They were walking back home with groceries in tow when that incident occurred. Wangnan and Yihwa had accompanied Evolet on her late night grocery run because they ran out of some ingredients. About halfway back, a man stopped them in their tracks, blocking the way. But before they could say anything, the man had beaten them to it.
"Ms. Yvette, please go out with me!!!"
Wangnan stepped forward first, about to pummel the man with the little strength he had. Before he could attempt to do so, Yihwa restrained him. Evolet looked at them quizzically, but decided to deal with the man first.
"Maybe... you should introduce yourself first?"
"Ah, pardon me. My name is Faux, pleased to make your acquaintance Ms. Yvette."
Very briefly, you could see a glint in Evolet's eyes as her lips twitched, suppressing a smile. It passed too quickly to be noticed. "And go out where exactly do you mean?"
The man didn't look like he expected the reaction. Most likely thinking that Evolet had accepted his offer. The duo behind Evolet knew better. Shaking their head sympathetically for the man, fully aware that Evolet simply didn't understand his implication of dating and thought it was an invitation for an outing. "How about the Shinheuh Aquarium tomorrow?"
"I suppose I do have time tomorrow... I'll meet you at the entrance at lunch time then. I reckon you'll buy me lunch while you're at it?"
The man nodded energetically and left in a hurry after that, looking considerably happier than someone who just passed a floor test. Maybe there's a part of Yihwa that was wondering if Evolet actually knew that she was asked to go on a date. As the situation finally sank to his mind, Wangnan forced Yihwa to let go of him.
"Oi, Flamethrower! What are we gonna do about this?!" Wangnan asked her in a shout whisper.
"Simple, we drag Viole along with us to spy her tomorrow. That way we can see his reaction and we can also interfere in case anything happens."
... "What if we get killed by him?"
"He won't do that... Probably."
"... We're gonna die aren't we?"
Not long after Evolet set out the next day, Wangnan and Yihwa dragged Bam along with them to tail Evolet on her little "outing". Evolet was absolutely aware that they were trailing her, especially when they were utterly failing at hiding their presence. Bam on the other hand, was asserting his presence instead for some reason, which made Evolet extremely self-conscious throughout the day.
The man had kindly ordered an extravagant lunch beforehand before their planned aquarium tour. So far lunch was going quite well with some pleasant conversations Faux sparked. Evolet spaced out a little during their chat, looking dazed.
"Are you okay, Ms. Yvette?"
That seemed to snap Evolet out of it, blinking to get rid of the slight dizziness. She smiled lightly with a mischievous edge to it as her gaze was fixed at the plate of food served in front of her. "Yes... I'm quite fine. I suppose the food was just too delicious."
The man merely replied in kind with an overjoyed smile as lunch carried on without any more incident before they set off on their little tour. He had planned nearly everything beforehand, guiding Evolet through the various events hosted today. Evolet thoroughly enjoyed the trip, eyes lighting up with curiosity and wonder whenever Faux would tell her facts about the Shinheuh.
Meanwhile, the duo was reconsidering their decision to bring Bam along, slightly terrified at the dark aura he was emitting. Burning golden eyes were hidden in the safety of his bangs, but anyone could feel the piercing glare and the anger oozing out of Bam. The unsuspecting Regulars who caught sight of him would shriek or scream as they hurriedly ran for their life. Bam didn't bother to glance twice at them, eyes solely focused on Evolet's figure and the man beside her. Wangnan could've sworn he heard a literal growl from Bam at some point along with the cracking of a wall under Bam's grip. He just wanted to run away like all the other Regulars did. He regretted going along with Yihwa's plan.
Three hours passed quickly, Evolet and Faux were walking leisurely to the last section they've yet to visit. The trio was still close to them, keeping just the right distance as to not be seen. Just as they turned around the corner, Evolet purposefully slowed down her step. Blue-violet orbs locking with golden ones, Evolet brought a finger up to her lips as a notion to stay silent. That stopped Bam from following them around the corner and pulled back the other two before they did. Ignoring the protests from the pair, Bam just held them in place and waited for Evolet's return though he was clearly unhappy about it by the dark look on his expression. At this point, Wangnan could only hope he won't die by the end of the day.
