Chapter 05 – V
I have finally reached the aforementioned bus stop outside of Cancer City. The bus that passes by this stop will take me to the foot of the Cancer Hills. The Cancerian Laboratory is merely a three-hours hike from there.
I sit down on the bench at the bus stop, waiting for my ride. The bulletin board behind the bench said that since this route does not get many passengers, a bus would pass by only once per hour. I peek at the time on my MP3 player, hanging on my neck. The schedule said that the previous bus just left about five minutes ago, so it is about 55 minutes before the next bus arrives. Since there is nothing more I can do but wait for the bus, I decide to just sit down and take it easy, while listening to my trusty MP3 player.
The buses outside of big cities like Galaxia, Andoria, or Grand Central do not belong to Nebula Corporation; they are owned by other private companies. As a result, these buses do not have any security cameras installed on it, so it is okay for me to board it without much worry.
I am still holding on to my white lance. Yesterday, I bought a towel from one of the travelers’ break point and wrapped it around the blade. With this, the lance immediately turns into a hiking stick. This makes it much easier to carry it around without attracting attention.
As I let my imagination runs free with the music from the player, my mind starts pondering about stuffs again. Starting from the day mom died, this is the fourth day I left home. I still could not believe I have made it this far all by myself. So many researches about the route to this laboratory were done, despite the fact that I really hated doing independent researches. On top of that, I have to keep my identity a secret as well. Needless to say, it was not fun at all. I wish all of this would be over once I reach the laboratory – I would finally be able to know what is going on in my life, and maybe why all of this is happening to me.
“Is something wrong, sis?”
I made a slight jump and woke up from the imaginary world when I felt a gentle pull on my sleeve. Turning to the side, I found that the culprit is a little girl, probably not older than 10 years old, wearing a yellow plastic raincoat and a pair of red plastic boots. Her big round glittering innocent eyes stare right into mine, expressing her sympathy as if she knew that I went through something horrible.
“Sorry, what did you say?” I remove my earphones and ask her. That moment, I just realize that this was the first time in four days that I have actually conversed with someone in a normal conversation, not for the purpose of researching for a route to the laboratory or lodging reservation.
“Is something wrong, sis? You looked really sad,” she repeated her question.
“Hey, Aya! Don’t bother her like that!” A gorgeous blonde lady quickly approaches the little girl, reprimanding her before sitting the girl on her lap.
“I’m so sorry. She just loves talking to other people so much.” The lady bows to me apologetically.
“Oh don’t worry. It’s gonna be a while before the bus arrive. I could use some company,” I replied to the lady then turn to the girl, “What’s your name, sweetie?”
“I’m Aya.” the girl introduced herself with a cheerful smile.
It was very sweet and pure. It has only been four days, but it feels like I have already forgot how to smile like that.
…All because of that man.
“What about you?” Aya asked me the same question.
I pause for a moment, asking myself if it is okay to tell her my real name. She is probably too young to listen to the news, but what about her mother?
Would telling her my real name piqued her curiosity?
In whatever case, I know that I have to answer otherwise her mother might be suspicious of me.
It was risky, but aside from the fact that I am not sure what to improvise, I do not want to lie to this innocent little angel.
“Wow. That’s a very cute name!” The girl giggles. “Where are you going?”
“Oh. Um. I planned on going up hills to the view point.”
It was obviously a lie. I mentioned the view point because it was the first tourist attraction on the hill that came to my mind.
“Oh. I am going to have lunch with my mom at a restaurant near the foot of the hill!” Aya said enthusiastically, “The foods in that restaurant are very delicious~~~~~~.”
After that, the little girl keeps on talking. Like what her mother said, she really loves talking to people. I do not mind her one bit because it is rather amusing to be embraced by her innocence. She told me about how she is currently studying at the Cancerian Elementary School with so many friends that love her. She also described all the extra activities she did at school. But she is indeed a really good speaker. Every now and then, she would also ask me to speak up and tell her about myself, such as where I am studying or how old I am, so I would not be tired of listening only to her story.
