Queen Dairy
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  • 6

    Daedalus pries open Vincent's jaws, attaching the mouth gag while Vincent struggles against the restraints, helpless as he lays like a child on the dental engine.

    "Vincent.. I've seen you've been incredibly naughty."

    As Daedalus speaks, he still recalls Lil being able to leave Vincent a parting hug, before she'd left him to the hospital's devices. This simply must not be; even thinking about the way she looked upon him makes a rage boil over his heart, as Daedalus's hands tremble, hovering over the various scalpels upon the table. "Dr. Meyer has shown you her generosity, but mistaking that for a sign of leniency from our rules – running around after hours.. drinking from my aquarium like a dog-"

    Daedalus had to beg Argounova to get that room totally spic. Even in this dream world, his urges for cleanliness is undeniable.

    "Quite frankly, it's about time you had an intervention, Vincent."

    The spotlight, aimed directly at his face, blinds the hapless patient. If only Vincent could shut his eyes from the painful aching of his pupils shrinking – shut his mind away to that other dream. But there is no escape. He can only groan.

    Daedalus brings down the hulking laser machine from the ceiling. Wires and cables twist in bundles, feeding the machine the necessary energy to penetrate past the dermal cells and bone. The good doctor has tested it on a few dozen patients; successive treatments has resulted in a permanent cure from psychosis, or whatever Daedalus finds is troubling the subject.

    Vincent sees the doctor finally approach him, bearing that mischievous, scientific grin. The fear surges in his heart, as he uses up all his strength to tear himself free.

    He only manages to wiggle off the mouth gag, now able to speak..

    "Daedalus- why? All this because I was thirsty, and looking for a drink?"

    "I'm merely applying my brand of treatment to you, Vincent. You should consider yourself lucky. If all goes well, in a matter of a few days, you'll be free – cured of those putrid thoughts about proxies and.. away from my Lil.."

    "Your Lil..?" Vincent looks in those eyes of the mad doctor, now that he's practically breathing in his face. The realisation hits him: "This isn't about helping me, or anyone at all. Are you jealous about her, Daedalus?"

    The mad doctor reels. Suddenly he is all too vulnerable, as if stripped naked (of all pretense) and now his worst private thoughts are revealed in the open. Stepping away from Vincent, Daedalus's eyes rest at a point beyond his reflection on the window - where the night seems to languish uner the colour of rust. "Like you would know, Vincent.."

    Even now, he cannot forget how Lil.. slowly crept into all the imaginative crevices of his mind, since the day he'd first met her when they were both younger.

    Daedalus had been so absorbed reading about how DNA strands, so delicately intertwined, could form so many varying qualities in humanity, as compared with the rest of the animal kingdom. He didn't ignore the shimmering beauty of the royal courtyard. It was like a background balm to his mind, really, where he relished that feeling of tranquility that was otherwise sorely lacking in Romdo's mechanised life.

    He had first tried to ignore the girl, who Donov walked with on the weekends. Despite her prettiness, he'd think: what would someone like her know anyways about how the world was like? But as the weeks passed, Daedalus grew aware of the fact of his own loneliness – as he'd seldom talk with those other kids in his classes. Compared with him, they're sheep, who'd small talk about getting passing grades, and play around in silly games.

    Still though, he had really wanted an equal to confide his thoughts with. He had to at least try with her.

    Finally, he looked up at Lil who'd pass by the bench, and to his benefit, this time she sat down beside him – if only to drink her tea..

    "Hi," he said. "I'm Daedalus.. I attend the science academy."

    Lil sipped some of that warm tea. "Hallo. Is your tablet thingy broken today? You aren't looking down at it anymore."

    "No, I-" Already, he felt awkward around her. "I just finished reading a chapter on human evolution. Now I'm mulling over the principles. Did you know that once, we ascended from the species Homo Neanderthalensis - they were cavemen who hunted for food, and hid underground for safety. This is what they looked like.."

    He showed her the images, and she pored over it. "Do you read everyday? This is kinda cool."

    "I guess it is," Daedalus went. "What's your name?"

