“Aria...wake up. We’re here.”
Kazu woke me up in that very moment. The Black Bus have reached the Karua District in the north, thousands of miles away from Karia District on the southwest, our home. There were already Contaminations outside, waiting for us to pick a fight with them.
This is the mad era of time, where this whole damn country is divided into three Districts: Karua, Karia and Sorzo on the southeast. We are the only country left after the outbreak of these Contaminations – the black alien-like humanoid figures that have engulfed mankind. Our only protection lies in these vehicles called Black Buses, in which have become our small headquarters. All three districts each have one of these, and an entire crew of the Black Bus Organization, divided into the three districts.
My name is Aria and my boyfriend is Kazu. We’ve been together since the BBO took us in. All of us in the organization are those who survived because we had special powers. I have cyborg arms which can pull out instant ammunition and Kazu, despite his physical age, is really many years younger than me, only boosted by his powers for temporary periods of time, accompanied by his lightning powers. Our Director, Santa, is a mysterious guy who can turn invisible. Our other members include Julie who can teleport, Gradius who can manipulate sound and Okubo who is speedy and good at martial arts.
Together, we were to help out with Karua District’s members to outlast some Contamination attacks in the place.
And that was where I met my seemingly ‘twin’.
Her name was Arlyn, and she almost looked like me, had the same powers as me, and almost everything I could think of, except she was boyish and retained her black hair, in which I had mine dyed blonde for personal reasons. Both of us wore the same kind of green head piece and as if not enough, our cyborg arms have the same specifications.
It was revealed to me later that their Technical Staff, Nike, built both of them, and he was once assigned to our district but left for unknown reasons.
The rest of the Karua District members are mostly her siblings: Minlyn (her younger sister) who has hypnotism powers, Freddy (her older brother) with X-ray vision, Minta and Rita (both originally from our district, Karia) who have Telekinesis and Future Prediction respectively.
After the whole commotion died down, the Contaminations seem to have retreated to the inner core in the center of the city capitol. Our team was sent back home to Karia.
Back home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Arlyn. I’ve never met someone completely the same as me, because I have always been alone. Before I knew it, I never stopped talking to her on the communications area in the bus, and Kazu’s eyes became cold towards me.
Indeed, Kazu and I had been together for more than 5 years, since we joined the organization. We’ve been through attacks of Contaminations, lost many organization members, both from our own district and the next districts. We’ve also had friends who had to move to other districts, but we’ve always stuck together. I didn’t care about our very wide age gap – I loved him dearly more than my life and I would do anything to protect him.
The bad news did come at that very moment: Gradius and Julie had to be transferred to Sorzo district because the Contaminations are nearly eating the whole place. They needed backup there.
How much more will I lose? Will I even gain anything from this? I mumbled these thoughts as I went to bed.
But I wanted to see Arlyn. I wanted to know more about her, and why we’re almost the same person. We’re not blood-related but, why are we connected to each other?
“You wanna go back to Karua just so you could see your girl-”
“She’s my best friend!” I shouted. “She’s the only girl who ever understood me. All the other girls thought I was a monster. How could you take that away from me?”
“Because I don’t want the same thing to happen to me again,” his eyes closed dimly. “...being too attached is not good.”
“I know. We’ve been there before, right?” I smiled, crying. “But it’s too late. The damage had been done.”
“Who’s more important to you?”
One night, Okubo took Kazu around town to fight off some hard-to-beat Contaminations. I approached Santa in the hopes of getting answers.
“You know, Kazu probably didn’t tell you, but he had a friend whom he dearly cherished, as much as you cherish Arlyn. His name was George and he was moved to Sorzo District, a few weeks before you moved in. He’s the same age as Kazu and had similar growing powers, too.”
I heard the crushing of my heart’s veins. “So that’s why...”
“Kazu also had an ex-girlfriend whom he almost set freely, but lost due to the girl being easily tempted. That’s why he’s so strict on you.”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“It must be hard on you too, having lived a narrow life within a strict family with no friends at all to understand you.” Santa patted my head as if he was my older brother, a family member which I never really had.
Quickly on that night, we devised a plan. My half of the job was to immediately travel alone (with protective gear and a mobile bicycle) all the way to Karua District’s capitol.
I fought as many Contaminations on my own while trying to figure out how to enter the core, which hosted itself on the old president’s office.
Karua had more survivors than our district, Karia, because they have much more backup than us. But with that comes the greater strength of the Contaminants, because they draw out energy from people who have ill thoughts.
The next day, I saw the team of Arlyn approach me as I was still fighting, without sleep, without food, nothing but unsettling veins that pump strained blood in and out of my heart.
“Why are you here all alone?” she asked.
“Silly girl,” I chuckled while blood was falling down my cheeks. “I couldn’t stand you fighting here on your own...I wanted to help you myself. You’re my best friend, remember?”
