“What the Hell is happening?!!” Mine shouted, still feeling dizzy as Addai shifted Mine's position to hold him better.
“There are Imps controlling humans’ minds, they're turning humans into freaks,” Addai stressed, avoiding a mischief spell that almost hit them both. “We need to go to the next wagon before this one is destroyed.”
“Watch out!” Mine gasped and paired an Imp’s attack with a mana shield.
That metallic smell was starting to enter both of their nostrils, and the landscape was chaotic enough for them to pay attention to each body being controlled even after death. Not only that, but the taste of dust and thick smoke in the air was remarkable.
No heat was felt, maybe because Mine was too numb, or maybe the smoke wasn't from something burning, but from the dust of miasma floating in the air.
Some took risks by casting spells, but the wagons had magic reflectors that, contradictorily, were not working against the imps, who laughed maniacally at people's despair.
Their high-pitched yelps made Mine shiver, who tried to suppress the unpleasant sound (plus the people's screeches) with his hands.
The unaffected people tried to escape through the windows; however, the train had stopped on the top of the suspended railroad line on the hillside. So, even if they got out of the wagons, they would have nowhere to run, and the fall would be inevitable…
… unless they reached the commander’s wagon and made the train move to a safe place.
The run was bumpy. Stepping onto the half-soft, half-hard surface, Addai finally reached the next wagon's door, quickly closing it afterward.
Behind them, the scream of people, freaks and the squeal of imps resounded incessantly. As soon as Addai closed the door, a controlled human slammed their head on the door’s window, causing Mine to gasp and Addai to cover his eyes before the same human slammed their head against the window again.
"That's sick…" Addai muttered, still covering Mine's eyes. "Come, let's head to the next wagon. This one isn't safe either,” he offered a hand and made Mine turn to not see the stain on the door's window.
“Y-Yes… let’s go,” Mine took Addai’s hand instinctively, letting him guide them.
The purplish filter still disturbed the vision and created a beautiful contrast with the miasma dust that was starting to turn reddish instead of dark.
The wagons were long, and the floor was almost impossible to walk on because of so many bodies that were spread out. Luckily, no imp was in front of the duo, so they wouldn't have to face bodies rising and getting in the way of the infinite race.
The core. A voice whispered to Mine, who turned to see who it was, but nobody was there. It's close… you should take it. You must. It continued whispering.
His head was light, and the weird voice was unsettling and clear enough.
So, he kept listening.
It’s a curse. Break it. Take it. The voice was stern.
“Hey, is everything alright?” Addai stopped and patted Mine’s cheeks.
“I’m ok,” Mine mumbled, rubbing his forehead as a headache hit. “It’s just… a headache…”
And Mine dazed again.
He felt his limbs falter as if they'd been dislocated, but he was sure everything was in its right place.
His back hurt- no, it burned.
"I'm… ok…" Mine mumbled, feeling his skin crack as if it was too dry, but the sensation faded when Addai caressed his cheek.
“Alright. Hop on my back just like the other day,” Addai then crouched, offering the space for Mine to climb his back.
“No, that’s fine,” Mine chuckled. “Besides, who will watch your back?” he posed proudly.
"You're right," Addai reciprocated with a soft chuckle. "Just don't strain yourself too much."
"Oh~ look who is worried about me?" Mine teased, and Addai huffed.
A light beam almost burnt Mine’s pupils, but he fortunately covered his eyes in time. Then, a loud cracking sound burst their ears.
The previous wagon fell from the ferry, bending the current wagon they were.
Addai grabbed Mine's hand and ran to the wagon's door, which was regrettably closed.
“The wagon’s door is closed, shit!” Addai stressed, containing himself to break into the next wagon.
“You better hurry,” Mine stressed, hearing the Imps trying to break the windows.
“Jesus!” a voice inside the other wagon exclaimed. "You two are clean! Enter!" the person unlocked the door.
