BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
“Why are my hands getting warmer?” Alicia Bell wondered as she stared at her two hands. “It has been a week since I am like this, why?”
And for the whole week, she felt her body temperature was rising by several degrees than normal. She thought that she caught a bad fever or something but…
She pulled the neck of her red nightwear and rummaged inside it to take out an electric thermometer resting in her armpit. “Still thirty-seven degrees…” the girl muttered, staring at the display in celsius.
As the most accurate and cheapest device she procured showed a discrepant value, she thought of sleeping the whole night with the thermometer – she was confident that she wouldn’t break it in her sleep. However, it still showed the same result.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
Alicia sighed as she put the thermometer to the table beside her bed and stared at her surroundings.
Her room was, for the lack of a better term, economical. It was a relatively wide room with a red theme. It consisted of a double-sized bed, a desk for study, a wardrobe and many others that you would find in a young lady’s room that was arranged in such a way that it made the room even more spacious. Incidentally, all of it was centuries older than the current occupant, these were old relics that still kept their quality after repainted red.
Well, there is no time to find out now, she thought as she grabbed the remote for the air conditioner, set to the coldest possible temperature despite the snow having yet to melt in this month of March, and pressed the power button. Laying it down while getting out of the bed, she felt soft fabric on her bare feet.
“Ah.” Looking down, Alicia glanced at the blanket that she had tossed away. Calmly, she lifted the blanket up and laid it neatly on her bed before slotting her two feet into the slippers beneath it.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
Grabbing her smartphone that has been alarming her to wake up and turning it off, she checked the time. It was still early, but a girl like her needed more time to get ready anyway.
Standing up, she took her school uniform, a white buttoned shirt, a red skirt that reached her knees, black leggings, and a red blazer out of her wardrobe and walked out of her room.
“The water still stings,” Alicia muttered as she tapped the showerhead.
It was another unusual thing that’s happened to her. For some reason, she felt an uncomfortable sensation when the water from the shower came into contact with her light and healthy skin; the same thing also happens when drinking too. It was like pressing your hand softly against a board with thousands of tightly spaced needles sticking out. Just like it wouldn’t hurt to touch them all at once, the sting from the running water was ignorable. Except it was not to be ignored at all.
Sighing again, Alicia got out of the shower, her naked body wrapped in a towel, and went over to the sink. Taking a toothbrush and pushing toothpaste out of the tube, she gazed at the reflection of herself in the mirror.
Standing around 160 cm, she was already at the average height for an adult woman at the age of fifteen nearing sixteen, she was bound to get taller. She inherited her mother’s facial features and most importantly, her bright blue eyes like a clear lake. As for her hair, she didn’t really prefer any particular hairstyle and simply let it down to her waist; her mother had a vibrant blonde hair while her father had dark red, those genes had somehow resulted in their daughter attaining a bright red hair like a burning flame, but perhaps the brighter red color came from her grandfather on her mother’s side’s platinum blonde hair.
“Well, at least the strawberry toothpaste did not taste weird,” she mused as she brushed her teeth.
Out of the bathroom, Alicia was fully dressed in her uniform and was ready to head downstairs.
“Good morning, young mistress Bell.” A woman with a brown ponytailed hair resting on her shoulder greeted Alicia on the stairs. She wore a black dress with white details and a white frilly headdress.
“Good morning, Tia.” Alicia greeted back.
“Your breakfast has been prepared in the dining room, your mother is also waiting for you there.”
“I see, thank you.”
Tia was just one of the maids working in her house. Yes, maids and in plural. Alicia lived in a small mansion, so extra hands were needed. However, there were too many of them. She doesn’t know why but there were more maids and other house workers in this mansion than needed, some of them wound having to find something to maintain.
Also, they would also refer to her as ‘young mistress Bell’ as if she were a daughter of an aristocratic family of old. Even their speech was archaic. Even so, Alicia grew up with them so she got used to their behavior.
As for having a personal maid, Alicia tended to do things herself most of the time for self-discipline. But if she has to consider one, it would be Tia.
“Good morning, mother.” Reaching the dining room, Alicia greeted a woman who looked like a blonde forty-year-old version of her sitting in one of the chairs of the long wooden dining table meant for a large family. She took the seat opposite to her.
