ToKyotchi Chapter 49

The Secret of Room M-10

Che shook his head, unable to come up with an appropriate response. He felt a deep sense of sorrow for Lorenzo and what he had endured. Did people truly feel that way about him? It was all coming together now.

It seemed as if everyone he’d encountered was struggling with their own demons. Che never thought a world like Eden, which at times still felt like a video game simulation, would be so complicated. He’d never played or seen a game with so much complexity. There was more to this world, more to the people who inhabited it.

Tyson didn’t just hate Lorenzo because of how he acted after all. He’d been telling the truth. It was more than just a love triangle that started their rivalry. Someone had lost their life, and the trauma of the situation was still with them.

Even Nikki had faced something insurmountable. She’d been an experiment for years, escaped the demented scientist who’d trapped her, Bella, and Kim, and they’d all somehow made it to Legaros Academy. Nikki now wanted to take down the very institution that had objectified her.

Whether it was Legaros or the royal family, Che realized he had more in common with the teens he’d met than he ever thought possible. Everyone had a mission, it seemed like.

So, what was Lorenzo’s?

The two crossed the threshold of room M-10, nearly plunging into pitch-black darkness if not for the few scattered floor lights that provided the room with a faint glow. Che could at least see two feet in front of him as Lorenzo led the way.

“So, I suppose this is where I show you what Nikki was most likely searching for,” Lorenzo’s smirk was somehow audible even though he had his back to Che. That’s when Che noticed the mounted console in front of them. Just as before, Lorenzo’s fingers dotted the screen as he input yet another code into its system, which caused the room to light up.

And Che’s eyes widened in horror.

“W-what is all this?” Che pointed around the room as several enormous tanks came into view. Each one housed an unconscious body floating in green liquid. None of them looked any older than a prepubescent child, while some of the inhabitants were clearly no older than six months old.

Che felt his throat tighten as nausea set in and looked away from the tanks to keep himself from vomiting. What kind of sick place was this? Were these children being…preserved here? He retched yet managed to keep it all down as he waited for an explanation from Lorenzo.

“I’m not sure why they have this here or what it all means,” Lorenzo shrugged. “I’m sure Nikki would have had a better idea than both of us.”

Che nodded, his heart heavy, though he wondered how Lorenzo could be so calm at a time like this. What else was Legaros hiding from everyone? What was the purpose of experimenting on people like this? He immediately thought of Nikki’s own experiences and shivered.

Trying to push the gravity of the situation away, Che looked around for any clue that could help him make sense of what he was seeing. That’s when his eyes caught a glimpse of something on the far side wall that said “Project Throne: Enigmatic Experimentation.”

“What is Project Throne?” Che asked, barely managing to speak.

Lorenzo shrugged once more. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Che stepped closer to the console, studying it for a few moments as his mind raced. Had this been what Yokan wanted him to find here? Were the children in the tanks even alive? What did it all mean?

Che sighed, feeling the weight of the situation. He had a feeling that this was only the beginning of a much bigger mystery. He just wished he knew where to start in unraveling it. There had to be something — some kind of clue or hint — that could get him closer to understanding what was really going on at this academy.

Lorenzo turned to him. “Anyway, I hope you had a good look at everything here, and I’m sorry things had to turn out this way.”

Che’s eyes widened in surprise. “What do you mean?”

Lorenzo slowly shook his head, a sad chuckle escaping his lips. Che waited for him to answer, but it seemed as if Lorenzo had already said too much.

Che then felt a tingling sensation course through his body, as if he’d been injected with a numbing agent. He tried to move but found himself slowly freezing in place, the effort causing a wave of dizziness to wash over him.

He felt his throat closing up as if he was choking on something, but he hadn’t swallowed anything. Lorenzo regarded him cooly; there was no trace of humor or mischievous anymore. It had been replaced with sorrow and regret.

“Lorenzo, you…” Che struggled to form the words. “What have you done?”

Lorenzo looked away, shaking his head. “It’s all out of our hands now.”

Che felt himself lunge forward, pulling his arm back as he prepared to strike. No! What was he doing? Lorenzo moved out of the way just in time, his expression now neutral, as if this was all to be expected.

Che watched as he brought his hand up, clenching and unclenching his fist, though he was willing himself to stop moving, to run away instead. It was as if his body was paralyzed but moving on its own. He dashed forward again, but this time he flew past Lorenzo and toward one of the tanks that housed an unconscious form.

He tried to scream, realizing what he was about to do, but it was useless. He struck the tank’s glass with all his might, the sound reverberating through the large chamber. He then watched as he brought his fist back, a small crack now visible on the glass surface.

Within seconds, it spread like a jagged spiderweb before giving way completely. Green liquid gushed out and onto the floor as the now-lifeless body inside the tank collapsed in front of Che.

He could see Lorenzo out of the corner of his eye. Lorenzo’s expression remained unchanged, but he seemed to be struggling to keep it that way.

Che continued to stare at the body laid out before him as he fought with his entire being to regain control of his body. No sooner than he’d started to calm himself, he launched backward, turning to face the other tanks.

One by one, he shattered them all, unleashing the occupants of each tank. Soon, the floor before him was littered with bodies as the green liquid flowed freely around them.

Che turned to Lorenzo, who had taken a step back. The teen didn’t seem sad, remorseful, or even indifferent anymore. Instead, he looked almost relieved, as if this was the outcome he wanted all along. He nodded at Che; it wasn’t approval or condemnation but simply acknowledgment that Che had done exactly what he wanted.

“Now sleep,” he whispered as he brought his palm up to his mouth. “Vicious Mist!”

As if blowing Che a kiss, Lorenzo exhaled, the cloud of pink smoke engulfing Che in an instant. He felt himself drift away, his limbs becoming heavier and his eyelids drooping. He tried to keep them open, but it was no use; he’d succumb to the Mist and its unconsciousness soon enough.

He felt himself slide to the floor, reaching out his arm in an attempt to break his fall. Realizing he’d regained control, Che tried to push himself up, but he was too weak. He felt his arm drop back down as his vision blurred.

“Lorenzo!” He called out. “You…how could you…we…have to save…them…”

Lorenzo crossed the distance and stood over him, a sad smile on his face. “The only way to save everyone is to put you away.”

Che desperately wanted to say something else, but the Mist was too strong. Lorenzo faded from his vision as the darkness of unconsciousness began to sweep over him. The last thing he remembered was hearing footsteps approaching from behind, the person’s movements measured and deliberate.

They walked right past Che’s face, their footsteps splashing green liquid up into his face just as they approached the console. He concentrated as hard as he could before making out Professor Avis, who regarded him with a look of pure disgust before turning away from him to address Lorenzo.

“You did well,” she spoke softly. “He can now be a useful tool for once.”