I truly enjoy her company. Time flies so fast while talking to her, and before I know it, my ride is already here.
Aya and her mom board the bus along with me. I sit next to the window on the right side of the bus and her mother sits on the seat next to me. Aya sits on her mother’s lap. Lucky for us, the rain pours down only after we already have boarded the bus. As a result, the driver had to drive slower than his normal speed, giving more time for me to converse with Aya. From seeing her talk like this, I cannot help but reminisce about my childhood – back when I was still a little girl like Aya. I want to go back in time and turn back into a little girl, sleeping soundly on my mother’s lap without a care in the world again.
Even though she is a talkative girl, Aya finally falls victim to the seduction of the comfortable seat and goes off to the dream world. I could not help but adore her cuteness while she is sleeping so soundly. I wonder what she is dreaming about right now.
Could she be dreaming about me?
One thing for sure, she is definitely having a great dream because she is smiling as she sleeps. I wish I can have a sweet dream like her…
“We’re already on the bus. Maybe you can take off your beanie now?” said Aya’s mother.
“O…Oh. That’s okay. I like putting it on like this.” I fake a smile and look out of the window.
“…Your name is…Viola…right?” she asked me again.
Why is she asking me like that?
…Did she know who I am…?
“What a coincidence. I used to be acquainted to a girl named ‘Viola’ too,” said Aya’s mother, “She was my high school buddy.”
Her answer kind of surprised me. Maybe I was being a little too overly cautious.
“But after high school, we went separate ways to a different university,” she continued, “In the past, we don’t have convenient stuffs like a cell phone, so we lost contract after we got separated.”
“I…see. That’s kinda sad.” I nodded in agreement. For a moment there, I thought my cover was blown.
“Although, you really do remind me of that friend,” she continues.
“Hm…I’m not sure…maybe because you always listen to music?”
I tilt my head in curiosity.
“Back then we don’t have the MP3 players like the one you are using, but we have portable musical tape players. Whenever she is free, she’ll take it out and plug it into her ears,” Aya’s mother explained, giggling, “She told me her biggest expense in a month is the batteries for her tape player.”
“I see. That’s quite a coincidence.” I laughed along with her. It is pretty funny there is another ‘Viola’ who loves to listen to music like me.
“So, where do you live?” she asked me some more.
“Oh. Well, I stay at a dorm around this area,” I lied.
“I see. Well, take care on your way home. It’s dangerous for a girl to walk home alone, especially cute girls like you,” she teased me as the bus stops at the foot of the hills. We get up and step down from the bus together. Aya is still sleeping while piggyback-riding her mother.
I was so absorbed in the conversation with both Aya and her mom that I never noticed that the rain has already long stopped.
“Thank you so much. I had so much fun today.” I politely bow to her.
“Shouldn’t you be thanking Aya instead?” Aya’s mother giggled, looking at the sleeping girl on her back. “She seems to really like you.”
“Haha. Well, gotta thank her too, I guess. She’s an adorable girl.” I smiled and poked her cheek adoringly. “Thanks, Aya.”
“Well then, hope we’ll see you again,” said Aya’s mother.
“Yes. Goodbye.” I wave to both of them and continue my way up the hill.
Half way up the hill, I finally reach famous view point. The magnificent view of the Cancer City that can only be seen from this cliff quickly turns it into a famous tourist attraction. Cool afternoon breeze after the rain blows from the direction of the cliff directly onto my face, caressing my cheek. I remove the white beanie, freeing my shoulder-length hair so that it can sway along the wind.
As I cast my eyes off the cliff onto the scenery of the city, a nostalgic feeling suddenly emerges from the bottom of my heart, causing some warm liquid to trail down my cheek.
What is going on?
Why am I crying?
Why do I feel like I missed this scenery so much…?
Impossible. I have never been to this city at all in my entire life. The only city I have visited outside of Andoria is the Grand Central, where mom used to take me there for work a couple of times.
Or was it because I saw Aya and her mom that made me cry?
No. That is not it.
This feeling … It felt more like I was glad to be back home…