The duo had returned home safely, and for once Louise agreed to take a break. Davis spent Sunday making up for all the lost sleep, and resting from the constant exercise he did. In the evening, he at least made sure to wrap up his work for school before returning to bed. For Louise, however, she stayed in bed late. It was sometime in the afternoon that her door flew open, and her mother came in with a smile on her face.
“Hey honey, are you doing all right?” She walked next to her bed, staring down. “You’ve been in bed for a while, you missed breakfast!”
Louise groaned, rolling to meet face to face with her mother.
“Just real tired. I was up way too late last night.” She cracked out a smile.
“You sure that’s it? No fever or anything?” She put her hand on Louise’s forehead, feeling a normal temperature. Louise wriggled at the action, pushing her mom’s hand away.
“Please mom, I’m fiiiine. Give me half an hour more.
Her mom put her hands on her hips. “If you say so. I wrapped up some breakfast for you in the fridge at least. And remember, if there’s anything wrong, you can tell me about it and I can help.”
Louise nodded, before pulling her blankets tighter around herself.
“Thanks mom…” she said in a drowsy voice, letting sleep overtake her again.
Louise spent most of the Sunday in bed, sore beyond belief, hoping that all the aching would stop.
By the time Monday rolled around, Louise was still feeling too sore to get out of bed. She had perfected the art of sleeping in just enough to not be late for school, avoiding tardiness for years, but now, her streak was now broken. She didn’t know the exact time, assuming it was sometime after 7.
If she was late, Davis would call her though, right?
Slumping out, she decided to skip making lunch and just be the most bare minimum of presentable. Several minutes later, arriving at school, she noticed that there was nearly no student activity out front. She groaned, yelling at the sky.
She bolted into a full on sprint, ignoring her body’s soreness.
The rest of the day ended up outright embarrassing for her. She got the eyes of everyone in class for coming through the door late, a short beratement from her teacher, and got the added embarrassment of not even having her weekend homework all wrapped up. She slinked to her desk, grabbing her hair in embarrassment.
The teacher continued with the lesson, and her mind wandered. Everything he talked about was akin to white noise, no thanks to how busy she was the weekend. She groaned to herself, plopping her head face-down on the desk.
Her teacher called her out to the entire class once more, this time for putting her head down.
At lunch she bought a sandwich and chips, and sat down at the usual table with Davis. He was at least taking her diet advice, and was eating a simple PB&J.
She was taking bites of her food amidst rushing through pre-calc homework. Davis looked over at her work.
“Trying to get ahead of the curve with homework so you got more time for our monster work? That’s not a bad idea.”
She grumpily looked up at him.
“I’m not ahead of anything at this dumb school.” she muttered in a quiet voice. “Can’t we get at least reduced school hours because we have a job now?”
Davis shrugged, and stretched out his arms. “What would you even tell the teachers? That you stayed up too much hunting some kinda giant flying turtle?”
She rolled her eyes. “How about, ‘I’m too busy working to save all of your butts from becoming lab rats, give me time off.’”
She paused in the middle of solving an equation. “Why am I even doing pre-calc, what is pre-calc going to ever do for me?”
“Get you a high school diploma and help you have a chance at any sort of career?”
She glared at Davis for a few moments, before rushing to finish her work.
He sighed. “Unless you want this happening every day, maybe we can do homework tomorrow in the library after school? We can get ahead of the curve and stuff so you have time for… Whatever you’re doing for all this monster stuff.”
She grumbled. “I have a lot of research to do after school tomorrow, and I won’t be able to get it done with all this dumb school catching up I gotta do.”
“Well I got my stuff to do after school too, like uh…” He let out a yawn. “Make some more pepper bombs later tonight, but I can still make time to help you out. Seriously, working together can make everything go much more smoothly. So tomorrow, after school at the library, okay?”
She threw her hands in the air, groaning. “Ugh, fine- ow ow ow.” She winced, quickly lowering her arms. “Dang soreness… Seriously, we work for the government or something, what was it the benefactor said?”
Davis rubbed his eyes, standing up from the table. “Good luck with your work for now at least, I’m gonna head to the library for a short bit. There’s a quiz next period.”
