Don’t ask – just get on the dog!

Hello,

The title is telling you that they’re going to ride on a dog. Yes, they’re going to ride on a dog. I just have the urge on giving a spoiler today because I’m being mean today. As you might notice, I’m posting things quicker (yay!) because I have the right amount of free time to write stories. Anyways, enjoy the story!

5 – My pet dog tried to kill me

His head hung loose from his unsupportive neck, making him look like a lifeless rag doll. His arms were behind his back, tied up in a tight knot; his torso and arms were tied to a metal beam behind him – he could feel the cold surface on his back, creeping up and down his spine. His feet were tied together with a thick rope to prevent him from escaping. But he won’t escape. He couldn’t.

It felt like his body was not his anymore, every inch of his body numb and tingling with electricity. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears and it was deafening. He had hoped for the grey notes to disappear but they were still there, lingering behind his closed eyelids, refusing to disappear like vengeful ghosts.

Is he going to die? No one knows. He couldn’t feel anything except for the fear of sudden death. He tried to open his eyes but they felt heavier than normal; he tried to mutter a word but his lips felt as if they’ve been sewn together; he tried to twitch his finger but it sent needles up his arm and throughout his limp body.

What’s going on?

Where is he?

What about the others?

Myosotis…

A light suddenly erupted in front of him, engulfing the darkness. He wasn’t in the lonely vast space from before; he was now in a place beyond imagination.

The floor was softer than premium cotton, massaging his feet with every step he took. The light-cream coloured pillars held up the sky, standing tall and proud. On his left and right were gigantic mahogany-like wooden bookshelves stuffed with books of all different sizes, volume and age. At the centre of the room was a round table littered with papers with various drawings of the human anatomy and scientific notes. Large, bulky books were either opened or closed, and on the table or on the floor.

The carved chair with soft cushion was occupied by a young man overlooking the clouds and a full view of the earth just beneath the thick layer of condensed vapour. It seemed like the man hadn’t notice him yet, since he was still looking out into the empty scenery, muttering can be heard from his mouth.

He couldn’t help but feel as if he had met this person somewhere. There was the urge to comfort the lonely figure… but a faint murderous intent too. How could a person possibly make him feel two opposite emotions at the same time?

Slowly, he tiptoed closer to the man, making sure he’s not distracted. Everything was safe and peaceful, except for the fact that the place he had left behind turned themselves into nothing but black ashes.

He was behind the figure. He had a mass of curly white fluff on his head, porcelain-white skin (almost abnormally white in colour) and casual white pyjamas – like a patient of an asylum. It’s true that the man on the chair emitted aura of madness but at the same time, he felt warm and soothing to be around. It made him forget his own troubles.

Myosotis…

He tapped lightly on his shoulder, trying as hard as he could to not startle the man. The man noticed his taps and attempted to turn around and greet him…

“…Welcome home…”

But before he could answer that, he plunged into darkness once more.

* * *

Vega’s eyes snapped open, and the first thing he saw was the steel grey eyes of the man known as Armada Aimer. Vega almost jumped out of his skin, startled. “W-where are we?” he began, clearly confused, “We were at the party and then…”

He remembered being tied to an iron beam. He jerked his arm and legs only to find that they were free, only burn marks imprinted on his tender skin that stood out like a beacon. The earplugs from before were still in his ears, so he pulled them out, seeing no use in it anymore, and stuffed them in his pocket. He had regained some of the feeling back into his body. The boy tried to flex his fingers, then his toes, his limbs and finally his stiffened neck. Cracks were loud and clear against the silent open air, tall trees eyeing them suspiciously and owls and crickets gossiping about the newcomers.

There were no one else around except for Armada and Vega – where’s Celestia?

“Don’t worry. I sent her to get some things in the caravan,” Armada said.

“So, what are we doing here?” Vega tried to get on his feet but later dismissed the idea because of his numb legs and hellish headache, “Where is this?”

“An old laboratory, a few yards behind Eterna Cemetery.”

“What happened to me?”