“Oh, good morning, dear,” Alicia’s mother, Irene Bell, greeted back.
A butler pushed a tray into the dining room and served them breakfast, a well-made toast with the side of margarine. Afterwards, he poured them a cup of tea and promptly dismissed himself after a ‘thank-you’ from Irene.
While Alicia was spreading the margarine on her toast.
“Father should be back this afternoon, right?” she asked.
Alicia’s father, Ronald Bell, ran a company called the ‘Bell Conglomerate.’ As the name suggests, it was a family-run business for three generations now. Within that timeframe, it had become one of the largest companies in the country with numerous branches all over the world.
It also expanded from a simple ‘buy and sell’ businesses to entertainment, medical, services, and had enough money for social welfare. When Alicia’s father took charge, he opened up a high school, Bell Academy, which she was attending.
Currently, he was on a business trip out of the country and was going to be home later this day.
“Yes, indeed,” Her mother answered. “Also, are you fine, dear?”
“Hmm… Yes, I still feel the same as yesterday, but I think so.”
Of course, Alicia wasn’t one to hide her circumstance that happened. When she told her mother of her apparent condition, she brought her straight to the doctor. However, the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with her at all and simply write it off as her being tired which caused hallucinatory effects. So Alicia went to bed earlier but the results are still the same. It was only because there were no apparent symptoms to her health that she went to school.
“Very well,” Irene rolled her eyes, slicing off a piece of toast with her knife. “We can tell your father about it when he gets back.”
Speaking of Alicia’s father, he had gone on a business trip last week. But, Alicia had only started to feel her body heating up after Ronald flew off in the airplane so he didn’t know his daughter’s predicament.
And they couldn’t call him either. His smartphone broke so he had to use an old Nokia and it was out of range when Irene tried to call him.
“Anyway,” Irene continued. “Today should be Matilda’s funeral day, correct.”
“…Yes,” Alicia said solemnly. “I will go to the cemetery with Owen after school if that is alright with you.”
Owen Ruze, Alicia’s childhood friend. Being the same age as her, he led a rough life. His mother died giving birth to him and Owen’s father, Joshua Ruze, suddenly went missing on work overseas when he was eight years old. Since then, his grandmother looked after him but she sadly passed away three years later.
However, Owen’s father and Alicia’s father were close friends, so he would naturally help his son. Now, Ronald is currently Owen’s legal guardian so he could be considered to be Alicia’s step-brother or something, but he wasn’t fully adopted. Also, Alicia’s father covered his tuition fee and other expenses and his apartment rent. Owen insisted on staying there.
“Of course it will be fine,” Irene said. “But I will have to come to pick up your father at the airport so I could not come with you, forgive me, dear.”
“It is alright, mother.”
“I am going now, mother.” Alicia greeted as she puts on her shoes. Her res school bag over her shoulders
“Do you need your coat, dear?”
“…No, I do not think so.” Even though there is still snow, Alicia doesn’t feel cold as the blazer was sufficient. Owen doesn’t even wear it.
As she passed through the door opened by a butler, the gardener sweeping away the snow in the front yard gave a nod to her as she entered the black antique car that existed for generations.
“Good morning, young mistress Bell.” The old man driving this car, Liam, greeted her.
“Good morning, Liam. After school, I am going to visit Matilda’s grave with Owen. So he will be coming with us by then.”
“Understood, milady,” Liam nodded with respect for the deceased as he turned the car key. The engines howled violently like how an old car should. He pushed the clutch down, pulled the gear, and droved the car out of the gate opened by the house guards.
As the old car went down the bustling street towards Bell Academy, it passed through a car that was all too similar to it. Inside, two figures eyed the old car maliciously.
“Here we are, young mistress Bell,” Liam said as he opened the door lock. “Have a nice day.”
Ten minutes before class starts, the old car arrived at the front gate of Bell Academy.
Bell Academy’s building was designed to be that of an old European school. Well, it was more like a university. Right now, it had two separate buildings to house so many students enrolling and a third building was in the works. The second building even had a large belltower on top of it, ringing its bell when it’s time to learn.
It was primarily a business school as it focuses on teaching business, economics, and the like as the root of this school was of business. But it still teaches science-related subjects though not as intensive but knowing them will be useful in businesses in that area.