Louise glared at him as he walked away.
You could have at least helped me a bit more before going off to study.
The rest of the day for Louise was turning in a bunch of half-baked homework that she barely understood herself, and having to re-do some of it because of how terrible it all was. She cursed her teachers and school, spending all her time at home jumping between homework, and paranormal message boards for any sort of sightings. It was past midnight when all of her homework, past due and current, was finally done. She shoved all of the finished work into her backpack, wasting no time to dive into bed. She hadn’t even bothered to take off her uniform, but everything ached. It was time to sleep.
The following morning, she was at least feeling physically well enough to get up on time, and resume her usual morning routine. Hurrying over to school on time, she kept as focused as she could through the rest of classes. Lunchtime rolled around faster than she expected, and ended. Neither really had anything to talk about, so they just silently ate with each other, before splitting off to do their own thing after they finished eating.
The school’s library was right next to the cafeteria, and decently populated with students. There were plenty of desks, medium sized square tables, computers, and most important above all, books. There were a few large lounge chairs next to smaller tables where some students were sitting down, reading novels or textbooks. There were other groups around the room as well, but it was mostly silent, other than hushed mutters of students trying to solve troubling work. The duo sat at a square table, splaying their textbooks and soon-due homework on the table, along with future textbook assignments. Louise stared worryingly at all the work in front of her. Davis put his hand on her shoulder.
“Hey, it’ll go twice as fast with two of us, right?”
“But isn’t half of this work like, yours and half mine? We only have share a few classes-”
“It’ll go twice as fast, like, just trust me on this. Please.”
An hour of intense (at least for Louise) schoolwork went on. Starting off on individual work first, Davis worked at a fine pace, while Louise ended up asking dozens of questions for help. Eventually, her work went smoother the more Davis was able to explain how trig calculations worked, or showing how to solve questions on physics.
It also helped a lot that they were both basically math.
Every time she began to understand how to apply each formula, she swore she could feel two wires connect in her brain, followed by her audibly going “OOOOOOHHH, THAT’S HOW IT WORKS!”
Davis would smile a bit at her making these revelations. It felt nice doing such a simple nice thing for her.
Louise stared at him.
“You wanna do this more often too? It’s kinda ironic but, it makes homework a bit more fun.”
Louise vigorously nodded. “Yeah, same here! I dunno how the math works but it’s nice to not be like, stumped on one problem for like five hours!”
Davis’s smile grew wider. “That sounds like a lot of fun then. Thank you!”
“Nah, I should be thanking you. What jerk is making us do all this confusing mathstuff anyways? Math is gonna do NOTHING for me.”
“Well math has done a lot for me to be honest. You need to know some of this stuff to make all my bo-… my gear to work. Also, as a tip, don’t just stew over some problem you’re stuck on. You’ll just waste time. There’s no shame in returning to it later.”
“You sure? It’s much nicer to like, punch on through that stupid problem. It feels really nice too.”
“Yeah. Your brain might figure it out when working on other problems too!”
Having moved onto history and wrapping up with reading for the entire week, she would constantly mutter to herself over the decisions of governors and generals from the past.
“You couldn’t see that coming? Come on.”
“How did you really let that happen…”
“Why did they elect you? What was wrong with everyone back then…”
Davis glanced over. Maybe she thought she was thinking to herself instead of speaking out loud. It was getting quite annoying.
Somebody tapped her on the back of her shoulder, knocking her out of her reading trance.
Turning around was a girl, staring angrily with her hands on her hips. She had bright red hair, wore a dress jacket and a nice button up shirt, along with a pencil skirt. If it weren’t for her height, Louise would have assumed she was a teacher.
“You’re going to have to keep it down.” She spoke in hushed anger. “Your constant muttering is causing too much noise, and it’s against the library rules!”
“How about you keep your voice down first. I wasn’t doin’ anything wrong!” she exclaimed. She was about to turn back to her book, until she noticed a familiar face behind the girl.
