderly people—the grumpster was one of them—and mostly women. Compared to the now more than 300 young people, it was but a drop in a bucket. I was beyond doubt whether Mr. Torres and the adults that set out would be able to provide food for all of us.
“Okay, who wants to join me to go explore?” Lisandro stood in front of our group, crossing his arms.
Everyone looked at him without saying anything for a few awkward seconds. Then one of the guys that usually hung out with him stood up and walked next to him as he looked back and forth between the group and Lisandro.
“Did you not hear what the teacher said?” A girl, Veronica, spoke. She had her black hair parted on the side, a perfectly average face and her only prominent feature was her slightly hooked nose.
“We’re not in school anymore.” Lisandro waved his hand in dismissal. “I couldn’t care less about what he said.”
“And just because of that you think you can do whatever you want and not listen to the adults?” Veronica was not about to give up. “In an emergency situation, we should always do what adults say and not make trouble for them. It’s a given.”
Even I rolled my eyes at her words. That was why even though she was the smartest girl in class and my main competitor when trying to get the best scores in the classroom, we weren’t friends. She was a bonafide harpy in the making. Always complaining, always criticizing, always getting on everyone’s nerves. She was not my type either…
“Fuck’s sake.” Lisandro walked towards her menacingly.
Veronica flinched and backed away until she hit the fountain and then sat on it.
Lisandro stood next to her and looked at her dirty-green eyes. “You think we’re in a normal emergency?” he asked and then answered himself. “Of course not.” He shook his head. “Have you not seen those monsters outside?” he pointed at the distance. “Have you not seen me?” His mouth parted in a wide, toothy smile, like that of a hyena. Then he lifted his right hand and formed a punch.
Veronica flinched and scurried away from his reach.
Lisandro just held his fist in the air for a few seconds and then swung it down at the rim of the fountain.
It exploded in a small cloud of dust and flying rocks, causing everyone to gasp and back away.
No fair. I stared with my mouth hanging open at the crushed rim. The destruction was greater than if he’d used a huge hammer.
Why did that bastard have such a powerful skill while I just had some weak healing? With that, he could one-shot goblins left and right.
“We got these powers for a reason,” Lisandro began his speech looking at the shocked Veronica but then turned towards the rest of us. “And that reason is fighting.” Then he returned to his initial position and crossed his arms again. “So, who wants to go explore?”
Two other of our classmates stood up with determination and walked towards him.
“You still can’t just do whatever you want…” Veronica murmured.
“I agree with him for once.” We all turned with surprise towards Ronel. “We can’t just rely on the adults to resolve everything for us. Not when we don’t know if they can. We’re simply too many and they're too few.” That was why the guy had been so quiet during Lisandro’s display. He was having the same idea.
“Finally you say something smart,” Lisandro smirked. “Anyway, who else?”
“I’ll go as well.” Another guy stood up. He looked determined, but his trembling legs said otherwise.
Lisandro looked at up and down and frowned. “Did you complete the quest?” He said.
“Uh-eh… I completed several quests…” The guy lowered his gaze.
“How are those monkey monsters called?” Lisandro pressed again.
“Ehhh…” The guy’s expression deflated. “Killer monkeys?”
“Get the fuck out.” Lisandro pushed him away. “I want people that completed the first hunting quest—not cowards.” Then he turned to the guys behind him. “Did you complete it.”
“I killed two goblins.” One of them said.
Then other guy held his hand in front of him and a coat of metal covered it. “What do you think?” He replied confidently.
“What about you?” Lisandro looked at the first guy to stand up.
“Um, not exactly.” The guy fidgeted. “I, um…” he stopped for a second. “I didn’t find any.” He blurted out. “Yeah, I didn’t find any monster on my way here, so I couldn’t complete the quest.”
Lisandro squinted his eyes as the other guy’s gaze began dancing around. “I know you’re not a pussy.” He said. “You’ll kill the first monster we find and prove it.”
“Right, of course.” The guy responded weakly.
“Anyone else?” Lisandro asked again.
Another two guys ended up joining his group and then Lisandro parted. He didn’t leave promises of bringing back food or taking care of the people incapable of fighting.
“Where are they going?” Mr. Rivero approached with his sight locked on Lisandro and the others leaving.
“They’re going outside, Mr. Rivero.” Veronica jumped up to the opportunity to snitch on Lisandro.
“Oh…” Contrary to her—and everyone else’s—expectations, the grumpster only nodded and didn’t show much interest. “I hope they’re careful.” And with that remark, he returned with the other teachers and adults.
“Even Mr. Rivero understands it’s necessary,” Ronel said. “I also wanna form a group to go look for food and other stuff. Thankfully we aren’t in dire need of medicines thanks to Brian and Elan, but I’d like to bring some as well. I’m not asking for people that killed a monster or have an amazing skill—I just want people that understand that we’re going to risk our lives for the sake of everyone else. If you can accept that, you can come with me.”
I thought only his close friends would accept those conditions, but surprisingly, six people—Laura among them—stood up very quickly, leaving the remaining eight of us with our mouths open. Seeing that, the others were so motivated to get up as well, that even I stood up for fear of being left behind.
“Wait, guys, stop.” Ronel put his hands in front of him. “I don’t think it’s smart for so many people to go at the same time. I know the adults did it that way, but we’re not as strong as adults. I don’t want you to feel pressured to come because everyone else is coming. That’ll only work against us.”
“He doesn’t want useless baggage.” Laura spat out.
Oh no, my love. Why you hurt me so. Thankfully I was already used to her looking at everyone over the shoulder like the fantastic bitch queen she was.
“No, no.” Ronel shook his head. “That’s- that’s not what I meant.”
Then why are you avoiding looking at the less physically impressive of us? What a liar.
The situation was a perfect recreation of what occurred daily in the classroom. The popular guys would bunch up together and the less popular people would do the impossible to get closer to them. Then there was us unpopular outcasts.
Any goodwill I had for Ronel’s party dissipated into the air like a consumed ether crystal.
I stepped away from the group and sat by the fountain.
Without looking at the group I could predict who would be the ones to also step away from the group.
They came back to the fountain as I mentioned them in my head.
There were others with clear hesitation in their faces but they just weren’t brave enough to step forward.
The four of us might not be brave when it came to making friends, but at least we were honest with ourselves and didn’t try too hard to fit in with the others.
With gazes that said ‘as expected’, Ronel’s group set out to explore.
“You don’t need to worry, guys.” Ronel approached us. “We’ll distribute all the food we find equally.”
Then we don’t get anything from whatever else you find, huh.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t go.” With those words, he left to join his group.
We didn’t even count as a ‘better than nothing’ in his eyes. We’d do more harm with our presence than any help we could provide.
I knew he didn’t mean it that way—he was not that bad of a person—but deep down that was what he thought of us.
Not that I really affected me. Not after three years of being treated the same way by everyone. The thing was that I still thought it was better to form a group to go hunt monsters.
I turned to look at my fellow outcasts.
What to do, what to do.