I was an unwanted child.
My earliest memory was of a fight between my so-called “parents”.
They looked at me with scornful eyes. They vented any and all irritation upon me. They were always yelling. The man called me an eyesore every time he saw me, told me to shut up every time I cried.
How many times he’d kicked me, I didn’t recall. Nor could I remember the number of beatings the woman had given me, even as she screamed “You should never have been born!”
Bruises littered my skin. Every morning, I got a single loaf of hard bread to last the whole day.
Once every few days, I would have a chance to wash myself with the leftover bath water. They threw me out to the veranda at night, and I would curl up and sleep in any empty spot I could find among the mountains of trash outside the house.
Before I noticed, the man was no longer around the house. The woman, mind sick and heart twisted, called me a “demon” as her final words to me. The last I saw of her was her misshapen grin as her hands tightened around my throat.
When I came to, I was in a white hospital room. I was fed decent, warm food for the first time.
I vomited it all.
I didn’t speak, laugh, or even cry much. No one would love such a kid. The adults of the orphanage always hit me first before talking. They would take my food away, lock me inside a storeroom until morning, and they called it “discipline”.
What did I ever do?
Upon turning eight years old in the orphanage, I finally gave up on being a child.
“Audrey, what’s going on over there? No. 13 had a response, right? Come on, explain quick!”
The audio-visual VR device could not share any data that was yet to be digitized. Brian, in the 7th research center, could not see what was going on in the collection facility. Audrey and the staff members heard his voice.
But none could speak. The unnatural sight they saw and the chilly presence they felt had rooted them to the spot.
No. 13 was lying there, outside of the suspended animation capsule and connected to a myriad of machines. Her body turned white, as if the color was being sucked out of her, and finally crumbled into a pile of salt.
As if in response, the other fifty-six secret alpha tester bodies inside their capsules followed suit and collapsed into salt.
The voice of a girl faintly rang deep inside the ears of everyone there.
A white, shining ball of light gently rose up from No. 13’s pile of salt. The salt flew up and weaved around the ball, forming a vague human shape.
Sounds of fracturing glass rang out throughout the room. From the other fifty-six capsules, the salt slipped through the newly-formed cracks and danced around the human silhouette. They gathered, putting details to the shape.
Smooth white skin, like porcelain.
Curly snow-white hair hanging to the shoulders, and poking out from the locks were two long, similarly white ears.
Her eyes slowly opened, revealing two pools of blood-red pupils.
She floated in the air, graceful limbs bare to all. Then smears of bloody liquid began to form, staining the pure whiteness. The liquid transformed into a scarlet dress with a black collar and a puffy, layered miniskirt. Black stockings with a hint of red, scarlet high-heels, and red gloves wrapping around sharp claws completed the ensemble.
Such an eerie bunny girl.
As the girl leisurely spread her arms, fifty-six balls of light gathered toward her. She tenderly hugged them to her chest.
“Can you hear me? What the hell is going on?!”
Brian’s voice unknowingly cut through the fantastic spectacle, bringing the room’s occupants back to their own minds.
Hearing the voice, the white girl finally turned her eyes to the humans. Her red eyes narrowed into a cool glare.
An electrode rod clattered on the floor.
Their thoughts could not catch up to reality for an instant. Between one blink of the eye to the next, the white girl’s kick had already taken off the orphanage supervisor’s left arm. The limb was pulverized into dust.
The stump froze. Despite the lack of any pain or bleeding, the woman still screamed from the terror of seeing her own arm blowing off. As she held the wound with her right hands, the frost spread to her fingers. They shattered, prompting another howl.
There was no pain. As the terrified woman writhed on the floor, screaming all the while, the white girl picked up the electrode rod on the floor. She calmly approached, holding down the woman, and slowly pushed the rod deep into her ear.
The supervisor woman twitched, once, twice, then finally lay still. The staff members could only watch in silent horror.
A woman was the first among the spectators to react. Her terror, no longer under control, made itself apparent with a throat-splitting scream.
With her voice, the other staff members finally came back to themselves. They rang the alarm.
A few of them attempted to escape through the exit, yet in another blink of an eye, the girl was there. Her gloved claws tore their heads clean off.
The other staff members were running about in their terrified panic. A blast of mist from the girl turned them into frozen statues in an instant. The sculptures fell down and shattered.
The room temperature dropped sharply, turning the survivors’ breaths into white fog. Their clothes were soaked with cold sweat.
The guards showed up, shouting a token warning. The moment they noticed the massacre, they immediately opened fire on the white girl.
The promptness with which they assessed the situation and made the decision to shoot a girl who looked barely a teenager hinted at their experience. Most likely, they were ex-mercenaries hired through the contacts the corporation had in the defense industry.
