The smell of something rotten attacks his nose. That's when he noticed the blood on his hands. He's sitting in a pool of blood, his trousers completely drenched. At first glance Aurelio thought it was fake. It looks like the type of blood used in a low-cost movie, resembling more of water than of real, denser blood.
However, the more he looks at it, the more real it becomes. His thoughts starts running as his heartbeat grows faster.
It's at that moment when he realized he isn't the only one in the room. The room might be dark but the other person's body seems to contain all the light, glowing like a sun in the dim room, skin and clothes brighter than the stars. It is a mystery she isn't the first thing he noticed when he woke, with how bright and holy she looks. But then he remembers his head was hung, how could he have seen her first?
But right now, he's glad he didn't notice her first. He would be joyed if he hadn't seen her at all, because the body of the "holy" person has a hole on her chest, and the black wall behind her can be seen through it.
Aurelio inhales sharply at the sight.
The girl clad in a bright, yellow dress is sitting on the wall opposite him. Like him, she's also on the floor, leaning on the wall behind. Her snowy legs are tangled together and her pale arms limp on her sides.
She would have looked like an angel, only had the large hole on her chest is not there, and the crimson liquid surrounding her body not exist. The scene is extremely unsightly. Some of her organs are visible through the hole as they continue pumping out blood, completely ruining the yellow dress she's wearing.
From the other side of the room, Aurelio can see even in one eye that the other body no longer held life. Even so, the horror in his heart still can not be relieved. And it isn't merely of the realization that he's in a room with a corpse.
It's more of the fact that she looks terrifyingly like someone he knows.
Someone that he should have long forgotten.
Just then, he noticed something wrong. He squints his eyes. He thinks his mind is playing tricks on him, because there's no way in hell the girl's eyes are opened.
It isn't just his imagination. Her eyes are definitely opened, and they no longer closed. She's already staring at him, the blues of her eyes visible and clear.
Aurelio is stuck frozen where he sits.
The girl smiles.
Aurelio jolts up at the sound. His breathing is erratic as he tries to catch his breath. Sweating furiously, he tries to clear his mind of the nightmare he just had. That isn't something he wants to remember further.
When he finally evens his breaths, he looks up from the cusion and meets his brother's confused eyes. It turns out he woke up his brother in his sleep.
He nods shamefully, "Sorry, I just had a nightmare."
"Are you alright?" Julius asks with concern.
He smiles, "Of course. Just go back to sleep, bro."
"Can't. It's already five. I have to milk the cows," Aurelio nods. He is about to go back to sleep when Julius adds, "And you're coming with me."
They both got out of the shared bed silently, trying not to wake their mother up who's sleeping outside. Staying up 'til late, she's bound to be tired, and the least they can do is give her sleep.
The sun is yet to rise. It is still a bit dark outside, but fortunately the two can still see through it. They race to the barn, still trying to not wake their neighbors, and milk the cows.
"Have you heard of the rumor?" Aurelio looks up at his brother's question. Julius is still in the middle of milking the cows and will only glance at him from time to time.
"Which one?" Aurelio asks in return, refilling the cows' water bowls. It's a bowl larger than the ones dogs use.
"Rico's coming back from the city. With a child."
"Eh? Rico? That Rico who couldn't even touch a woman's hand?"
Julius laughs, "Yes, that Rico. Heard he landed a decent job. I'll pester that bastard when he comes back. Didn't even send a letter to us."
Aurelio chuckles together with him. Putting his hand on his waist as he stands straight, he wipes the sweat off his forehead.
Julius stops. He glances at his little brother for a while before questioning, "Hey, what's with you? You've been acting weird these days."
Aurelio's brows furrows, "Weird? How so?"
Just then, the cow behind Aurelio moo-es loudly. Aurelio gets a slight shock and turns around, only to see the cow looking at the bread in the corner with puppy eyes.
A cow with puppy eyes. How weird.
Aurelio chuckles heartily and shakes his head.
"Do you think I wouldn't notice?" Julius glances at him. "You get uncomfortable when mother's around. Anything on with you two?"
So he noticed.
Aurelio goes silent, focusing on the cows. Then he sighs, "It's not like that. I just.. I feel something off about her sometimes. Like when.." He sighs once more, "Forget it, I'm just being paranoid."
The other chuckles, "All people have something to hide, Lio. She probably just has a lot on her mind these days." Julius leans on a wooden post and watches the cows eat.
