“Did you say… I have to take care of that boy from now on?”
The strict-looking researcher raised her eyes as she looked at the chart.
She said as she pulled off the glasses that were halfway down and hung from the bridge of her nose.
Do you have any complaints?”
Startled, I shook my head hastily.
“N-no at all! It couldn’t be.”
“But why are you so surprised?”
Instead of making excuses, I apologized first.
I lowered my eyes and put my hands forward as if I had committed some great mistake.
It was a survival method that I had learned while I was living in this institute.
Fortunately, the researcher seemed to like my attitude.
She moved on without paying attention to my strange behavior a while ago.
Then she looked at the documents in a business-like manner and said,
“Since Subject 137 has been disposed of, it’s only natural to take on another test subject.”
A tone as if talking about a broken thing.
My body stiffened for a moment at those absurd words.
That was Andy’s experiment number, the kid I used to bring meals to every day.
“I didn’t think it would last long anyway, but it was more useless than I thought.”
The researcher said as if it was nothing.
My hands trembled at the insensitive remark.
I clench my trembling fists tight.
“There won’t be any experiment since it’s the first day.
He should be in his room by now.
Room 175, on the 3rd floor B-wing, so you can take his meals starting this evening.’
After the explanation, she raised her face.
“Did you understand?”
At the tone that urged me for an answer, I barely managed to open my mouth.
“The director told me to take special care of number 175.
So, if there is anything special, please report it immediately.”
As always, I replied politely and after bowing, I left her private office.
But it wasn’t that I didn’t feel anything.
I couldn’t count on how many times my children have left without being able to withstand the experiments.
The tip of my nose wrinkled and my eyes became hot.
‘This is hell.’ No time for mourning was allowed.
Andy’s room needed to be cleaned before delivering Emilian’s dinner.
‘What can I do?’ I quickly wiped away my tears with my sleeve.
I was able to swallow my tears as I recalled the thought that this was hell.
The blazing fire will dry up even your tears.
I walked forward, wiping away the tears that kept dripping.
* * *
I cleaned the room after organizing Andy’s belongings.
Actually, it was more like a prison cell than a room….I left before my heart sank.
Having taken Emilian’s dinner from the restaurant, I arrived on the third floor of B-wing.
‘Here we are.’ Among the rooms lined up in the gray corridor, I found a room with the name 〈No.
175〉 on it.
Through the bars, I saw a boy sitting on a hard bed.
Feeling a presence, he turned his head.
There was a sign of alertness in his red eyes.
But he confirmed that I wasn’t a researcher and eased his vigilance.
Silence followed for a moment.
I asked bashfully.
“Excuse me, can I come in?”
It was a prison-like room with iron bars.
Naturally, the door was locked from the outside.
Although it was an absurd question, Emilian didn’t get angry nor did he reply sarcastically.
He gave me a brief answer in a low, weak voice.
‘Oh, gosh, that’s a relief.’ Sometimes there were test subjects who were hostile to us messengers.
I took out the key and opened the door.
Emilian had changed into clothes provided by the lab instead of his worn-out old clothes.
The number 175 was engraved on his chest, so it looked more like a prison uniform…
‘But you’re still handsome.’ I shook my head as if an earthquake was happening at the sudden thought.
Then I carefully set the plate I had brought on the table and said,
The tomato stew with plenty of chicken and vegetables smelled delicious.
However, Emilian didn’t touch the meal because he had no appetite.
That was what he said.
“I’ll eat it later… Leave it there.”
It would be better to eat it before it cools down… But it’s not like he’s skipping meals.
I nodded in response.
Placing my hand on the handle of the cart, I glanced at the boy once more.
‘…The experiments will start tomorrow.’ Was it because I had read the dark future that would come to him? I felt uncomfortable thinking about escaping by myself.
However, escaping together was much more dangerous than escaping alone.
And Emilian’s ankles were covered with shackles, it was impossible to run with that on.
I had to use and return the prison key every time, but the keys to the shackles were kept by the researchers.
Even if I was lucky enough to steal it, if we were caught while escaping, Emilian would be in danger too.
I couldn’t drag him into something that might kill him if done wrong.
‘…So let’s not get any closer than necessary.
It may sound a little harsh, but I can’t help it if I want to survive.’
As I was done with my job, I thought it was good to get out as soon as possible, so I said, squeezing the cart handle,
“So, I’ll go now.”
Emilian nodded his head, slightly pale.
It bothered me that his complexion looked bad, but I didn’t hesitate and turned away.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t even take a few steps.
A small, barely audible groan ran clearly through my ears because of the quiet surroundings.
My feet stopped.
When I turned my head, Emilian was leaning his head against the wall and his eyes were tightly closed.
Seeing that, a question came out by itself.
“Are you… okay?”
“Are you hurt anywhere?”
“…It’s nothing,” Emilian said stubbornly, avoiding my gaze.
‘What do you mean nothing?’ His voice sounded forced as if enduring pain.
Feeling something strange, I approached him.
“Hold on, look at me.”
I sat down at the bedside and placed my hand on the boy’s forehead, I was bewildered.