Kirino, sitting at a table not too far off from where she sat. She sat with a boy wearing a yellow sweater, stiff but soft shorts, and fluffy blue hair, and had a puffy jacket tied around his waist. Kirino was talking with him briefly, but as if she knew Louise was staring at her, she changed focus and locked eyes. The red haired girl’s voice had increased in volume, but Louise processed none of it.
There was no way she was going to do anything here, right? She’s crazy, but is she that crazy?
I hope you’re smarter than I assume. This is no place for a fight.
“CLARICE!” Kirino yelled, her voice dominating the library. She zipped her mouth shut, and turned towards Kirino. “We still have work to finish. Quit bothering them.”
She ran back to the table with the other two. She grumpily stared at Kirino. “You probably just bothered far more people here than that girl for the past hour with that you know.”
“A library is no place for any sort of fights. If somebody is being slightly noisy, it should be easy to ignore them. If it bothers you this much, we can find somewhere else to work.”
Clarice nodded. She turned to the boy. “Come on Dom, get everything packed. We’re going.”
He nodded, slipping a big stack of textbooks into his backpack. The two got up, ready to go. All that was left was Kirino, still sitting, eyes locked with Louise.
“Kirino? We’re all set.” The two turned to stare at Louise as well.
She nodded, standing up and turning towards the library exit.
With her gone, Louise whipped over to Davis.
“You saw her, right? What an absolute brat! I bet she sent over that one girl to distract me so she could find some moment to sneak attack me!”
Davis shook his head. “It’s obvious she’s not that dumb.”
Louise huffed. “She isn’t fooling me with how ‘smart’ she is.”
“If she started a big fight with you here, she’d be suspended. Her parents would get mad, she’d probably get suspended from sports activities, and word would spread fast about her fight. I should know, you shouldn’t cause trouble if you wanna keep a cool reputation.”
“Suspension is something I never really thought about… Maybe I should be the one to get the jump on her-”
Davis grabbed her by the wrist, staring her in the eyes. “Please, just like, don’t. Don’t even THINK of anything related to getting yourself suspended.”
“It means more time to work on the cryptid hunting, right?”
“You do realize being suspended doesn’t make you free from homework or schoolwork right?”
“I could always do it later… but…” Louise took a deep breath in. She looked at Davis, smiling. “Yeah, you’re right. My parents would prob ban me from leaving the house if I ever did that.”
Davis threw his head back, sighing. “Seriously, don’t recommend anything that stupid again. It’ll suck a whoooooole lot to be suspended man.
Kirino and the other two had moved to a small office space in the library. It was nothing but a small room with a four-person table in the center, with roller chairs surrounding it. With the door to the space shut, Clarice glared at Kirino.
“You can’t just back down like that if somebody is causing issues like that. Don’t you usually stand up for yourself?”
“Trust me, I know. That girl there, unfortunately, causes far too much trouble than it’s worth.”
Dom had been unloading books and binders onto the table. He paused at the statement.
“She didn’t hurt you or anything, right?”
Clarice rolled her eyes. “Did you see that girl? Kirino could break her in two if she wanted to start a fight.”
“It’s complicated. All I can say is that she’s trouble, and the best path is avoidance.”
Clarice flipped an english textbook open to a bookmarked tab, and opened a notebook to a fresh page.
“That doesn’t sound right at all. Are you sure there’s nothing you can do? Like no teachers or something to report her to? Or maybe your parents-”
She held up her hand. Kirino had opened her English textbook, staring at the book.
“I don’t need them to help me. I’m sure an opportunity to… deal with her will come very soon. I just need to be patient.”
Dom scooted closer. “I think Kirino has the right idea. It’s not like that girl is actively seeking trouble, right?”
She shook her head, still reading. “I’m not completely sure, but I hope she’s not as stupid as I think she is.”
Dom shrunk back. “Oh, that’s not good…” He brightened up again. “There’s nothing we can’t figure out some solution to, right? Just let us know what she’s doing, and we can help! Like all this AP homework stuff. 3 heads are better than one, right?”
Louise looked up from her textbook, staring at the twins.