"Alright, alright." Aurelio copies his brother and leans on the wall. It isn't until he remembered something does he ask, "Have you burned incense sticks for her? It's her second anniversary."
Julius freezes, the smile on his lips slowly falling. He looks away, clearing his throat, "Yeah."
An awkward silence engulfs the barn. A few minutes after, Julius turns to him, "Hey, you finish this and return, mother must be awake at this time." He gives him a look then he turns around.
"Hey! Where are you going?"
"Somewhere." His brother waves and completely exits the barn of cows, his hands in his pockets as he encounter the morning sun.
Aurelio, who's left alone with cows constantly calling him, sighs. "Aright, alright, you pigs in disguise." Grabbing the remaining buckets of food, he gives them to the cows one-by-one.
When he's done he complies to his brother's order and goes straight home. The sun's already up, the heat and warmth making Aurelio's skin sweat as he runs. He should have worn his straw hat before going out, who knew they would take hours in the barn?
Along the way he sees some of his neighbors out in the field. He greets them with a smile, waves and continues his way home. Those neighbors are really kind to his family. They would give them food when the harvest isn't enough, then feed the stray animals around.
On the other side, Julius Daybreak goes in the woods. His face holds a frown as he checks his surroundings, moving his head anxiously to the left and right. _No one's around_. When he's sure he is far enough, he leans on a tree and checks his pockets, picks a cigarette out and smokes.
The trees are quieter than usual. They're slowly dancing with the air, each move done with grace. Julius feels the cool wind sway around.
"Smoking in a forest? How bold." An unfamiliar voice sneers. Julius turns around frantically, he thinks he's found out by someone he knows, but it turns out it would be a foreign damsel in white smiling at him. "Have more for me?" Her white teeth show.
Julius calms down and looks her up and down. She's wearing a simple white dress, nothing too fashionable. However, it's obvious she isn't born here with her pale skin and figure. He never saw her before. A city girl, perhaps.
He blows out smoke, glancing at her with bored eyes, "Who are you? It's dangerous for a girl to walk alone."
The girl tilts her head, slipping to his side and sitting on the ground. Julius stares down at her in disbelief and scolds, "Hey, what are you sitting on the ground for? It's dirty, get up." Such delicate features, how can she just let herself be dirtied?
"Nope." The girl drags with a sing-song voice. She looks at Julius and smiles until her eyes turns into crescents, "My name's Sofia. You're Julius, right?"
"How'd you know?"
"You guess!" Sofia giggles.
Julius doesn't anwer, giving her a cold look. He ignores her and diverts his eyes. Weird girl, he mutters. When he remembers she had seen him smoking, his eyes turns serious as he look back at Sofia, "Hey, you better keep your mouth shut about what you saw. I'll hunt you down if you do otherwise."
Sofia raises her eyebrow. Studying him with playful eyes, she raises her hand, showing Julius her palm, before putting it to her chest. And with a firm voice, she pledges, "I, Sofia, will promise to never say anything about Julius Daybreak breaking one of his family's rules. I promise. I wonder what'll happen once your family finds out what you're doing tho."
Julius's mouth twitches, and in a milisecond the situation in the forest has changed. Julius already has Sofia pressed on a tree, his teeth clenching, eyes into slits. He threatens lowly, "Don't you ever say that again. You hear me?!" He shouts.
He doesn't give a shit about what this maiden wants by approaching him, whether she always joke like this with strangers or not, but he ain't having any of it. Not with a situation like this.
With such a sudden change in attitude, Sofia was shock. What part of what she said provokes the man this much?
She flinches. Her voice stutters as she tries to back away, "C-Calm down, okay? I'm sorry! I won't say anything about it again."
The tension is evident. The two stand in the middle of the forest, one pressed on a tree while the other is shooting daggers at her.
Just then, a familiar voice is heard, "Bro! What are you doing?" The new voice pierces through the silence of the forest and travels to Julius's ears, making him aware of the other's presence.
Julius's eyes widens. He instantly let go of Sofia and back away, diverting his gaze elsewhere. He curses in his heart, _shit, he hopes Aurelio didn't see that._
"Bro?" Aurelio calls as he approaches his brother. He looks confused and not angry in the slightest. There's a chicken struggling for its life on his hand. He mustn't have seen it. With this Julius breathes a sigh of relief.
He turns his head around but the damsel is no longer there. _Must've escaped_, he thinks.
"Nothing. Let's go back."