His forehead was like a fireball.
“You, what kind of fever is this–!”
‘You have to go to the physician right now!’ The moment I was about to stand up thinking so, Emilian’s body leaned softly and,
He rested his head on my shoulder letting out a painful groan.
I stiffened, not knowing what to do with his sudden action.
But Emilian’s fever was so high that it seemed like an unconscious act.
I looked down at him, who leaned on my shoulder.
His lips were turning blue and he trembled softly.
The hand that had touched Emilian’s forehead was still warm.
He was so hot that my hand felt hot from the heat.
‘How could he hide being this sick?’
I adjusted myself so that he could be more comfortable and said,
“Um… Since when have you been like this?”
Emilian slowly opened his eyes.
“Since I came here…”
“What? But then, why didn’t you say anything?”
Emilian replied as if it was natural.
“If I endure this much I’ll get better.”
I was at a loss for words for a moment.
Emilian grew up in the slums from a young age, without any family.
Even if he was sick, no one would ever take care of him.
He would have just endured it all alone until it got better.
Just like now.
“It’s nothing, so don’t worry about it.”
Those weren’t empty words.
He might really think this much pain was nothing.
But it wasn’t enough to be patient to get better.
“What are you saying? You’re burning hot.”
‘It would be nice if it’s just a cold, but it seems he should see a doctor just in case.’
I said as I laid Emilian on the bed,
“I’ll call the physician.
Wait here for a minute.”
And I hurriedly left the room without hearing his answer.
I ran down the hallway to the first floor.
After passing the lobby and turning into the hallway on the left, the emergency room came into view.
A physician at the entrance saw me and looked up.
“What’s the matter?”
I spoke as I tried to catch my breath after finishing my short marathon.
“The subject is sick.”
The physician looked down at me with his hands inside his gown and said,
I was intimidated by the curt question, but I had to say what I had to say.
“I’d like you to examine him.”
The physician answered in a still indifferent tone.
“How bad is it?”
“He has a high fever.
I think it’s a really bad cold.”
The physician only looked annoyed when I said there was a patient.
His reaction wasn’t abnormal compared to yesterday and the day before.
Test subjects who suffered from venomous experiments were always sick.
Throughout the experiment, the children were ill beyond cure.
“It won’t live any longer anyway.”
“Treatment will be stopped as of today.
It’s a waste of time and a waste of manpower.”
He wasn’t enthusiastic about treating patients, always excusing himself with the fact that they wouldn’t last long anyway.
The physician’s lukewarm reaction made me anxious that he might not take care of Emilian.
I said hastily.
“The director told me to pay special attention to subject 175.”
The physician still looked annoyed, but he slowly reached for the examination tool.
Summoning the director’s name seemed to have worked.
And as the physician was packing his examination tools, a sudden commotion started outside.
A loud voice like a shout and the sound of urgent footsteps echoing on the hard stone floor were mixed.
‘What? What happened…?’
Moments later, the researchers rushed into the emergency room, pushing a stretcher.
The girl on the stretcher was writhing and screaming like a beast.
The girl, with her limbs held tightly, spouted foam from her mouth and twisted her whole body as if having a seizure.
The physician asked, hurriedly examining the girl’s condition.
The researcher answered in a bewildered voice.
97 experienced an adverse reaction during the final stage of the experiment.”
The girl’s struggles grew stronger.
The physician said as he pulled out a syringe from the medicine box.
“I’ll give it a sedative.”
The director entered the emergency room along with a group of researchers.
He shouted nervously at the physician.
“You cannot lose Subject 97.
Fix it by any means!?”
“Yes, director.” Replied the physician.
I couldn’t bring myself to ask what would happen with his appointment with Emilian.
“Sh*t! I was so close to succeeding…!”
The director bit his lip nervously.
I tried to stay in the corner of the emergency room so as not to disturb the physicians.
But then the director, who found me, shouted enraged.
“You’re in the middle.
Get out of the way!!”
The director pushed me harshly.
I fell flat on the floor.
A tingling pain spread as my knee and hand were scratched on the floor.
I wondered if the director would help me get a physician to see Emilian later on… The present director was blind to all.
It was true he thought of Emilian as special, but right now, saving that girl was his top priority.
Because there were only a handful of specimens that made it to the final stage.
Fortunately, after taking the sedative, the girl’s condition seemed to stabilize.
Even so, the physician won’t be able to take his eyes off the girl for a while.
No one could know when another seizure might recur.
When I fell, my palm was scratched and blood was seeping out.
I felt a stinging pain.
I opened and clenched my fist a few times.
‘Compared to what the test subjects’ children are experiencing, this is…’ It really was nothing.
I brushed off the dirt on my pants and stood up.
Avoiding the director’s eyes, I approached the shelf with medicines.
Since he won’t be able to see a physician…
‘At the very least, I have to give him an antipyretic…’ It was helpful to memorize the shape of the medicine bottle with the fever reducer drug while running errands for the researchers.
The adults seemed to have completely forgotten my existence.
I slipped the antipyretic and hid it under my sleeve.
And guess who left the emergency room before anyone even noticed it?
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