The two of them were what Kirino considered her only intellectual peers. They once kept to themselves, with minimal social activity and mainly focusing on studies, until she extended a hand first. They had accepted without hesitation, as who would deny being friends with her? As academically successful as she was, without them, she wouldn’t be able to perform as well as she currently could.
Yet, the trouble with Louise wasn’t academics. It was her entire future, and the future of everyone on her shoulders.
Could she really bring her friends in to assist her with such a crushing responsibility?
She turned back to her textbook.
“Perhaps later. It still might be too much for you two.”
Clarice groaned. “Next time I see that girl I’ll give her a good whack on the head for you then, how about that?”
“Please don’t…” begged Dom. “It’s really stressful when I go to school alone with you suspended.”
Kirino continued to try to bury her thoughts into the reading, but her thoughts were still preoccupied with the troublesome girl.
Leaving the library with current and future schoolwork done and all prepared for, the two split off and returned home. It was the cusp of night, and Louise’s parents were home sooner than expected. She waved to them, saying quickly she was gonna hang in her room for the rest of the night, and hurried off. She powered on her computer, pausing as she stared at the black reflection of the screen.
The thoughts of her encounter with Kirino from earlier took over her head. She remembered how she was beaten not once, but twice in a row by the student. There was no doubt Kirino was clearly using all sorts of tricks and stuff, but was there something more she could do?
She turned around in her chair and got onto the floor, beginning to do pushups.
Kirino was bound to surprise them in the future, but she wasn’t going to let herself lose so embarrassingly again.
Exercising for the next hour until she was sore, she slumped onto the computer, slowly browsing through a few different threads and local mysterious sightings. Fading from exhaustion, she caught sight of something slightly interesting. She wrote it down on a post-it note before crawling into bed.
The following day during lunch, Louise bolted over to the table where Davis was sitting.
She slid into place across from him with a sandwich in hand.
“Before you say anything, I gotta make this quick. I ran into a sudden bit of inspiration from browsing last night, and may have found a potential lead. I’m gonna run down to the library and finish the research there, and I’ll meet at your house after school. Got it?”
Davis looked at her stunned for a few moments. “Could you like, run that by me again? You spoke way too fast.”
She sighed, rolling her eyes. “I’m going to the library for lunch, I’ll meet up at your house after school, all right?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll uh, try not to get too sleepy?”
Louise nodded, getting up.
“Hold on hold on,” Davis held his hands up towards her. “You do realize you can’t bring food into the library?”
She looked at the wrapped sandwich in her hand. “Oops, no I didn’t. Well-”
She noticed Davis had only brought an energy bar and energy drink to the table. “What about your lunch?”
“Oh, I forgot. It’s fine-”
She threw the sandwich at his face. “No skimping on meals, you hear?”
Davis gave her a stare of death. “You know you could have just HANDED it to me instead of throwing it like a jerk or somethin.”
“That’s what you get for trying to skip out on meals! Now I can’t waste any more time, be right back.”
She bolted off.
“HOLD ON, what about your lunch-” He yelled. He noticed a few other students looking his way, and he shrunk back in response.
“I don’t wanna look weird to the others…” He muttered to himself.
Louise arrived at Davis’s home later that day, with a fat folder in hand.
Davis sat on the couch, cracking open and sipping on an energy drink. Louise plopped right next to him, opening up the folder. He peered over, finding a bunch of text along with a big logo for “G Brand Co.”
“This company was something weird when I glanced over a few posts. It’s registered as some nation-spanning company, with factory locations everywhere. I coulda sworn I’ve seen a few trucks of theirs, have you?”
“I… Don’t really pay attention to trucks? I don’t think they’re allowed to drive on small neighborhood roads.”
“Well uh…” She paused, staring at her paper. She flipped it to the next, showing a few images of objects:
One was a blanket with some kind of water sack and straw attached to the side, some plastic face masks with a bunch of iron pegs stuck on the other side, and platform shoes with the soles suspended by rubber bands.
“Look at this stuff they make. A drink blanket? Some de-wrinkling mask? Jumping shoes? I know if I went out shopping I’d at least notice ONE thing by this company for sale, especially with how many products they have.”