“Some guys barged into the party and one of them stabbed you with their stun gun. The voltage was a bit too high for only paralysing a human but your superhuman attributes saved you; otherwise you’ll be unconscious for more than a day or so. You might not be able to operate your body as well for a while but it’ll come back sooner or later.”

Vega tried to move his stiff limbs, loosening them up a bit. He could’ve sworn he saw sparks danced from his finger tips and disappear into the dirt he was sitting on. “I remembered I was tied up,” Vega furrowed his eyebrows at the memory, “Did you save me, then?”

“Yeah. They were trying to abduct you and tied you up to a post while they fight us off. Fortunately, Celestia sneaked up and carried you away while they were occupied with me.”

Bruises and cuts were visible up and down Armada’s arms, as well as his well sculpted face. The suit he once wore was replaced with a battered t-shirt and beige pants, as well as his old hiking boots and pocketed belt full of gadgets and other bits.

“Thanks for the save,” Vega said. Armada nodded in return.

“By the way,” Armada said, “it turns out the girl you met was Imogen Sia.” Vega’s eyes were suddenly filled with disbelief. “And she wants to meet us here. She should be here any moment; Celestia should be here, too. We just have to wait, and try not to do something stupid.”

Right, don’t do anything stupid. It’s not like there’s something do to around the eerie woods. The only light illuminating the area was Armada’s device, which lit up his face in electric blue light to give a ghostly effect.

Vega tried to pick up any sounds around – the only thing he could hear were the constant purple hoots and metal-grey chime of the crickets, while the others were strings of faint greenish-brown sounds from the laboratory.

The blond man had mentioned it being an abandoned laboratory, but Vega had the feeling that something was still living in it. The steel door smeared with brown and green rust loomed over Vega, who was still sitting on the dry ground. Armada was still checking on his electronic device, mumbling something Vega couldn’t comprehend; Vega figured out that it would be best for him – and Vega – to let him be.

The dark haired boy slowly got up to hit feet, blank eyes still looking at the old door. He placed his palm onto the cool surface – vibrations shook his arm and he withdrew it immediately. And it wasn’t from the electric current inside him; something made the door vibrate.

Sudden shivers crept up his spine, making the hairs on the end stand. He wasn’t feeling good and had a really bad feeling about the rundown building in front of him. Looking around, Armada was still doing his thing with his device, so Vega decided to investigate the mysterious force beyond the door.

He pressed his ear to the metal slab, straining to hear something. Aside from the pinkish-purple humming vibration, there seemed to be something else…

A mixture of vicious green and sinister purple, growling in a low voice…

The grey sound of metal being yanked around…

Blue sound of water droplets hitting the floor in an explosion…

Shuffling of the feet, as if in agitation and lack of patience…

Swinging of a fury object and the twitching of ears…

Vega could guess what it was. Something between a large dog and a beast; something restless and bloodthirsty. Something that was tied with chains and prevented from escaping. Something dangerous.

He didn’t know what to do so he froze in his place, in a trance between panic and confusion. Sweat trickled down his forehead and also his palms, painting him in horror. It’s okay, Vega tried to reassure himself. The thing is chained and there’s no way it could escape; it’s perfectly safe.

Just when he thought about that, a whine resounded from the room beyond the door.

It was like a little girl’s cry, delicate and mortifying to listen to. Sobs echoed in the room, making it resound countless of times in Vega’s head. Over the time, the wailing got louder and louder and was now begging to be saved.

Someone, help! Anybody! I’m scared!

Instantly, Vega felt his stomach crunch and his heart sunk. He wanted to save the girl, but he also remembered Armada’s warning and the beast inside. What could he do? He couldn’t just turn a blind eye to the trapped victim, could he?

Turning again to look at Armada – who was still occupied with his gadget – Vega resolved on not barging in the building, but rather sends a signal to the little girl that someone was there, and he would somehow get her out.

Without a second thought, he knocked on the metal door. The knocking bounced off the walls of the interior, silencing the girl and the low growling of the beast; Armada also stopped and snapped his head to Vega, who had his knuckle on the door. Realising what the boy had done, he rushed over to grab him out of danger. “Get out of there, now!”