On the other side, Evolet and Faux were standing in front of a big tank. Two large Shinheuh were swimming around. That section was nearly deserted save for the two, the lighting a dim blue that provided a calming atmosphere regardless of the highly dangerous Shinheuhs in the tank.
"Thank you for today, Ms. Yvette." Faux seemingly said sincerely with a beaming smile.
Evolet didn't reply to his smile, eyes taking on a sharp glint as she grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "No, no. It was a pleasure to meet you, though I certainly did not appreciate you trying to poison me."
As if on cue, the fake smile he showed dropped entirely. Evolet didn't mind him and just continued while watching the Shinheuh in the tank. "You'd think FUG would know better than presenting poison in that manner to me. Or at least they could've used a much more potent one after all they've done in the past. Moreover... it's blatantly obvious, introducing yourself as Faux, meaning a fake. I'm a bit offended that FUG didn't send someone more intelligent. Though then again... I wasn't expecting them to move this fast. I actually thought it would be silent until the 24th or 25th floor."
In that instant, he took out a dagger and swung it at Evolet. She didn't need to move, a Shinsu shield already in place. Turning around with the Chesire grin, she whispered.
「Eat up, Amos.」
The man didn't even have time to register what was happening before Amos chomped him in one bite. The one-sided fight was over in a blink, or rather a bite. Evolet didn't show any emotion as she heard the cracking bones and the screams as Amos chewed down on the man. Evolet's gaze was locked on the tank, seeing the two Shinheuh approach the glass as she gently put her hand on it. She frowned lightly, burrows creased as she felt the bitterness and burn lingering on her tongue. It brought on an unwanted memory in her mind, her frown deepening as a heavy feeling settled in her chest. She'll have to take measures to keep FUG at bay. Amos nudged her gently, looking worried for the Anima.
"I'm sorry, Amos... it seems like I got a little carried away." She smiled reassuringly at the Shinheuh, patting its head to show that she was fine. Releasing her summon on Amos, Evolet pondered if she should get another Shinheuh soon as she walked away with her light lavender hair swaying gently around her knees. While the duo had run off somewhere, Bam was still standing in the same hallway, waiting for her. She showed a sincere smile at the sight, running over to Bam who promptly hugged her and told her to never do that again.
"If you say so then I won't. It's not as if dealing with some FUG personnels is hard though..."
Somewhere in his mind, Bam could only sigh as Evolet completely misunderstood what he said. He didn't like what he felt earlier. Almost as if he was annoyed but on a larger scale, wanting to just go out and grab Evolet away. A burning pit in his stomach that just burned more intense every time he saw the man eliciting laughter from Evolet. There was a feral growl threatening to tear its way out of his throat, a part of him that demanded she was his and should be beside him only at all times. He didn't know what the feeling was named, but he loathed it. As if reading his mind, Evolet grabbed his hand and conjured up two movie tickets out of nowhere.
"Goseng-san gave them to me yesterday. She was supposed to go with Miseng but they cancelled the plan for some reason. Do you want to go now?"
Bam was more than happy to oblige, the previous feeling forgotten for the time being. They had bought some popcorn first before going in. Not even one minute in, Evolet regretted her decision to not ask Goseng the reason she cancelled her plan. She didn't know that they were horror movie tickets. Evolet took a glimpse at Bam who seemed to be completely fine with the movie. Gripping the armrests, Evolet steeled herself to last for the whole movie hopefully...
That idea went down the drain. Evolet's face took on a pale sheen, anxious for the next jumpscare. It's a miracle that the armrests haven't broken yet with how hard she's gripping it. She did try to close her eyes, but the sudden sounds from the jumpscare would only make it worse even when she already anticipated it. So she did the opposite, trying to keep her eyes on the screen and seeing any kind of signs or cues for the jumpscare only to fail miserably. She definitely can't take this for much longer, they're not even halfway through the movie. She was getting light-headed and it was slowly getting harder to breathe properly. A thought passed her mind if she could just pass out from the shock and just wake up after the movie's over.