    "Lillián. I'm Lillián." Her earnest smile sealed the deal in winning him over, as he felt a glowing of his own body, warmth flushing all over through his heart, as though life didn't truly have a meaning.. until this point. But he didn't know what to make of these inexplicable feelings, as she went on about serving her grandfather proudly – growing up into being the city's reigning princess. "This is my courtyard you're sitting in," she said, her voice haughty. "But let me be nice today for you. Want some of my tea?"

    "I'd- yes, I would." He was averse of the fact that she'd drunk out of it, but he took a sip anyways, and it was sweet – perfectly sweet, without being sugary. "Golly, it's so good, Lillián."

    "Just call me Lil, please," she went. "Though I'm royalty, I just feel weird, being called by my proper name."

    When Daedalus re-read that chapter about DNA in private, he thought of how someone as good as her, could be borne out of the same material that would craft an otherwise normal person, let alone himself. Before he knew it, his thoughts drifted over to her given the chance, and it soon grew difficult separating his curious mind from a passionate heart, verging on (dare he call it) romantic. He hadn't the heart to tell her his feelings outright, but in solitude, was he able to feel his longing for her. The other kids noticed him growing more restless, even though he'd grown used to hiding his thoughts in public. Soon, he turned to including romantic literature – where he'd picture himself as the hero, and Lil the girl of his dreams.

    On an ordinary day, Daedalus was eager; it was his first time skipping class, knowing that Lil was on her leisure time. He spotted her doing her makeup in a mirror, and with a "Psstt!" he lured her over to the medical bay (a place he'd frequent when he's bored), where you'd see surgeries and autopsies performed live. Nobody but autoreivs.

    "Is this your idea of an adventure?" she asked, more out of jest than astonishment. Of course, she'd adore that this smart cookie would dare go out all this way for her. Other boys would write her letters, but he was the first to muster up the courage in taking her out on this sudden date. As they were witnessing the surgery of some man, getting cataracts removed from his eyes, Daedalus said that it's because of excessive drinking, that you develop these things in an advanced age. It was cool to him, but he felt Lil tugging at his arm – she was nervous and eeked out, so they went off to the courtyard.

    There, by the pond, Daedalus whipped his tablet out. He wavered over his choice of what to read out to her – until Lil snatched the thing from his hands, and skimmed over the titles: "Hmm, let me pick. Some of these I've read already.. how does the Song of Solomon sound?"

    It was something that he'd hardly think of picking, but she read it out to him anyway. "My beloved, who is white and ruddy. His head is as the most fine gold, with his locks as bushy and black as a raven. His eyes.. are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, and his brain so absent-minded he'd bump into a pole."

    Daedalus blushed as she said that with a smirk.

    "He is altogether loveable," she went, "but he'll still remain a nerd. What a shame, as I'll adore him always.."

    He felt time run to a standstill, as all that mattered then was the pounding of his heart, as he leaned in and stole a kiss from her. It felt like forever, holding each other, and yet forever was too short for the tenderness shared between them.

    Then, they heard Raul Creed calling out for her. "Lil? Your grandfather's asking for you! It is urgent."

    "I've got to go," Lil went, laying down Daedalus's tablet like a beloved book. As she got up though, he held onto her by the hand, as if begging her to stay for a little longer. So many thoughts had rushed through his mind – even though he didn't know her as much as he'd have liked, he'd look forward to the next time they'd meet. "I guess I'll see you around," he said. (Lil..)

    But it was not meant to be. Later on, Lil showed him an inexplicable coldness – where he had expected her to sit down beside him, she now merely waved politely, leaving the young scientist baffled in a way that Lebel's hypothesis didn't. What had happened? It was as if the more he reached out for her, the more she recoiled away.. to the point where he was outright barred from visiting the courtyard, by some autoreiv of all things.

    Daedalus would usually ignore the rumours in the academy about him; now it got to the point where he'd be shot with mock lovey-dovey looks, as they whispered about his love for the high count's daughter. He'd find handwritten letters, written in Lil's name which begged to see him again, that would have his hopes surge up – only for him to be met with pelted food and derisive laughs. "Silly Daedalus, you'll never have her!"