Before he could turn to look at Armada, the boy was swept to the side by the larger man and an explosion broke through the wall of the building, where the door had been. Vega landed on the ground with crushing weight above his body and a searing pain at the back of his head, as well as his elbows and back. The pain was bearable, fortunately, but the loud bang of the explosion sent the world spinning in front of him.

Through the smoke before him, he could make out a large shadowy object on four legs, panting heavily and twitching sharply. Its bushy tail swept dust in all directions; its ears responded to any trace of sound, audible and inaudible, and its paws were tangled in a heap of chains, long claws glinting under the moonlight, shiny and deadly. Its bloody eyes shot daggers to every direction, not focusing on just one object. Saliva dripped from the edges of its mouth and its nose sniffed short pants, like it was hyperventilating. The fur on the beast was darker than the night sky, looking rough and unkempt. The fact that the thing stood almost as tall as the building sent arrows of terror through Vega’s body, pinning him under Armada (who was still groaning due to the metal slab landing on his head).

Quickly and silently, eyes bulged out at the beast, Vega shook Armada violently, trying to snap him back to consciousness. “Armada, Armada!” he whispered hoarsely, “Wake up! Don’t make a sound and let’s get out of here before –”

Slowly emerging from pain, Armada’s glare rose up like a blinding sunrise. Surely, it would be better if Vega had just dragged him away while he was not present – if it was the most terrifying this in the world beside the beast, it would be Armada’s rage.

“You… idiot!” he snarled, “Didn’t I say not to do anything stupid?”

“W-well, you didn’t say not to knock on the door,” Vega shrunk, “Besides, there was this little girl inside and –”

“You could’ve asked me for help!” Armada snapped, voice rising in anger, “If you’re not certain of things, you could’ve ask me about what to do, not doing things without knowing the consequences! What if you had been killed? You are an important piece to our mission; you could do all useless things you want when we’re done. If you were to die, we won’t be able to finish our mission and that would be a great problem for us!”

We won’t be able to finish our mission and that would be a great problem for us!

Those words replayed in Vega’s mind. He felt like an object, used and uncared. So, all this time, everyone had seen him as a very precious object to help them with their own problems, and in the end they’re just going to throw him away? Was it the same with the Professor too? Was he together with the two travellers?

Did he view him as a tool, too?

The raven-haired boy gritted his teeth, white eyes forming into merciless rage. He had had enough of being treated lowly, not being noticed, misinterpreted and underestimated. He hated it. He hated it all, He hated this; he hated that. He hated everything.

Rage took over him and he pushed Armada with every force he had. The metals door sent a loud clang on the earth and Armada landed on his bottom, propping himself up with his sturdy arms. Vega stood up, fuming with fury. His eyes were slants of hate, something Armada had never seen before – he had always worn an innocent mask.

The boy grabbed the man by the collar, spat some piece of his mind in front of the blond, “After we’re finished, huh?” he scoffed, “And when’s that? After I die? You just see everything as your tool, even Celestia. I had noticed the way you talk to her as if she’s your unimportant underling and criticising her efforts even though she tried her hardest you lift your ugly spirit up!”

“I had never done that!” Armada argued, “You don’t know anything about us. You have no right to lecture me about something that concerns nothing of you! Innocent Souls should just keep being ‘innocent’ – you should just keep obedient at all times!”

Vega clenched harder at the worn-out shirt. “Well, I tell you what? Your attitude had been pissing me off since the beginning. You act so cool, so aloof, like you don’t care at all. Don’t you know how much it hurts for the other party?” The boy felt a lump of broken pride in his stomach. “Do you even know how it feels like to be unnoticed and treated like a sick person you whole life?”

I do!” Armada howled.

A great paw swept the two of them to the side in such a blinding speed, hurling them towards the thick wall, creating a crater. Armada hissed in pain while Vega coughed out blood. The beast was staring at them with killing-frenzy eyes, seeing them as mice trapped at a corner. It readied itself for another strike, crouching low and waiting for a perfect moment.

Armada glanced at Vega, who was looking consciousness. The blond man had been trained in these kinds of things so he had managed to feel the coming strike and block some of the impact by quickly activating the momentary body shield button on his belt. But Vega… he looked broken and about to crumble into pieces any second. “Hey, get hold of yourself!” Armada commanded.

