“It’s all done, Jorn.”
After the chaos in the courtyard, Lilith returned to the committee room with a report for Jorn. The man sat in a white table piled with a stack of documents.
“I put those pigeons in a garbage bag, then disposed them in the incinerator. Then, I washed and sanitized the whole courtyard.”
“Eh…? I didn’t ask you to do that, did I…?”
“Don’t worry. It’s special service from me.”
Jorn looked up to see Lilith with her wide, playful smile, before a smile tugged on his own lips. His furrowed brows relaxed. Lilith used to feel tense around Jorn, but after working with him, she saw that he had a gentle side.
Suddenly, Lilith thought of Vakin.
Actually, is that person putting up a bad image to conceal his real self?
From what she remembered, Vakin used to be a quiet and sickly kid.
During 9th grade, he took multiple months off school because of a heart transplant, but when he returned, Vakin became a different man, like a butterfly emerging from its pupa…
Maybe, the weak Vakin was a shell.
And the Vakin right now is his real self…
“By the way, are you leaving late today? Want me to take you home?”
Jorn asked. Lilith’s grandmother was strict, and she did not have much freedom when participating in extracurricular activities. Lilith did not want to burden her friends, but could not say no to her only guardian. On days where she had to stay late, Jorn would offer to drive her home.
“Thank you, but today I’d rather not bother you.”
Lilith declined, glancing at the clock. It was five in the evening.
“Don’t stay late yourself, Jorn.”
“Yep. After I prepare the topics for tomorrow’s meeting, I’ll leave too.”
Every week, the committee had a meeting about the ‘Petition Box’ in order to fix problems notified by the students.
“What’s for this week?”
Jorn did not answer. Instead, he handed a sheet of paper over to Lilith.
‘There are not enough space to park bikes, because cars took up all of them.’
“A big job.” Lilith’s voice was tinged with boredom.
This campus is huge, and most students get around using motorcycles or bicycles. Parking space in front of each faculty was for them, but many were careless and parked their cars instead, because they did not want to walk all the way to the parking lot.
The committee tried to promote a campaign already, but was met with no success.
“Yeah, but since there is a petition, we need to deal with it. I’m waiting to consult with Vich about this…”
A second later, Vich sprinted into the room, sweat drenching his back.
“Jorn, I scouted the whole university with my motorbike. The only place with dead pigeons is the Faculty of Medicine courtyard.”
Vich shook his head, saying it’s no big deal, before plopping down on a nearby chair and used a document as a fan.
“…What about the others?”
Vich asked while staring at the near-empty room.
“They finished their work and left. As for Ariya…”
“I think he has an appointment with a professor.”
Lilith answered in Jorn’s stead. She gathered books and sheets, preparing to go home.
“By the way, Ariya was strange. He took the Black Sheep’s side in the argument back there.”
Vich’s word made Lilith pause in her track.
“Um…I think…Ariya just spoke reasonably.”
“Huh~ Lilith, if Ariya and Vakin bombed the campus, you’d still say he’s doing the right thing.”
“Ariya will never do something bad like that. I’m sure of it.”
Even though she knew him for half a semester, Lilith had a tremendous amount of confidence and argued with Vich without fear.
“Because Ariya is a good person.”
It’s not wrong to say Lilith felt unsettled by Vich’s words.
Those who think differently were often ostracized, and Lilith felt uncomfortable. Things that are ‘normal’ were just things the majority do, and they were not always the ‘right’ things.
Lilith thought as she walked through a corridor connecting the east and west wing.
This campus had a structure similar to a cross. A central road stretching from north to south was the main entrance and exit. Along this road were multiple faculty buildings, but most of them were on the east side.
The west was mostly deserted land waiting for renovation.
As she reached the end of the corridor, she found a dirt court with an old bench.
There were many angel’s trumpets, like in the Faculty of Medicine courtyard, but so dense that it could be called a forest. This area used to belong to the faculty. Old, battered roofs of an abandoned building perked above treetops. Opposite to that was a ruined clock tower, destroyed by a fire at the beginning of this semester.
According to Thai beliefs, any place that was ‘old’ or ‘abandoned’ had ‘ghosts’ dwelling in it, so nobody came here.
