Zero and his little sister, Faenys, were now heading to downtown. They had taken Route 40, the fastest way to their destination according to the car navigator. However, five minutes into their journey, their eyes focused on a rather peculiar detail of the route they had taken. A number of surveillance cameras were scattered along both sides of Route 40. This was the first time they had ever seen anything like this, and it intrigued them greatly.
“Why do you think they have so many cameras on both sides of the road?” Faenys asked.
“I have no idea. Maybe it’s some kind of new radar or something,” her brother replied.
“One or two cameras, I can understand, but seeing that many. Um, no, there’s definitely something wrong.”
“What do you want me to say, Faenys? I’m not the one who installed them all. If you want answers, find someone more appropriate than me.”
Preston had a point. If she wanted an answer to her question, then she should ask someone from Vormer City when she had the chance. In the meantime, the only thing she could do was to wait for them to arrive downtown.
After a few moments, something else caught Miss Kririah’s attention. It had been several minutes since she and her older brother had left their home, but no other cars besides their own were on the road.
“By the way…”
“I guess you also want to talk to me about the strange lack of vehicles on the road since we left home, right?” said the young man while cutting off his little sister.
“Yep! First, all these cameras and now a deserted road. There’s definitely something wrong with this.”
“I must admit it’s pretty strange, almost scary. But then again, maybe the road is under construction or something.”
“If it was, we would’ve seen a sign.”
“So, why do you think there are no cars on this road?” Preston asked, slightly exasperated by Faenys’s questions.
“I have no idea,” she replied.
“Exactly, Faenys! You have no idea and neither do I…”
Zero went on to say that asking him all these questions would be pointless because he could not answer them. He then reiterated what he had said about someone in town who might be able to answer them.
“Okay, I get it! No need to raise your voice.”
At that very moment, the young man’s empty stomach began to rumble.
“Look, we still have about forty minutes before we get to town. So, why don’t we take advantage of that time and just quietly observe the landscape?”
Faenys immediately realized that this was her brother’s polite way of saying, “stop asking questions and shut up”. She wanted to continue the conversation in order to annoy him more, but she held back. He was the one who was holding the wheel of the car and was thus able to send them in a ravine if their talk went too far. The girl accepted his proposal and the two of them continued their journey towards Vormer City downtown.
As expected, Kririah and her older brother arrived downtown after about 40 minutes. The place was very lively and friendly with a century feel, which was a far cry from the big cities crowded with people. There were also many signs which the same man in his forties dressed in a three-piece suit appeared on. The duo did not pay much attention to this, thinking that it was surely a local celebrity.
In such an environment, these two young people should normally have gone unnoticed. However, this was not the case at all. As they drove along one of the streets, they noticed that a large number of people were staring at them, which they found rather disturbing.
“They’re fucking annoying, staring at us like that. What’s their fucking problem?” said Kririah, frustrated.
“I have no idea. And honestly, I don’t want to know. I’ve got bigger problems to deal with right now,” Preston replied.
It was clear that the young man was more concerned about his stomach than what was going on around him. However, he was forced to realize that the situation was particularly strange when some of the passers-by also took pictures of their vehicles.
“I must admit that their behavior starts to get over the top,” he said.
“What kind of place did you move us into?”
Zero asked himself the same question. This situation was really strange and unexpected, and because of that, accounts should be given pretty soon.
“Let’s not worry about that for now. It must be nothing serious, I hope so.”
The young people continued on their way and arrived at their destination a few minutes later. They would finally be able to fill their stomachs, which was a good thing for Preston. While their vehicle was in line at the fast-food restaurant, Faenys expressed her concern about people’s behavior that were staring at them. She asked him again what kind of place they had decided to live in.
“I’ve already told you not to worry about that. We’ll eventually find out why they acted this way. It’s just a matter of time. Besides, as long as I’m around, nothing bad will happen to you. You can count on me,” he replied.
After a few seconds of silence, Miss Kririah burst out laughing. She could not believe that her older brother had just said such nonsense.
“I can’t believe you actually said something like that. Like you could stand up to anyone.”
“It seems that you doubt my fighting abilities, Faenys.”
“Come on! You can say that to complete strangers, but not to me. We both know you can’t fight. You’ve always solved all your problems with rhetoric, nothing more,” she said sarcastically.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take action if a good speech doesn’t work.”
“Anyway, as your big brother, it’s my duty to protect you, and to piss you off at the same time.”
Faenys rolled her eyes as he said this. After several minutes of waiting, it was finally the duo’s turn to place their orders. Once this was done, the young man and his little sister were invited to move their vehicle forward. When they arrived a few meters away, one of the fast-food restaurant employees presented himself to them. Preston took his credit card out of his wallet and paid for the transaction. A short time later, the same person handed them their orders.
“Thank you very much. Have a nice day,” Faenys’s brother said, grabbing their paper bags and drinks.
“Thanks! You too!”
Zero drove his car forward again and pulled into the parking lot. No sooner had he parked his Cadillac than the young man threw himself on his food.
“Relax! Your food isn’t going to run away,” Faenys retorted when she saw him.
“If only you knew how hungry I am, you wouldn’t say that,” he replied.
“I think I have an idea. I’m just saying you should take it easy if you don’t want to choke.”
Not listening to her, the young man began to search the bag containing his food. He then realized that they had forgotten to put a straw for his drink. Zero immediately complained about this, which was a reaction that his little sister found somewhat exaggerated.
“You can have mine if you want to,” she offered.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll be fine,” he said.
“It’s up to you.”