Bam, on the other hand, was wondering why Evolet seemed so silent. When he knew it was a horror movie, he was actually expecting Evolet to perhaps act a little scared or maybe hold his hands throughout the movie. So he was kind of disappointed to say the least, when Evolet did none of it. Bam glanced at her just as another jumpscare popped up on the screen and Evolet paled even further, her breath coming off in short gasp as her pupils dilated. His eyes widened the slightest bit in worry at the sight of Evolet with tears dripping down her face with a steady pace. Before he could process the information, his hands already reached out to wipe the flowing waterworks. That successfully made Evolet turn towards him, diverting her attention from the movie as her breathing steadied momentarily.
It was only then that Evolet noticed the tears streaming down her face. She hurriedly tried to wipe off the continuous tears with her sleeves furiously. On the other hand, Bam's brain was in the middle of a short-circuit. He could feel his breath hitch at the way Evolet called his name with a soft tone that had a hint of fragility behind it. This was a far cry from the usual Evolet who wouldn't show her weakness. His throat suddenly felt dry, the urge to do something that he doesn't know bubbling up at the back of his throat. Not quite knowing what it was, Bam's hands hurriedly reached out to her before he did anything that he would regret. He pulled her close, bringing her to his chest as he embraced her dearly.
His face was burning up, flushed in hues of red and pink. Evolet responded in kind, hugging him back and gripping the back of his shirt lightly as she muttered out a small meaningful thank you against his chest. It was different from what Bam originally envisioned, but he didn't mind it either way. This show of vulnerability wasn't doing Bam any good, the blush wasn't disappearing anytime soon. He could feel his face flaming up even further as Evolet snuggled against his chest, and he felt his stomach jolting as his breath hitched for an unknown reason. A part of him wished they could stay like this forever. They just stayed like that for the remainder of the movie.
There's a perfectly good reason behind her fear. Or rather, a perfectly reasonable culprit that initiated all of this. Let us rewind a little, shall we?
"Little One... Do you know? The locals said this mansion is haunted!"
The confused Evolet blinked at his excited exclamation, not quite understanding why it was so interesting. "I don't see anything wrong with it, Yunuen-san. Ghosts aren't real anyway, and I doubt they're anything I can't ward off with my shields."
Yunuen simply smirked at that, the gears already turning in his mind. He shook his head teasingly, almost as if saying Evolet's words were naive. From the quizzical expression she had, it was clear she didn't know what he meant.
"That's where you're wrong, Eve. Ghosts... are undoubtedly real. After all, I've met them before."
That caught Evolet's attention instantly. It was a known fact that Evolet typically believed whatever Yunuen said, because he's her mentor of some sort and partly because she's gullible when it comes to him. Yunuen was lying with a straight face, but Evolet didn't need to know that.
"Yes... It was a truly terrifying experience that it's a miracle I'm even alive right now..."
Her brows furrowed, skeptical of his exaggerated claim since she was aware of his strength. Inwardly, Yunuen sprouted a mad grin because he already prepared a proper explanation beforehand.
"It was truly frightening... I couldn't lift a hand because the Shinsu would only pass through them and physical attacks have no effect either. They on the other hand... can land blows on us as long as they're touching us. An enemy you're utterly helpless against... At that time I could only keep running until dawn broke..."
Evolet was contemplating the situation. She wanted to believe Yunuen, but the notion of ghost itself was ridiculous to her. And she certainly didn't believe an enemy can't be attacked. Every single being would have their own weak point, ghost included if they exist.
"Yunuen-san... are you lying to me?"
He looked offended by that, offering a sharp gasp at the accusation but swiftly defended himself. "Of course not, Little One! I'd never lie to you. There are also plenty of witnesses too. Exorcists who specialize in ghost exorcisms are the most common example throughout the Tower. But the most prominent one would be... horror movies."