    Then, as it snowed in Romdo in celebration of Christ's Mass, Daedalus had wanted to meet her, once more. Lil had just turned 16 a week ago, and he couldn't go empty-handed; it was a time of giving and appreciation, and he had some credits to spare. Knowing her, he bought a deluxe make-up kit from the boutique – the same kind which the professional models used. It was gift-wrapped by the store owner, who commented: "My, my, I'd love to meet that very lucky lady who's receiving this."

    "It's my last chance," Daedalus muttered, not enough for the owner to hear. In his fur jacket, he took a taxi to the Meyer estate, where he waited by the worn gates, waiting for admittance, the white snow catching in his hair.

    "State your business," he heard from the intercom. Daedalus hesitated – his lips uncertain on what had been so clear on his mind, moments earlier. Then he said: "I'm Daedalus. I'm just here to give a present to Lillián.. is she here?"

    There was only silence, agonizing silence, and then he heard the gates buzzing, opening up much to his relief. An escort took him up the hill – inside the mansion's comfort, the family autoreiv took his coat and offered him some tea as part of its polite routines. The gold-gilded portraits revealed all the aristocratic Mayers, along with a family tree which traced their heritage back at least a century. Daedalus felt dazed by the splendour, to the point of dizziness – he was out of his element here, and could only feel humbled in the home of the one who held his heart.

    Donov strode down the stairs, upright even while relying on a cane. "Daedalus Yumeno.. my daughter spoke well of you. But I cannot permit you to see her."

    "Why?" More questions arose in him. "If she still speaks well about me, why is she staying away? Did I do something wrong? Whatever it is, I'm sorry – I only mean the best for Lil."

    "She has fallen ill to Sinclair's rot.. she's laying upstairs, asleep."

    Sinclair's rot! A very rare illness which struck 0.1% of the populace, only rising its ugly head during late adolesence, leaving the bearer with a sudden collapse of their cardiovascular system. Daedalus had heard of it; it remained an unsolved problem in medical science. The current solution was to put the patient under palliative care, where they could live their lives out, yes, but it wasn't really living – only borrowed time.

    An urge overwhelmed the boy; he had to see her for himself.

    "Daedalus!" Donov shouted. "Where are you going?!"

    He ran past Donov, like an animal who had all but abandoned reason. Stumbling from room to room upstairs, Daedalus soon found Lil – in her cozy room laying in a glass tube, intubuated, pale, her hair in a tangle.

    Lil awoke; opening her eyes from that dream she had, where she waded in that field of blossoming lavender flowers, she saw the boy in a hazed, almost hallucinatory-like vision. "Dae.. dalus?"

    He pressed his hand over the glass, trying his best to muster up that smile he'd practiced for her. "I'm here Lil.. I brought you a present. You'd really like it.."

    "Oh, you shouldn't.. have.." The words come out of her in rasps, as she coughs and dry-heaves. "I don't-"

    "Don't what? What is it?"

    "Don't.. want you to see me like this.." I'm a princess, after all, and princesses would never falter from their beauty or strength.

    As Daedalus processed the moment, he found the taste of salt in his mouth, as his chest heaved like it was going to cave in from emotion. The present he had held in his arms fell to the floor with a thud. If he had cried in private, feeling sorry for Lil's seeming abandonment – his sadness was ballooning far beyond any control, as the girl he loved was.. she was dying.

    When Donov entered the room, he found Daedalus with his tears staining the glass.

    "Your Grace," Daedalus went, as Donov comforted the young scientist with his fatherly strength. He mustered up the remains of his composure. "I- I'm.. I'll do anything for her. I'll rip my own beating heart out if it means she'll be fine again!"

    "You've already done enough, lad," Donov said. "I know you've made my daughter very happy. It's all I would ask for from you.."

    "No, no, there must be a way! I will save her, goddamnit!"

    A year passed. Daedalus had dropped out of the academy entirely, devoting his time into resolving a cure for Lil's sake – a way for the cardiovascular system to regenerate itself, without the veins bursting. The solution required a robust method, one that would spread through the patient's body and neutralize the faulty genome that had caused it. By then, he had solved the genome issue at its core, but it was only half the solution; you can birth a new body with the fixed genome, but you cannot affect the genome of an existing one (yet) without causing adverse, possibly even more dangerous mutations. And there was no such thing as "consciousness-transfer," either.