Then Arlyn fights too, but with the help of Minlyn and Freddy. However, they were overthrown and decided to move to another spot. Arlyn and I were left alone in the battle.
“Please, go home.” Arlyn smiled at me. “You don’t have to trouble yourself. I can take care of everything. It’s fine.”
“No!” I resisted. “I wanna help you! I just...need more time...I—”
Just then, Arlyn was badly injured by the Contaminant, and so was I. Nonetheless, I tried my hardest to revive her, but right on that spot, Kazu came in with the rest.
“You really didn’t love me anymore, Aria.” His cold eyes dictated what I would, in my mind, always called a nightmare.
“No, it’s not what you think! I’m trying to help her out!”
“Are you dumb?” He grabbed me and punched me in the face. “There are many people who can help her out here! Look at this damn place full of survivors! Are you blind or something? Did love take your eyes out? Do we have to go all over with this again?”
I held my breath deeply.
“Everyone always abandons her. She always pushes herself near the core even though it’s dangerous, so I thought I’d share the same suffering as her. I wanted to end this as well, that’s why I’m sacrificing this mu—”
“Then go to her instead!”
He knocked me out cold again.
I could hear Kazu speaking unsettling words towards an unconscious Arlyn. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, I just didn’t want to think about it, because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to save anyone.
It’s true. But it wasn’t the kind of love he’s thinking.
I just wanted a little sister, a best friend who could understand my feminine desires.
But at the same time, I didn’t want all those five years with him go to waste.
What should I do...
Suddenly, there was a streak of light in the sky. My eyes widened as I saw that person – the one Kazu sacrificed in order to become stronger.
I remembered that night when Santa told me about it.
“Kazu himself decided to send his best friend George to Sorzo District, because he realized he was getting dependent on him.”
“I could never do that. I’m weak. I’m not like him. Whenever I tried being a stronger person to hold out my tears, the circuits in my hands break and hot blood gushes back and forth my arteries and then hell breaks loose within me, hurting the ones I love unconsciously.”
“Indeed, that’s true. You’ll never reach Kazu’s true nature. No one could defeat him – he’s always a winner in every aspect of life. But you are his light. Once the light is gone, the shadow is no more.”
In the skies where Contaminations flew right and left, George came in at outstanding speed and helped out with the team. He let out his earthquake powers. I’ve never seen Kazu so happy in his life as he embraced his old friend, his best friend, almost his other half.
Arlyn helped me get up at that moment and said, “You know, this is all your fault.”
“Yeah.”I laughed as if crying. “Don’t worry, I’m ready to pay back everything.”
Santa explained to me his analysis of the passageways of the president’s office where the core is lurking. It’s the very last core confirmed around our country, but it is uncertain if there will be more from the other defeated countries.
While everyone else was busy fighting, I slipped an envelope on Kazu’s pocket and on Arlyn’s pocket as well. Immediately, I rushed to the secret entrance that Santa told me about.
It was there at last – the Core Contaminant. It’s as beautifully strange and endless as a silent whisper. The orb was like the blue sea.
Gently I touched it, hoping for something to happen.
It glowed furiously, leaving some of my circuits broken and falling apart. But I didn’t mind, I slipped myself in, until I was inside the orb.
I thought of nothing else during that time. Every memory was slowly fading away from me, but I could never forget. I was completely trapped in the memories that were weaved into my cloth of destiny, as if to mock me and all my insanity.
There was a large but silent explosion.
When I opened my eyes, I could see the whole Karua District. I saw Kazu in tears, holding my corpse, taken out from the Contaminant orb. Arlyn was crying, too. It seemed that other than George, the rest of Sorzo District came in to the rescue as well, only to have a major disappointment.
My consciousness was fleeting...fading away...
...do I really want it to end here?
...don’t I want to spend more days with my boyfriend, my best friend, my other far-away friends, Santa and the rest who survived?
...but they hate me. They’ve lost faith in me. They’ll only love me when I’m dead.
I don’t want to live anymore...
...knowing that I’ll be trapped within the same walls since the day I was born.
I looked around. I was surrounded by everyone.
“Why...why am I still...I thought I...”
“You really are dumb, wasting your life like that.” Kazu hugged me tight and kissed my forehead. “Next time you pull out a stunt like that, I won’t forgive you!” He smiled as if nothing happened.
Arlyn was there too. “Welcome back, Aria!” Her expressions revealed no stress at all.
But deep in my heart, I know they’re still affected. After all, it’s always been my fault of mixing oil people with water people together. I always mess things up. Even if I end up living, for me there is nothing more than emptiness.
The whole district was safe but there are still spawns of Contaminations from other deserted countries, so we still kept on fighting.
Someone please tell me...I don’t know what I want to fight for anymore.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” Santa patted my head like a big brother.