"Why horror movies?"
"Listen well Little One... Horror movies... are real life documentaries. People without a doubt die in horror movies for real. At first, it was discovered by chance that a group made their stop at an abandoned house. They had registered for the floor test beforehand, but no matter how long the Test Administrator waited, the team never came."
His teal eyes trailed over to Evolet who was paying rapt attention at his story. Her body posture was tense and he could tell she was taking his story to heart cautiously. Maybe he should feel guilty for making up this lie... That's if the results he wanted didn't come out. He faked a shudder as he resumed his story.
"When they decided to check on them, the sole survivor was a heavily wounded Lightbearer who's gone insane from the haunting in that house. His friends were killed one by one as sacrifices for the others each time they got caught. By morning, only the Lightbearer remained after running with all of his might. The recording was intact in his Lighthouse, so the upper ups opted to show it to the public as a warning. That was how the first horror movie came to be. Well, exorcism was also discovered in a somewhat similar fashion though more survivors were there because of the exorcism tools they brought along."
Evolet gulped as the story ended, still a little perplexed but more anxious. Finding her courage, she asked him a question that's been plaguing her mind.
"Then what about horror movies nowadays...? Do they..."
Yunuen's eyes took on a hard sheen as he avoided eye contact and pursed his lips. Almost solemnly, he said, "They... are professionals who risk their life for the sole sake of telling those stories to other people. The moment they sign up for it, they are fully aware that they might as well lose their life. Such is their dedication."
He could see that Evolet was contemplating about it for real, judging by her blatant expression. Disregarding his serious expression upfront, Yunuen was actually cooing at how cute and gullible Evolet was inside his mind. A smirk formed in his inner thoughts as he stepped to the door and suddenly said "Ah, by the way Little one, I'll be stepping out for a while for a mission okay? Bye!"
Evolet stared at the door with a troubled expression. After hearing Yunuen's story she felt as if there were several more presences around her although extremely faint. Frowning lightly, her steps led back to her room as her gaze travelled all around out of paranoia. Ghosts aren't real... right?
She was proven to be utterly wrong when midnight came. Honestly, it was her fault for not sleeping early but Yunuen's words kept her up all night. In the end she decided to grab a cup of hot cocoa before taking a walk. Or at least that was her plan.
On her way to the kitchen, Evolet kept rubbing her hands from the unnatural chill in the hallways as her eyes darted everywhere anxiously. The story from earlier was still haunting her mind relentlessly. She was on caution that her senses were in overdrive, her ears picked up another set of footsteps that weren't supposed to be there. Yunuen was outside so she was the only one left at the house.
Gulping nervously, Evolet moved around stiffly as she made the hot chocolate with paranoia all around. The house was eerily silent save for those footsteps that were nearing her and the creaking of windows. Just as she was stirring her cup, a shiver went down her spine as the footsteps stopped right behind her. She gripped the spoon and the steaming cup tighter as she felt the chilling air. A freezing hand tapped her shoulder lightly and stayed there, making Evolet's mind stop right in its tracks.
She laughed awkwardly and closed her eyes in an attempt to calm herself, not daring to turn around and face the owner of said hand. When she opened her eyes again, a pitch black yet translucent hand covering hers that was gripping the handle of the cup. Robotically, she turned her neck around to see the person's hand only to come face to face to a disfigured face. Her breath hitched and she knew her heart stopped for a moment as the face broke out into an eerie grin.
Face as pale as death and terrified out of her mind, Evolet's first instinct was to shove the cup of steaming hot chocolate right at the ghost's face as she screamed her head off. To her horror the glass and its content just passed right through it and crashed to the wall. Her mind went back to what Yunuen said to her earlier.
'An enemy you're utterly helpless against... At that time I could only keep running until dawn broke...'