Davis looked at the products. “Are you sure this just isn’t some prank or photoshop? These could easily be TV scam products.”
She shrugged. “I dunno, but if it’s true, it just proves how sketchy this company is. PLUS-”
“What’s so mysterious about selling phony products?”
She flipped to the next page, revealing a cluster of pins on a map of the United States.
“Look how many factory and distribution locations they have everywhere. Not to mention, there’s one that’s local!”
She flipped another sheet of paper.
“You know you can just save all of this digitally?” Davis inturrupted. “How much in printer fees did this even cost you?”
“Five bucks or something, it’s no biggie.”
“Saving it to your phone and sending it to me is free though.”
“Hush you, and just look. There’s a factory right near town.”
It was a satellite image of the factory. There were a few trucks parked in front of it, but the building itself looked dilapidated. Most curiously, was the location: It was in the middle of abandoned farmland, with several more abandoned buildings scattered not too far away from it.
“Well, it’s kinda far out, but that’s nothing really too strange.”
“Do you SEE the picture? It’s like falling apart! It’s a registered location and everything, with hours and a number and all that stuff. There’s GOTTA be something going on over there, and we gotta get going ASAP!”
“You can’t be serious. It’s a school night, and we’re gonna trespass on private property owned by some weird company.”
“It’s only a 30 minute trip if we pick up the pace, so we can be back home before it gets too late. Better to beat PAIN or Kirino to it first, right?”
Davis groaned, getting up. “We’ll just check it out, and leave. If it looks even slightly normal for a factory, we’ll turn around and head back. That, and you’ll owe me… Something. I don’t know, I’ll think of it later.”
“What do I get if I’m right?”
“I guess the fact that you didn’t waste my day? It’s very disruptive when you spring this stuff on me at the last second.”
“Well what other plans do you have for today? Napping till the sun goes down?”
He stood still for a moment. “I mean… I could have done something OTHER than napping, like doing some research stuff too, right?”
“Haha, where do you research? Dreamland?”
He stared grumpliy at her. “I mean, you could tell me a few sites to look at, and then I could help. And stuff.”
A knock comes from the door. Every hair stands up on Davis’s neck. Louise curiously turned to him as he slowly turned to face the door. His face was stricken with panic.
“Are you expecting anybody?”
He shook his head fidgetly.
“No, and that’s exactly the issue.” He spoke in a hushed tone. “Literally nobody visits me but you, and I’m always informed if packages are supposed to arrive.”
A voice spoke from beyond the door. “I know you two are in there. If you would be nice enough to invite me in, I could tell you something urgent.”
Neither of them recognized the voice. Louise reached into her schoolbag, pulling out her gauntlets and slipping them on.
“Grab your stuff.” She mouthed to him, and he hurried into the garage. She cracked open the door, finding a very tall man standing there.
He wore a fancy gray designer shirt and red pants, along with pricey looking dress shoes. His hair was long, nearly growing over his eyes. Still, he kept it well brushed and maintained. He stared down at the girl, wearing bizarre looking red-tinted glasses.
“There’s no need to be so afraid. I’m not here to start any fight. Now, you are one of the two new monster hunters around here, right?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Please, I know what happened to the Wendigo and Cofrinii Hydra, and I know you two want to kill off more. I have some simple terms to establish with you regarding your hunts.”
Davis came back, holding a pepper spray bomb. He froze seeing Louise had opened the door.
Why did you let him know we’re here?
“Who are you anyways? What makes you think you can tell me what to do?” Louise yelled back, gripping the door tighter. She felt a bad feeling running up her spine.
“Well, to put it simply, I have a special relationship with some of these creatures. I can’t have you just, up and murdering all of them.”
Murder. Louise’s blood boiled at the use of that word in response to man-eating cryptids. He really thought of them that highly, that their lives were the same as humans?
“You have no right to tell me what to do!”
She threw the door wide open.
“They all need to get out of our town or die!”
She threw a punch forward, striking the man square in the stomach. A force of wind followed with the blow, rustling the grass and kicking up several dead leaves behind the man.
