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Backstory

        In a laboratory of a science organization named Lomond Manor, Copernicus, one of the headmasters, led a petite girl Cilantro to a solid metal gate. He unlocked it by entering a complex passcode.

        As she stepped in, the first thing that grabbed her full attention was a gigantic, brown beast. Its limbs were all chained, with numerous copper tubes plugging into its body. She could clearly see the red fluid running through those tubes, which appeared to be the beast’s blood.

        A researcher came over to greet Cilantro. “Welcome to the family, bronze scientist Cilantro. But the experiment here is a bit...brutal. You may feel uncomfortable——”

        “She doesn’t feel anything. She’s just a tool.” Copernicus smirked as he answered. Then he commanded Cilantro, “pick those stones up.”

        Under the brown beast, there were plenty of blood-like stones on the floor, glittering in ruby color.
        “Hmm?” The researcher was hesitant. “But we just did a power test with the beast. It’s still very aggressive now…”
        “It won’t be a problem. Do it.” Copernicus kept that carefree smile on his face.
        “Copy.” The straightfaced Cilantro nodded and went to the beast.

        Perhaps the non-stop blood extraction had completely drained the beast; it looked fragile, keeping the head down with weak breath.

        As Cilantro approached slowly, the beast’s brows vibrated suddenly. In a split second, the beast gritted its teeth, pouncing on her aggressively.

        “Garrr——!” The deafening roar mixing with clanking noises of the chains had composed a horrifying symphony. His claw opened up a wound on her arm, leaving a bleeding mark on it.

        Startled, the researcher rushed into the control room for safety immediately, but the injured Cilantro remained still just right there. Then she bent to pick up the stones.

        Zap!
        The researcher pressed the emergency button to trigger the safety device to release strong electric current. Letting out a scream of pain, the beast fell down; smoke and burning smell filled the lab. Even in the face of such a powerful shock, the beast managed to stay awake, gazing at Cilantro to grab the stones.

        “Get back here! You need wound care in the medic room!” The researcher urged Cilantro to treat her wound, but she was not listening. Then, Copernicus stood in his way.
        “Let her do her work.”
        “What? If the injury doesn’t have proper treatment, infection will get her killed!”
        “Never mind.” Copernicus wore a cunning smile. “I still have spares if she gets broken.”
        “You——” The researcher wanted to refute, but his peer stopped him before he spilled another word.

        “After collecting all the stones, analyze them immediately. I need a thorough report by tomorrow morning.” Copernicus commanded Cilantro gently. “Get lost if you can’t do it.”

        “I can do it!” Afraid to be abandoned, Cilantro answered instantly. Then, she kept on collecting the stones quickly, regardless of her bleeding wound.

        “...The solitude of this little girl...resembles mine…” This was the last thought popping up in its mind before the beast fainted.

        It was already late at night when the beast regained its consciousness. Cilantro was the only person left in the lab; she was decomposing the processed stones. In fact, those stones stemmed from the beast’s blood. When the fluid was drawn out of the beast, it began to lose power, eventually crystalizing into these stones.

        While she was waiting for the analytics, she left the control room and started drawing in front of the beast with a record board.

        “Is that me?” A hoarse voice sounded in the lab suddenly, pulling Cilantro’s drifting mind back to reality. She looked around, but there was no one else in the room.

        “Then the voice is…” She turned around facing that chained beast. Aware of her gaze, the beast cracked a smile. “Nice drawing. But the horns should be bigger.”

        “...Are you...talking?” Cilantro was hesitant.

        “Tut! Is it strange to meet a talking beast?” The beast glanced at her bandaged arm. “Sorry for hurting you. Your coworkers tortured me so bad.”

        “You do speak our language…” Coming as a surprise, Cilantro put down the record board and walked towards the creature, as if she had witnessed a miracle. “Do you think I’m just a puppet?” The beast heaved a sigh.

        She stayed silent for a while, like to deliberately remove all human emotions. “We’re just a tool. As Dr. Copernicus said, everything in this world is merely a tool constructed by elements.”
        “No, not like that. I’m a living creature. I have feelings, I feel pain and so do you. We’re all the same.”
        “I’m not. I’m just a tool.”
        “Then what is the drawing about? If you’re just a tool, why are you drawing?”
        “...It’s necessary for thinking and warming up my brain.”
        “Is that so? To me, your drawing is filled with emotions and imaginations.” The beast reached out to touch Cilantro’s wound gently. “Something a tool can’t create.”

        The warmth sending through its claw had shaken her will. She never believed a tool would carry such a soothing heat.

        “I...don’t understand…” Cilantro was at a loss, holding herself to feel secure.

        “...Poor girl. Although my beloved one has gone, at least I was treasured and loved...But for this girl, it never happened…”

        A sympathy surged within the beast, soon to spill over. It held Cilantro into its arms with hoarse whispers. “Then let me, Jabir, the only bloodline of the elemental beast clan, tell you the true meaning of life and dignity as a creature, you little girl who shares the same solitude with me!”