Both boys entered the wagon before an Imp could bite one of them. Mine almost couldn't get through because his legs gave out, and Addai had to grab him. The wagon seemed safe, even though the imps outside reminded them of the situation they were in.
“It’s a temporary safety measure I did,” the person said, locking the door again with a device. "We use this little thing in the hospital for vicious patients' rooms. When they fuss to break free, we need to lock them inside," explained, adjusting the device that sealed the door back. "Ah! I'm Nakamura, a humble doctor. Nice to meet you two," he grinned, dark circles from the lack of sleep telling his lifestyle was a mess.
“Thank you, Mister,” Addai bowed. "I'm Addai, and this is Mine," he introduced themselves.
While the two were talking, Mine observed the people inside the wagon. Some were scared, and others were in shock, holding a piece of fabric with red stains. The purple filter there highlighted the injuries of each one and the marks of the struggle taken to get to that wagon.
With the previous wagon about to collapse, the survivors were distressed but had nowhere to go once the next wagon was infested with Imps that mocked them on the door's window.
Use me!! The same voice from earlier screamed in Mine's mind.
The voice seemed increasingly loud and disturbing, so disturbing that the previously purplish filter began to appear yellowish, like gold.
Mine knelt and covered his ears afterward.
His head ached.
His hands were on fire.
His legs failed more and more.
His mind didn't work, and the voice tried to coerce him into doing anything.
USE ME, MINE!!
With each word, a pain in a different place. It was as if they were tearing him from the inside out, eliminating every layer of the body, from the dermis to the organs.
Suddenly, the voice stopped.
His surroundings became strangely peaceful, and Mine only heard two voices.
“What’s going on?!” Nakamura worried, and the remaining survivors started panicking.
“Mine?!” Addai grabbed him by the shoulders, his hands a bit damp. "H-hey, you need to sit. I'll go to the next wagon and clean it so we-”
"I'll... go with you," Mine decided, weakly smiling. Still, his appearance wasn't good, he was pale and had darker spots under his eyes, maybe due to the exposition to the miasma in the past wagon. Also, his eyes had a different... drawing in their pupils.
Addai released Mine's shoulders. “I’m tough, don't worry,” he replied, placing Mine on the next bench. “Mr. Nakamura will take care of-”
I’ll make sure you use me then. The voice threatened, and an invisible hand started ripping Mine's skin, cracking as if it was made of thin, dry clay.
“Addai,” Mine called, unsettlingly sobber. “Protect the people, please,” he looked into Addai's eyes and caressed his cheek while his vision slowly turned blurry.
"Mine, what are you going to do?" Addai's voice trembled with distress as he posed his question, a palpable sense of urgency underlying every word he spoke.
Mine slowly stood up, and, weirdly enough, Addai couldn't touch his skin.
The once purple filter turned into pure gold, just like Golden Hour.
“I'll not let anyone be hurt, not even you," Mine started his walk.
Ironically, the wagon’s background music was on and playing a vivid waltz, maybe something like Vivaldi's something.
It was dramatic but hectic.
The sole waltz to the insane person heading to death.
With each step, a person passed by him; some ran, and others even avoided looking at him. Others still tried to hit him with spells to make him turn around, but he continued, and the stubborn ones were thrown to the back with an unknown spell he used.
He ignored the pull tries he received from some hands, the stressed voices, and lamentations.
Ignoring the large shadow that appeared, Mine, with one touch, made it disappear, and flocks of cold, golden foil fell from the wagon's roof.
Something broke his back's skin, ripping it like a cocoon.
A light, thin veil covered his shoulder, and a breeze made his hair start floating in the air as if he were underwater.
His face itched, and his hands burned.
His feet began to feel light, and so did his body.
He no longer knew what else to feel, so he ignored it.
When he finally reached the door, it disintegrated with a touch completely.
Let’s be one, little Chronos. The voice said happily, and Mine's once peach-colored skin cracked like thick, dry gouache paint.