The boy just couldn’t do it. He could feel his ribs poking through his chest and both his arms throbbing with numb pain, from the beast’s deadly strike and the landing on the wall. Blood trickled from his chin and onto the ebony tuxedo and frills, the metallic taste dominating his mouth. The vision in from of him was a blur – it felt like his skull was split in half and he could feel the blood seeping into his eyes – and his ear rung painfully, clouding his eyes even more. He tried to take a lungful of breath but it ended up as painful wheezing and pants. His body slid down to fall heavily onto the ground, which obviously didn’t help the painful needles to stop jabbing his entire body.

Meanwhile, even though his injuries weren’t as bad as Vega’s, Armada still sustained a broken arm and bruised body. His head was a bit light-headed but not as much to make him go giddy; he was sober and still able to protect the younger man, who was visibly in the brink of death.

He placed one foot and another to crouch down close to Vega, whose breathing was beginning to subside. “Hey, wake up,” Armada tried to get out the most reassuring tone he could, “Don’t die on me, yet. We need to get away before that damn thing kills us. Hey, are you listening?”

Armada shook the frail, thin body which only resulted in making the pain much more vivid for the boy. Vega whimpered in pain, signalling Armada to stop. He opened his eyes as wide as he could – which wasn’t very wide – and scanned the surrounding. He directed his sigh to Armada whose face was painted with concern. Vega chuckled faintly at the sight.

“I-I never… knew you… w-worry,” he said.

“Don’t waste your breath, boy,” Armada snapped, “I’m going to carry before the thing strikes again, and it looks like it’s going to do so any second.”

Vega’s eyes shot upwards to meet the beast’s bloodshot orbs. It snarled at the two men, its mouth a toothy grin. Somehow or another, Vega wasn’t afraid of the creature anymore; it instead looked like a puppy.

What? How? He was scared to death just a moment ago, so why now? And he’s wounded to the point of seeing the other side. How could he have mercy at his attacker while he’s dying?

Weirdly enough, a name suddenly came across his mind.

Bandersnatch.

A peculiar name but it sounded just right for the shadowy being. Right after, flashes of images flow into his head.

Pictures of a young puppy left to die in the rain among passing strangers.

A hooded man carried the box with the puppy away to a grand mansion overlooking the clouds. He had bathed it in warm water and fed it until it’s full. He had played with it until sundown and shared a bed to sleep on. The puppy was as mischievous as the owner himself, and that gained it its name: Bandersnatch.

Over the years the puppy grew big and invulnerable. Though harmless, the townspeople viewed it as some kind of threat. One night, the people set up a trap to catch the overgrown dog so they could dispose of it into the land beneath the clouds. Unfortunately, the beast was not captured, but it was furious…

It ran rampage throughout the town, claiming deaths of men, women and children. It looked at the residents as little monsters, trying to kill it – the thought itself made its anger rise rapidly. But it wasn’t its fault. It never was.

The rulers of the land decided to cast it down to Earth so it wouldn’t cause another ruckus. The hooded man, however, vowed to the beast that he would always be watching over it; he promised to not forget its name and give it protection until the end of time.

“Remember me, Bandersnatch, and I vow to remember you…”

Vega’s eyes were still with the beast. He didn’t know why but he pushed a smile upon his face and called out “Bandersnatch…”

The red orbs widened in surprise. Slowly, it eased itself from its waiting position. It stared at the broken body with an air of nostalgia and a hint of longing and happiness.

The boy before it looked nothing from his memory but then again, the hooded man possessed some mysterious power it could not understand. However, whenever he looked at the boy, he was images of his former master – a glowing silhouette hanging over the body.

It must be him! It must! Master is back! He’s back for me!

Seconds later the beast was approaching the boy, running helplessly at the boy he thought was his master. Armada, however, saw this as an attack and readied his gun – which was resting in one of the pockets on his belt – to shoot, but he was swept away by the bushy tail before he could pull the trigger.