Lilith never saw ‘ghosts’, but she knew there is a ‘guardian’ here.
As soon as she entered the court, the ‘guardian’ appeared.
A slender tortoiseshell cat pranced out. It was this court’s ‘guardian’. Every time Lilith came here, it would appear.
Lilith first came here last month, loneliness as her guide. Actually, she could have a load of friends, but because she is ‘Saint Lilith’, people had a hard time getting close to her.
But she had one best friend.
Still…that friend disappeared.
One month ago, ‘Kanya’ suddenly dropped, and no matter how she contacted, she never got news from her friend, not even the reason for dropping out.
Why did Kanya vanish?
If they’re friends, at least she should say something.
Or…Kanya never thought of me as a friend?
When Lilith thought of that, she felt lonely, but she could tell no one. In the end, she found a quiet place to be with herself. That was how she met this cat.
This cat was the friend who listened to all her troubles.
“Paeng-foon, come here.”
Lilith called the name she gave the cat, and pulled out a small package of cat food. At first Paengfoon was not used to people. Its claw marks were still on her arm, but it’s warming up…even though it’s only the when she pulled out food.
“Oh? Where did you get all wet?”
She felt something cold on her leg. Lilith bent down and saw Paengfoon rubbing itself against her.
Then she noticed something.
Its orange and black fur had a brownish stain. From a medical student’s eye, she knew it was blood.
“Paeng-foon, what happened to you!?!”
Perhaps the cat was startled from Lilith’s voice, so it ran away from her hands into the grove.
“Paeng-foon! Wait, Paeng-foon!”
Lilith followed it with worries in her eyes.
But the more she walks, the deeper she got into the forest of angel’s trumpets. The branches were densely packed and she could not see ahead.
When she took her eyes off the cat, it was gone.
She was left alone in the den of angel’s trumpets.
…Like Alice who lost the White Rabbit…
Lilith thought so as she crossed the forest and made it out.
What lay ahead of her was a single story wooden building. It was old, and the door fell off, leaving only broken hinges. Although it was light outside, nothing inside the building was visible. Its creepy atmosphere could not be described in words.
“Pa…Paeng-foon…where are you!?!”
There was a cry somewhere far away.
From inside the building…
Lilith swallowed. She was scared, but when she thought of Paengfoon who could be injured, she stepped inside.
It was worse than outside. The floorboard screeches as she stepped on them, telling her that she was all alone in here. The corridors spreading left and right were lined with doors to old labs.
Lilith glanced in both directions. The first room to the left was locked, while the first to the right was slightly ajar. She chose to go there.
The moment she opened the door, the sight made Lilith freeze.
Tens of dead pigeons were hung with wires connected to a beam. Pairs of red eyes stared right at her, beaks gaped open in silent screams, necks stretched in a ghastly length from the heavy rotting body, and body fluids dripped and formed murky puddles on the floor.
It was a terrifying sight. She wanted to look away but could not move her legs.
These…these are…the poisoned pigeons…!?!
She remembered, because she and Ariya were the ones who collected them.
Why were they here?
Thinking carefully, this lab was strange. Nobody should be using it, but there were lab equipments scattered about. A generator stood in a corner.
Someone was using this place…
Someone poisoned the pigeons, stole equipments from the labs in the Faculty of Science for…some kind of experiment…in this room?
That ‘someone’ was the Shadow Vigilante?
Lilith had no time to think. She needed to find Paeng-foon and get the seniors, hoping they hadn’t left already.
But as she turned around…
Hinges of the entrance screamed.
And heavy footsteps echoed.
Lilith panicked, not knowing whether she should confront the mysterious visitor or not. Her eyes scanned the room and came across some broken lockers lined along a wall.
The young woman leapt into it and hid. She squeezed herself to the cold sides and held her breath, her eyes stared at the room from the small slits.
The sound of footsteps drew near and stopped inside the room. The generator started, and the whole room lit up, enabling Lilith to clearly see someone’s shadow passing the locker.
Was he really…the Shadow Vigilante, as accused?
Lilith accepted the sad truth, but a moment later she saw something that shook her core.
Another man came into the room. His face was perfectly cold, as if wearing a mask.