"Oh Jahad..." Now that the important piece of information was firmly lodged in her mind, Evolet wasted no time to escape from the ghost's hold forcefully and ran for her life. Her face was rapidly paling further as she conjured up various shields to stall for time but the ghost just passed through them with ease as if the shields didn't exist. Her legs brought her all over the mansion in a hurry to avoid the ghost.
Short of breath and panting from terror, Evolet headed to the door to leave only to find that there was another ghost there. Its long hair reached the floor and went straight through it, eye sockets empty and oozing blood with its mouth stitched but open. The sight made Evolet's blood run cold, but she fired a Baang that was clearly unstable just to test the waters. As she expected, the attack simply went through it as if there was only air. So instead she made a sharp turn in the nick of time, rushing anywhere that could be a safe haven for her. Breath coming out in short puffs, Evolet maximized her Shinsu strengthening output on her legs as she pushed herself to shake off the ghosts off of her trail so that she could find refuge in Yunuen's room.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Evolet slid down the door and caught her breath while keeping an eye for any signs of the ghosts. Everything was still for a while until she started hearing screams, pleading for help and to release them from their suffering. She stayed still in her spot, not daring to move and only keeping her presence as unnoticeable as possible. There was still 4 more hours before sunrise.
She honestly thought she'd be fine since there hasn't been anything for nearly two hours now. Her breathing was back to normal, no signs of fright as she brought her knees closer to lean her head on it. Sleepiness was enticing her, but there was also no way she'll be able to sleep in this situation. Still on caution, her ears picked up another unsettling noise of freaking wood as something pounded against it repeatedly. It was rather small at first, gradually getting louder and much closer. Her hand snaked up to the door knob, ready to bolt again at any given time. The sounds were getting nearer, sourcing from the wooden ceilings that began to creak louder with each passing second. She could hear the voice clearly now.
"All of it... IS YOUR FAULT!!!"
She didn't push the doorknob quickly enough, mind going blank in shock and dread as a set of overly familiar amaranthine eyes rushed towards her with a bloodied face. Everything went black around her.
On the other hand, Yunuen who was sitting calmly in the attic finally decided to check up on Evolet now that it was near sunrise. He did consider the possibility of her hiding somewhere curling into herself as she waited for all of this to be over, maybe sleeping while she's at it. Wisp of mist trailed off from his palms before he dismissed it. His abilities were quite useful for these types of things, though he did make sure to not go overboard since he didn't want to scare Evolet too much. So it came as a surprise when he found Evolet, unconscious on the floor and blocking the door.
There weren't any apparent wounds, which brought a sense of relief to Yunuen. He didn't waste any time to lift her off the floor, ignoring her groan as she shifted in his hold and opened her blue-violet eyes. He wondered what she was going to say to him, only to be taken aback once more as she suddenly hugged him tight. Trembling hands gripped the back of his shirt as she buried herself to his chest to hide her muffled sobs.
Yunuen panicked momentarily at the unexpected turn of events, but swiftly attempted to soothe Evolet. His mind trailed off to the ghost illusion he summoned. There wasn't anything wrong with them since he particularly made the less frightening ones to avoid scaring Evolet too much. But nonetheless the girl was crying, shivering as if she's terrified out of her mind. Yunuen's brows furrowed deeply, bringing Evolet closer to him and whispering reassurances as Evolet slowly fell into a fitful sleep. Her vice grip didn't loosen in her rest, and neither did he stop stroking her head to calm her down. He had conjured up two ghostly illusions, one to chase her around from that time in the kitchen and the other to guard the door. Both were instructed to not hurt Evolet nor terrorize her too much, so it brought upon a question to him. What had actually happened that he missed? He doesn't know the answer.
He wasn't about to complain when Evolet slept through the day, hands gripping Yunuen's shirt lightly as she snuggled closer to his chest. Needless to say, Yunuen threw thinking out of the window and simply enjoyed the rare occasion with a content smile on his face. A pity his phone memory wasn't enough to store all of the pictures he took while Evolet was fast asleep, lips slightly open with a peaceful expression. Yunuen would've squealed if it wasn't for the fear of waking Evolet up.