❉❉❉

        Since then, Jabir and Cilantro were more than just lab rat and researcher. Solitude had connected them with each other, and soon they developed a deep bonding.

        However, cruel reality was getting closer and closer——Few months later, Copernicus started a new experiment plan, which was also the beginning of Jabir’s nightmare.

        “Roarr——” Jabir kept screaming in pain. Its skin was burning at a high temperature; muscle tissues began to expose. Such misery was too ghastly to look at for all present researchers.

        “Doctor...Jabir...will die if you don’t stop.” Cilantro was unable to hold back. Despite being in awe of Copernicus, she said it out anyway.

        “You’re right. The beast will die, but so what?” Copernicus got close to Cilantro and choked her neck, lifting her off. Despite his terrible act, Copernicus was still wearing that creepy smile.

        “Well, how strange of you dare to defy me. Did that thing teach you?” Copernicus gazed at Jabir under torture from the control room. “Anyways the study is getting us nowhere. I’m sick of it already. If this still leads me to a meaningless result, I’ll throw this damned beast away. Likewise, you two are just tools after all.”

        Copernicus’s words ignited to her raging emotions which had been suppressing within.


        “Tool...No...it’s not like that!” Gasping for breath, Cilantro recalled the time she spent with Jabir in recent months——Their first encounter; Jabir’s weep for its beloved death; their caring for each other; anecdotes of the world outside told by Jabir…

        The memories of these few months were the best time ever in her life; Most importantly, Cilantro had learnt how to love and to be loved.

        “...You’re wrong!” She conjured fire element onto her fingertips to unleash a thread of flame. “Jabir is not a tool, and neither do I!”

        Flames became fierce as she got emotional, eventually spreading to the inflammable items in the control room——

        Pfoom! The place was set on fire in a split second!

        “How dare you sabotage my research!” Copernicus’s poker face grew ferocious; then he summoned light element into a sword thrusting towards her——

        “Cilantro!” The control room exploded. Jabir on the outside saw Copernicus stab his sword into her. Fury pumped its adrenalin up, giving Jabir strength to pull off the chains!

        “Leave her alone!” Pounced by Jabir, Copernicus had to dodge the attack by letting her go, so Jabir took this chance to carry Cilantro and escape.

        Affected by the injuries, the beast could not go far. It found a rather safe place to put her down. Blood kept dripping from its wounds, crystalized and fell to the ground.

        “Jabir...leave me...Just go…” Being stabbed into the abdomen, Cilantro was too weak to open her eyes as she said softly.
        “You’re not gonna die here…” Jabir cut open its chest with claw, exposing its beating heart.
        “Cilantro, eat my heart.”

        “I can’t...You’ll die.”
        “Right, but it’s better in this way. I’ve lived long enough. Living like an underdog without my beloved family is nothing but a torture. But, you’re different.”

        Jabir came close to Cilantro, gently touching her face. “So please, take my heart. End my loneliness.”

        “...Alright...I’ll do it for you.” Cilantro said, forehead-to-forehead. “ I’ll bear your pain and live on.”

        “Since I was born, I felt nothing but endless pain, like falling into an abyss of despair, with bottomless hatred. Then, I met you. And for the very first time, you made me realize happiness is just around me. I felt hopeful; and my heart was stuffed with love once again. At last I find the meaning of my life: I was born for you. Eat my heart, drink my blood and live for me, Cilantro…”

        As she consumed its heart, Jabir’s emotions, memories, everything was delivered into Cilantro’s heart via element, touching her soul deeply. She cried; these were the tears she shed for a lost friend for the first time in her life. To a certain extent, these were also the tears of freedom.

        “Here they are!” The researchers rushed into the lab rapidly.

        Cilantro, wiping her tears away, gathered power; blood began to rage inside. Next second, her petite body grew bigger and bigger; and her skin started sprouting coarse hair. In a flash, she was turned into a giant beast exactly the same as Jabir.

        “Get lost!” Letting out a roar, Cilantro was covered with fire. She put in a sprint to bash the coming researchers away, heading straight to the exit.

        “Almost there...Just a few steps to get out of this place!” As Cilantro rushed out of the laboratory, she saw the whole place is blocked by an elemental barrier!

        “Nothing can trap me here! Rise, the blood of elemental beast! Destroy everything that stands in my way!” Blood flew out of Cilantro’s body and solidified as an armor to protect her.

        Leaping into the air, she barged into the barrier. As its surface touched the blood armor, the barrier started to dissolve, eventually spreading out the whole area. Soon, the blockade vanished into thin air.

        Sunlights shone over Cilantro, sending ripples of warmth. It reminded her of Jabir’s temperature.

        “Jabir, I’ll live for you.”

        On a vast prairie, the gigantic, crimson beast ran around without restraint, living in the form of freedom...

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