A moment after Ariya passed her by, Lilith’s head was filled with confusion. Her heart stopped as if frozen, and her eyes widened at the sight, trying to comprehend.
“Today, let’s trying stimulating the internal organs with electricity.”
Vakin said as he uncoiled the wire that held a pigeon, and Ariya put on a pair of rubber gloves, then picked up the carcass without a hint of disgust.
“I think…we should not do that.”
Lilith felt a surge of relief, but her hope was crushed a second later.
“Do you remember the last time you stimulated the carcass until it exploded all over the lab? I do not want to get dirty again.”
“This time I’m downsizing it. Are you afraid of blood at this point?”
“I’m not afraid of blood. I’m afraid of getting dirty.”
“Alright, alright. So who’s going to do the dissection? You…or me…?”
Ariya sighed before accepting a scalpel handed to him, then cut into the pigeon’s body with precision. Lilith’s confused gaze was on him.
Blood…all over the lab…?
What does that mean? What were they doing?
And were Ariya and Vakin close?
The young woman’s head filled with questions, but her eyes refused to leave Ariya’s face. A face she saw everyday, but now it was a different person. No polite smile or gentle eyes.
Who is this Ariya?
Vakin injected some kind of drug into the carcass before inserting electrodes into the open gut. When he was done, he nodded to Ariya, whose hand was on the breaker for a generator.
When he flipped a switch, there was a hum of a machine starting.
In that moment…
The once lifeless swarm of dead pigeons writhed and beat their wings rapidly, letting out horrendous cries that sounded like painful laughs.
“Increase voltage to 200.”
Ariya did as Vakin told. The writhing and beating intensified, like a puppet being jerked around the stage.
“Not enough. Increase voltage.”
“Any more than this, they cannot handle it.”
At the end of his sentence, a smell like something burning filled the lab. The dead birds flapped their wings harder, the screams got louder, louder…
And in a blink, the carcasses exploded in a unified plop. Bloody scraps of flesh splashed over the two men’s white lab coat, but they made no move to wipe it off, not even the parts on their cheeks.
But Lilith could not handle the sight…
The young woman let out a short cry before seizing her mouth, praying that the machine’s hum would be loud enough to cover her voice.
But the two men looked at each other.
“Did you hear something?”
“Yeah. I did.”
Vakin left his experimental setup and strided towards the lockers that Lilith was hiding. The young woman tried to keep still, not even daring to breathe. Any closer, and he would hear her heart, beating as hard as a drum.
Suddenly, Vakin opened the locker and looked inside.
“What are you doing here?”
Lilith almost screamed with fright.
“Hey, look! Ariya, I found a new guinea pig!”
Lilith’s locker was closed, but the one next to her was opened. Lilith felt relief and glanced at Vakin, who held something in his hands.
Lilith forgot to hide and darted from her spot. She took Paeng-foon from Vakin’s hand and hugged it to her chest, protecting it.
She may appear courageous, but her body trembled horribly.
“You…you two…what are you doing!?!”
“What does it look like we’re doing?”
Vakin answered coldly.
“T-The stolen equipments, the poisoned pigeons… E…Everything was your doing? You two are the Shadow Vigilante? Y-You…made all the ruckus…for this crazy experiment?”
“Hmph. As expected of a fool. Making assumptions just from looking at the surface.” Vakin said in disdain and turned to Ariya, as if Lilith was just a particle of air. “Try again. This time, decrease the voltage…”
Lilith yelled and grabbed Vakin’s hands that were about to lift the breaker, forgetting that he was covered in blood.
“Don’t you know how terrible the stuff you’re doing is? If the professors knew, you two will be expelled. It’s not too late. I’ll help talk to the adults, so please, quit this.”
“What? This is just some dissection. We have to do it later anyway.”
Vakin said with a straight face. Lilith felt that she was trying to stop a child who played with his father’s gun without knowing what it could do.
“It’s not just a cadaver…it’s a life…”
“That’s your stupid pity talking. According to science, life is just a unit of energy for evolution. That’s why when life is out of energy, they are dead. Human and birds are the same.”
Suddenly, realization struck.
“Did…did you guys…dissect the…headmaster’s cadaver…?”
When he heard Lilith’s question, Vakin smirked.
“Well. This is the advantage of being a med student. Materials are easy to get.”
“How could you say that?! You’re disgusting!”
Lilith said. Although that was a cadaver, it was out of the norm. How could they do that?
“Annoying. Ariya, deal with this woman.”
Vakin scratched his head. The young woman turned to the other man who stood silently, listening to their conversation, with pleading eyes.
“Please get out of here peacefully.”
Ariya grabbed her wrist and dragged her out of the room. Paengfoon leapt from her arms and disappeared into the dark.
“Ariya, why…why are you doing this?”
The young woman managed to squeeze some words out. She tried to be positive. What she saw might not be the truth.
“Or are you having some kind of problem? You can tell me. If Vakin is forcing you to do anything, I’ll help you…”
“I am not forced to, but I am cooperating with him.”
The air around Lilith went cold.
Ariya paused in his track in the middle of the dark corridor. He slowly turned around to Lilith with a smile on his face like always, but it made her even more confused and terrified.
“I and Vakin are working on a project to revive human beings.”
“Wha…What? You…what are you talking about, Ariya?”
“Vakin wants immortality, and I want to see new kinds of death. So, we became partners, found some carcasses, and dissected…”
“Enough! Enough! Enough! Lies! Lies! Stop lying!”
Lilith yelled in a weak voice.
“The Ariya I know will never say something like this…”
Because Ariya is a good person.
Ariya will never do something terrible like that.
“The Ariya you know is nothing but a shell.”
His smile fade away, corroding Lilith’s faith. His eyes had no humanity in them.
“You assumed you know me, but actually, you know nothing.”
Why…? Why are you saying that?
“Take a very good look at this. This is the real Ariya Aphisuriyakul.”
Ariya held out his blood-stained hands to Lilith.
Those hands radiated cold, like a grim reaper’s hand.
Lilith stood unmoving as if her spirit had been sealed.
He said take a very good look, but she could not look at anything.
There were only darkness and pungent smell of blood…
Smell of death…
“Don’t get any closer!”
Lilith slapped his hands away and ran with tears streaming down her cheeks. She didn’t know why she cried.
Scared? Confused? Angry? Sad? Disappointed?
Lilith knew nothing.
Lilith didn’t know what to believe anymore.