In the front gate, a boy greeted Alicia while lifting his hand up. She knew this boy, he was her childhood friend, Owen Ruze.
He was shorter than her, ten centimeters shorter. He had a short spiky hair as white as snow and a pair of ice-blue eyes. He wore a white buttoned shirt emblazoned with the Bell Academy crest, light-blue trousers, and a pair of white shoes – another uniform of Bell Academy.
“Hello, Owen.” As the old black car drove away, Alicia greeted back her childhood friend wearing a different uniform than her.
Bell Academy was a school that enforces the dress code of a uniform. It was to prevent any rift between students due to what they are wearing. However, because schools in this country normally don’t enforce uniforms, Alicia’s father decided to get creative
For the emblazoned shirt, you have a choice between black and white.
For blazers, there are over eight different colors to choose from. These are blue, light blue, red, light green, yellow, brown, black and white. Then are three more absurd color schemes like a half white half light green, half black half dark red, half dark green half brown with one half on one side and the other half at the other side. Naturally, no one picked these. Oddly, a green color doesn’t exist. This also applies to trousers and skirts.
You can mix and match those colors according to your tastes. Blazers are optional to wear and female students have the option to wear trousers instead. Expensive accessories and the kind are not allowed to prevent loss.
“It is still unusual for you to greet me in the front gate,” Alicia continued as Owen accompanied her to the main building. “What is with the change?”
“Uh… Why not?” Owen shrugged.
“That is not a good answer.” Alicia sighed at her childhood friend’s recent demeanor.
Usually, he would be in class, sitting in the back row near the window, minding his own business. Alicia would sit at the desk next to him. Now, why would the daughter of the founder of this school sit in the back row? Well, Owen liked the back seat and Alicia was used to sitting beside him for… personal reasons regarding him.
“Let’s just get to class before we’re late,” he said as he brushed off her question.
And there it is again, she thought.
But since last week, since she experienced these weird sensations, Owen too has been acting unusual such as waiting for her in the front gate and dodging her questions.
Well, I will have to trust him to have a very good reason for it.
“Alicia! Your hand!” Owen shouted.
“Huh? Ah!” Alicia, who was droning off, yelped as she realized that her hand has been over the fire from the stove that was a little too tall.
Quickly, she turned off the stove and then ran her hand over the tap water that Owen opened. She felt the stinging sensation as the cold water soothes her hand turned red by the fire.
Why did I not feel it? Is it leprosy?
To find that out, she lightly pinched the skin of her same hand and felt pain. So it was not the case.
“You alright?” Owen asked concerningly.
“Y-Yes, I am.”
But her mind was not.
Apparently, she could not feel any sort of pain when her hand touched the fire. This was definitely a first as the cooking class was done once in a while.
Well, I suppose it is more things to ask father about it, she thought as other students whose attention was diverted to Alicia and Owen resumed their work.
DING DONG DING DONG
As the bell tower of the second building tolled, Alicia saw the familiar black antique car right in front of the open gate.
“Ah, crap!” Owen cursed.
“Language, Owen,” Alicia scolded. “What is it?”
“I forgot something, I’ll catch up to you!” Owen answered as he ran back to school.
“Alright, I will wait in the car then,” Alicia said as she continued on to the car.
“Hello, Liam.” Slumping her school bag on the seat, she greeted the- “Who are you!?”
Because instead of the elderly man in the driver’s seat it was some large bald man. Alicia could see from the bare reflection of the front glass that he was grinning ear to ear.
But then, someone from behind wrapped his arms around her neck. But she only felt pressure on one part of her neck.
Alicia struggled for a bit, but soon darkness enveloped her vision.
“Got her,” he said, laying the unconscious Alicia down. “Let’s go!”
And the black antique car drove away.
“Damn, couldn’t find it anywhere.” Owen groaned out loud as he ran back to the gate. “Huh? Where’s the car?”
And right on cue, the black antique car stopped in front of him.
“Apologies, young master Ruze.” The car window was lowered to reveal the elderly driver, Liam. “Due to an encounter with some… hoodlums I have arrived late for five minutes.” He looked around, not finding Alicia. “Where is young mistress Bell?”