This time, he wasn’t pushed hard enough to end up at the far wall of Omnia. He landed roughly on the ground, chocking back the pain that threatened to escape his throat. He was about to get up again and shoot until he saw an unexpected scene.

The beast was looming over Vega but it wasn’t glaring or emitting vicious thoughts. Instead, it looked at the boy with happiness and concern. It panted happily, licking the wounds from the battered body, healing the cuts and bruises completely. Vega was on the brink of consciousness but managed to softly touch the furry being’s great paw.

The voice that sounded out of his mouth sounded nothing like Vega, but the large dog seemed to be happy to hear it.

“Ah… It’s Bandersnatch…”

Bandersnatch leant down to sit down next to the now sleeping Vega. He looked at the boy with unknown affection, admiration, as well as guilt and sadness. Armada guessed that the monster had some kind of relation with the boy – no, it’s what’s inside the boy that tamed the once raging creature.

“But how,” Armada thought, eyes still locked on Bandersnatch, “It’s been around ten years; his Scent and memories should be gone by now.” Then something flicked the switch in Armada’s mind. “Or it could be that the damage on his head… It could’ve accelerated the Coma Phase!”

With the help of his uninjured limbs, he helped himself up and trotted slowly to Vega and Bandersnatch. However, the dog sensed this as a threat and offered itself as a shield in a blink of an eye, creating a distance between the boy and Armada. The man held up his good hand, signalling surrender. He looked straight into the creature’s eyes; his eyes were full of good intentions and the urge to help – Bandersnatch understood his eye-language and backed aside, finally relaxing, sitting nearby the boy like an obedient puppy.

Limping quickly, the man approached the boy and crouched down to inspect his injuries. Just as expected – his broken bones was healing and everything was going back to its places. The cuts and bruises were gone thanks to Bandersnatch and he looked a lot better than before.

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t need medical attention. Seeing no sign of first aid kit anywhere, he decided to call up Celestia, who should really be here moments before.

He grabbed the mission phone from his belt and pressed the speed dial. He had expected a long pause before Celestia picks up – her hearing was not very good due to an accident during a past mission – but instead, two figures leapt from the direction of the woods closest to the graveyard.

A familiar beeping ringtone filled the air and a click of a button was heard, silencing the beeping. “Hello? Celestia Dreyhl, present.”

“Yes, yes you are,” Armada glared at the ginger-haired woman. She wasn’t alone, though – Imogen Sia was next to her, frivolous dress swaying in the light breeze. Her skin illuminated under the moonlight and her cherry red lips were ever so visible everywhere she goes. And her eyes… they were as dark as ever, hollow sockets looking into a distant space.

The ladies noticed the crippled form of Vega lying on the ground, as well as the idle beast next to him; Celestia let out a gasp and rushed over to his side, while Imogen Sia strode calmly, a suitcase with a red cross in one hand.

Celestia pressed her ear to check his heart rate; great, he’s still alive. Imogen Sia settled next to Celestia, unpacking the suitcase to reveal all sorts of medical equipments and assortments of medicines, bottled or wrapped. The dark-haired woman touched the healing places, pressing slightly to feel the bones move to prop itself together.

After a few more diagnosis, she pulled out some bandages and a few planks of wood. She gently propped the planks on two sides of the healing arm and wrapped it in bandages, securing it so it won’t move about or slip.

She did this to Vega’s leg and carefully lifted him, arms steadily holding the body bridal-style. “We need a bed for him to rest. My mansion’s not far from here, about a few minutes on Bandersnatch,” Imogen explained.

“We’re riding that thing?” Armada’s tone was in a surprise, something quite unusual.

“Yeah. If we walk, we’re going to arrive there by, like, tomorrow.”

“… Alright, let’s go,” Celestia agreed.

Celestia hopped onto the beast first – taking the rear – followed by Armada, who offered to take Vega while Imogen Sia was climbing onto Bandersnatch’s broad back, taking the lead. Imogen Sia ordered Bandersnatch in an unknown language and it immediately stood up, increasing the height it was previously in, and leapt towards the lonely woods, crunching twigs and leaves along the way. The rest of the journey was silent and bumpy.

-rookieMANGAKA

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