    Lil wouldn't be recognizably Lil anymore.

    Providence came, just when all hope was lost, as Daedalus went into the royal courtyard, just to think of Lil amidst the cherry blossoms. Life was simpler when he'd only thought about scientific principles, and the way the world worked. Now, he had to contend with the complicated reality of human relationships.. emotions.. especially love.

    How did that cherry blossom tree grow back its leaves again, when it had shed them all during the winter and took on the appearance of being dead? It sensed the change in climate, no.

    The first principle underlying that.

    It was pressured into doing so. Just like how DNA, when 'pressured', results in puberty from childhood.

    "YEAAAAH!" he screamed, as the inspirational flash struck him. He would send Lil into a second puberty, where he'd inject her with customised mRNA proteins, and then with a dose of hormones, trigger her body into replacing its veins. His scientific mind cautioned him of danger (don't you confidently wander off a cliff) – so he ran a test run simulation of this action, which only confirmed his intuition.

    Standing by Lil's side again, Daedalus held his breath as he pulled out the syringe from his briefcase, and with Donov's approval, he put the serum into her IV.. waited an hour for it to circulate fully in her body, and then the gonadotropin + estrogen mix.

    God, let me be vindicated..

    Lil was dramatically seizing up, as if her limbs were jolted under a sudden electricity. This wasn't supposed to happen – her vitals were erratic, her heart rate shooting through the roof. At this rate, the blood would burst out her capillaries and she'd basically implode.

    "No," Daedalus uttered, "No! NO!"

    He couldn't bear the weight of his failure, his shame, so he ran away from her, out of the room like some lowly, fucking coward – crying, and just shaking himself back and forth while he leaned over the railing. "I killed her.. I killed her.." Perhaps he'd end it all – his life would amount to nothing more than this. The next day would have no meaning for him anyways, let alone any passage of time, and so he felt his emotions fading away into the ether.

    "Daedalus.." he heard Donov call out to him.

    "What?!" he barked, the force of pent-up rage erupting out of his throat. "What do you want from me?" But something was different – there was a look of gratitude on Donov.

    "You've saved her, my dear.. oh you saved my Lillián.."

    And true enough, as Daedalus wandered back into that room he'd left, where she'd adorned her bookshelves with bronze busts.. the glass was lifted up, and Lil had the rosy colour flushed back into her cheeks. She was still asleep, but she was well.

    And he'd go on to save so many others who had lost all hope for a normal life.

    Daedalus was appointed the role of chief physician. But more importantly, he'd fulfilled his own dreams of being that romantic hero, who could save the one he'd cherished. He met Lil again, by chance at the city hall. In her maroon coat and black eyeliner, it took Daedalus a moment to recognize her – she looked far more mature, while he still was the same boy, just with a lab coat on.

    "You look dashing today, Lil."

    "Oh, thank you." She eyed him. "My, aren't you proud of yourself – you get to look after our entire dome!"

    "What about you, Lil? How've you been?"

    "I've been good. I'm going into the investigation department, learning how to resolve crimes and unsolved cases. It's been a knack of mine, logical deduction."

    This took Daedalus by surprise. "I thought you'd still be a princess."

    Lil circled her head, letting her hair waver. "In a way, I still am. But I'd rather make something of myself, as opposed to just wallow forever with something I was born into."

    The real question lingered at the back of Daedalus's mind, which he always wanted to ask her. "I still remember those golden days. I always wanted to read out a romantic tale to you, but you took my tablet. Your kiss - it still haunts me. It's too bad we couldn't go on with it. I'd honestly thought you'd left me without even saying a word. Lil.. would you love me, like then?"

    "I'm seeing someone else, Daedalus. He's a fellow investigator, like me, and he's got quite the wit – especially when you need a good laugh."

    The clock had just struck noon.

    "I have to go now," Lil went, and Daedalus had his hand outstretched – this time, his fingers held nothing but air, as he watched Lil go off. He felt ice numbing his limbs, as he hung there for minutes beyond a reasonable excuse. It was the cold stab of jealousy.