Three guards stood in front. Running up directly behind them were another five. The bullets grazed the girl. She narrowed her eyes, then pointed her palm at them and made a motion to crush something in her hand. The eight guards suddenly collapsed, blood spurting out from everywhere on their bodies.
What did she do…?
Their wounds shared nothing common, both in location and in severity. Over half of them still drew breath. A man among them, both legs broken, still attempted to aim his gun even as he whimpered from the pain. But his efforts were futile; the meandering mist turned him and the rest of the surviving guards into ice sculptures.
“I give permission to deploy the magic weapons!”
Brian finally realized something was wrong and connected to a monitoring camera inside the collection facility. He gave his order.
The monster avatars were still in the experimental phase. However, development of guns with carved runes to allow them the ability to use mana was already near completion. The so-called “magitech weapon of the modern world” was almost ready for use in real combat.
To create mana-sensitive material, they would need to store an amount of silver in close contact with mana for nearly two years. Thus, the resources available to manufacture the weapons were still limited, and the guns themselves could not fire in full-auto due to the large amount of mana required for each activation. On the other hand, the runed guns had the range and power of a typical rifle despite shooting 9mm-sized bullets. Furthermore, the projectiles weren’t affected by the atmosphere or gravity. The very first firearm in the world with a straight bullet path.
Several minutes later, another group of guards arrived. They were holding strange-looking assault rifles.
The guns themselves were slender. Attached to the underside were small containers the size of a pen case: mana batteries. If they could deploy the mana-operated avatars here, they would already have done so. Unfortunately, operating time was still too limited, perhaps due to modern Earth’s atmosphere, or perhaps because Earth itself had no mana. The other choice of avatars was the old model that used no mana, and this type could only exhibit 70% the physical capability of a normal adult. In the end, the corporation was forced to use real humans for this fight.
Though the power of magic-using weapons might vary, it didn’t change the fact that they were effective against spiritual life forms.
Currently, the facility possessed twenty such ‘magic guns’, including the reserve. Twelve guards and six staff members with shooting experience were aiming eighteen of the guns at the girl.
Chairs and tables were torn into shreds by the salvo. The moment everyone thought the girl would share their fate…
…she turned into mist. The bullets passed through her without leaving a single trace.
In their shock, the guards even forgot the existence of the guns in their hands for a moment. A white mist blew at them, and from within, the girl leaped out. Once the mist cleared, all that remained were eighteen frozen statues.
“…what the hell is that?!!”
Brian’s voice leaked out from the VR device. The white girl looked at the camera that was connected to his vision, her rabbit ears swaying as if to say, “You already forgot?” She pointed her palm to the camera and squeezed.
“…aaAAAAaaaAAGAAaaaAA! My leg! My leeeeeg!”
Brian, who was still supposed to be staying back at the 7th research center, screamed.
He had forgotten. About the fact that in his childhood, he had nearly lost a leg in a traffic accident. Fortunately, the driver had stopped in time, and his wound hadn’t been as severe as it could be.
But back in the present, unfortunately, the driver turned out to not have stopped in time at all. One of Brian’s legs detached from his body.
A disconnection cut short his echoing scream.
In the room cold enough that water could freeze, Audrey sat on the floor. Her face had turned blue, her lips purple, and she couldn’t even muster the courage to stand up.
“…No. 13…” Audrey whispered, her voice shivering.
There were barely anyone left alive. Hearing her whisper, the girl quietly turned around.
Clack… clack… She approached on heels that looked more like they were made to gouge out flesh rather than to carry a girl’s weight. The razor-sharp footsteps stopped in front of Audrey. The girl stared at her face.
“You recognize me?”
“Are you… No. 13? Why do you look like that? What did you do to the Deputy Director…?”
Hearing Audrey replied with only more questions, No. 13… the white girl named Shedy looked exasperated. She quietly pulled her head back.
“Nothing special, really. Besides… well, you’ll do.”
Shedy picked Audrey up with one hand around the woman’s neck.
“I have to go back soon. I’m still not strong enough to stay here for long. But remember this…”
Audrey gulped. Their faces were barely ten centimeters apart. She thought she saw dark flames faintly smoldering deep inside the girl’s eyes.
“I’ll come back, and I’ll be a lot stronger then. The demon will come back to kill you all.”
Shedy dropped the woman on the ground. The girl casually turned away and disappeared, melting into the thick mist.
That day, the corporation learned of the existence of the demon that would be their enemy.
Author’s Note: The description of her outfit might not be easy to understand, so I made this rough sketch.
If you’re not very good at imagining how she looked and if you’re interested, feel free to take a look.
TN: Bigger sized image.