Even after Annis had given him fever-reducing medicine, Emilian still suffered from a high fever.
His body felt hot as if he had been thrown into a pit of fire.
‘It hurts…’ All he could be aware of was the pain he was feeling.
But it was okay.
He was used to pain.
The gangsters in the slums never went easy on anyone, even if they were children.
On the days he couldn’t beg for coins, he was beaten until passing out.
“Be thankful I feed and shelter a useless bastard like you,” they said, throwing bread hard as a stone as if showing kindness.
If by any chance a nobleman generously gave a large sum of money, he wouldn’t receive his share of it.
Because the gangsters would take it all.
Starvation and cold were everyday life.
In winter, the bodies of children who died of freezing or starvation were scattered on the streets.
But no one cared about those children’s deaths.
They were orphans and beggars widespread by the long war.
Even the gangsters in the slums, who make a living by exploiting those children, were indifferent to their deaths.
If the child you took dies, fetch another one and put him to beg.
The rotten smell of death in the slums was endless.
It was the same with this lab.
Only the place had changed, but in the slums and here, it was the same hell.
That was why, when he found out that he would be used as a test subject, he didn’t feel any sense of despair.
There was only one thing he could do.
In this hell that might never end, all you have to do is hold in and endure.
‘Nothing has changed.’ Repeating it all over again, Emilian opened his eyes.
The sunlight coming in through the palm-sized window was dazzling.
He frowned slightly.
Although he still felt a bit sleepy, he immediately got up and sat down.
His body felt light as if the pain he went through the day before was just a bad dream.
Emilian placed his palm on his forehead.
His skin felt cool.
The fever seemed to have gone down overnight.
‘Did the medicine that girl gave me yesterday work?’ It was a girl whose name he didn’t even know.
It was quite odd that that child had worried about him and had taken care of him.
Emilian pulled off the blanket and got up.
Right then, something suddenly fell to the floor.
It was a towel.
A vague memory came to him.
He couldn’t tell if it was a dream or reality, so he forgot about it, but… clearly, what he caught in his blurry vision last night was a brown-haired girl.
‘That kid…’ She brought an antipyretic and even took care of him while he slept.
He thought of thanking her for caring about him.
‘Why are you being kind to me?’ There was no such thing as kindness without a price in this world.
Emilian fiddled with the lukewarm wet towel.
‘Why?’ Though his thoughts were complicated, he felt strangely at ease.
Right at that moment, footsteps were heard, and then the door opened with the sound of a key turning.
The researcher’s cold voice was heard.
Emilian stared at him without a word.
He was the one who had beaten the powerless child the day before.
Before Emilian could even take a step, the impatient researcher scrambled inside and grabbed his arm tightly.
“I’ll walk on my own two feet, so let go,” Emilian shook his arm violently, the researcher frowned and muttered,
“This cheeky experimental rat…”
The man raised his large hand, and he thought it would fly straight into his cheek like last time.
However, the researcher put down his hand with an eerie smile.
“No… There’s no need for wasting energy here.”
The researcher took Emilian straight to the laboratory.
All sorts of unidentified drugs and indefinite use were boiling in the beaker.
Surgical scalpels, scissors, and needles of various sizes were placed on a cart.
The atmosphere in the lab was heavy.
A scream was heard from somewhere and…
‘Smell of blood.’
Researchers waiting inside handcuffed Emilian’s wrists.
Chains attached to the ceiling were connected to the handcuffs, raising his arms high.
The researcher clasped his chin tightly.
“You were so confident before, now you’re here, are you scared?”
.” Emilian glared at the researcher without answering.
The man chuckled, and slowly ran his finger across the neatly arranged scalpels.
He quickly picked up one of them.
The sharp end of the scalpel reflected the light and flashed.
The researcher spoke with a nasty smile.
“Look forward to it.
Whether you are a useful experiment or not, we will find out from now on.”
* * *
I went to Emilian’s room with breakfast.
‘I hope his body is better…’ If the fever was still severe, I thought of going to the director and asking him to skip the experiment for a day.
‘To be honest, I don’t know if he will allow it.’ Although he regarded Emilian as special, he didn’t cherish him like a precious jewel.
He was a man of results, who thought that it didn’t matter if the subjects got hurt as long as the goal of the experiment could be achieved.
‘Still, since there’s no harm in trying I’ll have to just bring it up.’ After organizing my thoughts, I hurried.
Arriving at Emilian’s room, I carefully looked inside.
‘Are you still sleeping?’ However, contrary to my expectations, the room was empty.
‘Was he taken to the lab already?’
Emilian’s experiment was scheduled after breakfast.
However, depending on the researchers’ circumstances, the schedule was often moved early or delayed.
‘It would have been better to have breakfast first…’
I had no choice but to bring the meal back.
I was about to leave the room after tidying up the messy bedding, but suddenly something got stuck in the cartwheel.
I bent down and picked it up.
It was the towel I left yesterday.
Emilian’s face, panting and suffering from the high fever last night, came to mind.
‘Did the fever go down?’ I hoped so… I left his room with a heavy heart.
I went down to the restaurant, had breakfast, and headed to the laundry room.
Again today, a mountain of laundry piled up in front of my eyes.
I sighed at the huge amount.
The amount of laundry in the laboratory was always this much.
A sigh didn’t change anything, so I diligently picked it up along with the other errand children.
The dirt was removed by soap and force.
After an hour, my arms started to feel numb.
It was winter, and the water was as cold as ice.
It hurt as if dozens of needles were poking through my skin.
I stopped and blew my hands to melt the cold with my warm breath.
Still, the excruciating pain did not go away. If I put my hand in my pockets for five minutes… no, even for just a minute the pain would be lessened.
“Hurry up! Otherwise, there is no lunch!”
The researcher’s sharp eyes caught me.
I hesitated, then immersed my hand in the cold water again.
A stinging pain spread through both hands.
All of a sudden, sadness waved over me, and the corners of my eyes became moist.
But I quickly swallowed my tears.
I raised my arm and rubbed my eyes with the sleeve, and then moved my hands busily again.
I consciously killed my thoughts and immersed myself in work.
For us, even time to mourn was a luxury.
* * *
I worked without a break until it was already noon.
I stood up, wiping the drops of sweat from my forehead with my sleeve.
‘I wonder if he’s back to his room by now…’ I suddenly thought of Emilian.
I didn’t know if the kid had overcome the experiment well.
He may not have suffered too much on the first day, but he had a high fever all day yesterday.
It has been my job to provide meals for the test children for a long time now.
And on the days those children were called to the lab, I was always anxious.
“You’ll have your favorite steak for tonight’s dinner.”
I’ll be waiting!”
Andy was a brave child.
Although the harsh experiments never stopped, the boy never lost his smile.
On that day too, he smiled and said he would come back.
If I had known that would be our last conversation… I would have told him the words that only lingered in my mouth.
I would have told him that his bright appearance always gave me strength.
However, this was a place where the boundary between life and death was too easily broken.
Death took children unexpectedly.
‘…Still, Emilian will endure it until the end.’ Trying to calm down and not feel depressed, I headed to his room.
The door creaked open as I turned the key.
I pushed the cart and went inside.
Emilian was lying on the bed.
He tossed and turned a little, but he didn’t look back.
I put the meal on the table.
“Hey, I brought lunch…”
Emilian didn’t answer.
I don’t know Andy, but he made me cry.
I miss you Andy baby!
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