The man himself, however, stood there totally unfazed.
He sighed, softly hitting her with the back of his hand. This gesture sent her flying back into the home, crashing against the wall and cracking it.
Davis looked in terror at the man, and back to the dazed Louise, who was shaking her head clear. He dropped the bomb and ran up to the man, hands in front of him.
“I’m sorry for that please, we’ll listen to your terms!”
Louise stumbled back to her feet. “You can’t just let him-”
He turned to Louise with a look of total fear in his eyes. He turned back to the man, who was silently nodding.
Louise yelled “We’re hunting these monsters because-”
“I do not care why, simply follow my terms, and I won’t have to punish you two. You can hunt monsters as you please, but do avoid any birds of any type. That should be easy to follow, correct?”
Louise pushed forward past Davis’s shoulder, giving a glare of rage to the mysterious man.
“T-That’s fine! We can do that sir!” Davis spat out.
The man smiled. “It’s Von Chad. Last, What are the names of you two?”
“I-I’m Davis Foster, and this is Louise.”
“Hey, don’t give him my name!”
He nodded. “Well then, Davis and Louise. I hope we won’t have any trouble in the future!”
He turned and walked off casually, and Louise leapt forward, slamming and locking the door.
“Davis, what the HELL was that? You can’t just let somebody bully us around!”
“I’m sorry, did you see what happened? You didn’t even phase him, he flicked you away like a twig, and now one of my walls is all screwed up too! What else could he have had up his sleeve?”
“Maybe he just does a lot of sit-ups and planks or something, I don’t know. But I would have tried punching his head next. That would have been a bit better, right?”
Davis put his hand on her shoulder, gripping her tightly.
“I’m going to be more honest with you than I’ve ever been before. After he just brushed off that punch, every single instinct screamed that that man could very easily kill both of us if he really wanted to.”
“And that’s why we should have dealt with him sooner, we coulda won out like the last few times-”
“I’ve felt so terrible in the past, seeing so many people enter the woods and vanish, or worse, watching helplessly as they were attacked by a monster. All those sights paled in comparison to the absolute doom I felt coming from him. There’s absolutely nothing you could do to convince me he could have killed you in a millisecond.”
Louise still stared angrily, eyes burning with a need to chase down that man.
“By some stroke of luck, he simply doesn’t want us to kill any birds, and was nice enough to TELL us that before we found out the hard way. So let’s just, be happy we’re that lucky, and alive.”
She sighed, a few tears streaming from her eyes. She plopped down on the couch, lowering her head into her hands. She breathed heavily, sniffling.
“It’s not fair… We shouldn’t be bullied or ordered around like this!”
She put her hands on her head, grabbing her head and throwing it back, letting out a groan of anguish.
“It’s just such… BULL. This SHOULDN’T be happening! This isn’t how all this is supposed to go! We should be able to defeat him like anyone else.”
Davis merely stared as she continued to sob. He slowly walked towards her.
“Hey, well, it beats getting…” He thought back to the mysterious visitor. “Punished? I don’t wanna think what he’d do.”
“I told you, I could have taken him.”
Davis sighed, now staring in frustration.
“I really don’t think so.”
She looked up, glaring angrily at him.
“Even if you could, there’s still me too. It’s bright out, I’m not too useful like this. All it takes is one bad bit of collateral damage and I could like… you know. Die.”
Louise wiped her eyes. “Yeah, true… Maybe I should train you or something? So even you can be handy without needing your gadgets.”
“Hey, I’m still perfectly handy, even without my powers. Watch this.”
He held his hand out towards her. “Come on, you look like you need a hand getting up.”
She giggled to herself. “I’m fine, just.. Agh screw it. She grabbed his hand, and he pulled her up. She sniffled.
“Hey, I don’t think it’s a bird factory or anything, right?”
Davis nodded enthusiastically.
“And, one thing I know will help a bit… Could you share a bit of candy? I’m not picky but if you have anything chewy like gum that would be cool.”
He squinted his eyes, exhaling out of his nostrils. Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out a piece of taffy, offering it to her.
“Don’t push your luck here. My candy is limited.”