So, they hurriedly finished their meal and headed for the mall. On the way, Faenys told her brother how much better she felt after eating well.
“That’s what it’s like to have a full stomach after being hungry for so long,” Preston said as he sipped his drink.
As she watched him drink his juice, she immediately noticed that he was doing it through a straw, which she found very strange, especially since he had clearly refused to let her give him hers.
“I thought they had forgotten to put a straw in your bag,” she said, perplexed.
“I guess I was wrong,” said Zero.
“Why is that?”
“Nothing at all. Don’t mind me.”
Despite what she said, it was clear that Faenys found this situation a little odd. She had seen him search his bag thoroughly for the straw without finding it. And now, he was drinking through it. It was as if the straw had magically appeared in her older brother’s plastic glass. Maybe she was imagining things? Perhaps Preston had simply searched incorrectly as he claimed? Whatever the case, she preferred not to dwell on it, even though she still found the situation mysterious.
Zero and her little sister, Kririah, finally arrived in front of the largest shopping mall in Vormer City. After finding a good parking spot, they got out of their car and took a cart before heading to one of its entrances.
Less than a minute in the mall, Preston and Faenys themselves in the same situation as to when they were driving through the city. People were staring at them as they walked by. This behavior exasperated the young teenager who was getting tired of them. Seeing that his little sister was on the point of bursting, he delicately put his hand on her shoulder.
“Calm down, it is not the moment to make a scandal,” he says.
“But…! Doesn’t it bother you to see these people staring at us like that?” she retorted, frustrated.
“A little, but it isn’t for that much that I will let myself be carried away. In our life, it’s necessary to know to be master of our emotions. If you let them control you, regrettable actions may be committed. Besides, we will eventually find out where this whole thing came from.”
Zero’s serenity and words about the situation calmed Faenys down a bit, but also annoyed her. As a result, she could not help but call him a “weirdo”, which surprised him greatly.
“I feel very bad about what you’re saying,” Preston said.
“Serves you right,” she said with satisfaction.
At the same time, as the two of them walked past a store that sold flat screens broadcasting news, all the TV presenters inside the screens suddenly began to stare at Zero. No one noticed, except, of course, the young man who pretended not to see anything.
After several dozen minutes of browsing through the aisles and choosing their items, it was finally time for Faenys and Preston to check out. They went to the nearest cash register, which was held by a rather attractive young woman.
“Hello! How are you?” said Zero.
“Hello! I’m doing great. And you?” answered the cashier by sketching a magnificent smile.
Realizing what was about to happen, the teenager put on her headphones and began listening to her music. She did not want to listen to the slightly romantic conversation her older brother was having right now.
“I’m also doing well, especially since I set my eyes on a beauty like you,” Zero continued.
At Preston’s compliment, the young woman could not help but smile again.
“What a flatterer!” she exclaimed afterwards.
“I can’t help it. How not to be when one comes to meet a creature as magnificent as you.”
The young woman began to smile again. Meanwhile, Faenys, who could barely hear what they were saying to each other, only wanted them to finish talking so that she could get home as soon as possible. She wanted to be reunited with her baby who was patiently waiting for her in one of the containers.
As the cashier gradually scanned their items, Zero took the opportunity to ask her why some people in the store seemed to be staring at them.
“It’s probably because you’re new around here. You don’t have to worry about that. It happens from time to time. People just aren’t used to seeing new faces,” she replied.
“Excuse me, but how do you know that Faenys and I aren’t from around here?”
Preston had every reason to be surprised. Knowing that people were new to a city was only possible if the city had a small population, which was not the case in Vormer City, which had a population of nearly eleven and a half thousand people.
“Yeah! How do you know?” continued his little sister, who had also been surprised by the cashier’s answer.
“It is very simple. To get here, you took the route 40, and usually no one drives on that road at this hour. I guess you saw all the cameras along the way, right?”
Miss Kririah’s brother shook his head to let her know that they had indeed seen the cameras – how could they not be noticed – which allowed the young cashier to explain to them that it was a device set up by their mayor in order to monitor the car races.
“Races! What car races?” replied Faenys, who was now a little more interested in the conversation.
“The King’s race. It’s a quarterly competition in which many people participate.”
Upon hearing this, Preston’s little sister felt her blood boil as the desire to participate in this event grew within her. She also decided that the place her brother had decided to move them to was not so bad.
“How do I take part of those races?” asked Miss Kririah.
“It’s out of the question,” Preston said sharply.
“We’ll talk about it later when we get home.”
Faenys did not want to discuss it later, she wanted to do it right there, in front of the cashier who would be able to tell her vital information about this competition she wanted to enter. However, her older brother did not hear it that way and asked her to stop.
“I told you we’d discuss it when we got home,” he continued.
“First with my baby, now here! Why won’t you ever let me…”
“Faenys, that’s enough! This is not the time nor place to discuss such matters,” Preston retorted, cutting off his little sister.
Frustrated, but also angry at her brother, the young teenager decided to return to their car. Of course, this was without her insulting him before leaving.
“Don’t mind my little sister. She’s usually a lot nicer. Let’s get back to the previous subject, Route 40. Is there any way to get to the town outskirts without taking this road?”
It was obvious that Preston did not want to be filmed every time he went in or out of his house.
“Sure. You can take the C70. It’s a bit longer than route 40, but at least you won’t have to deal with the cameras anymore,” she said.
The young man was relieved. He would be able to avoid some rather unpleasant situations. However, there was now a problem. Faenys had just learned about this car racing competition, and he was sure that she would do everything possible to participate. So, he had to find a way to deal with this “child”.
“If I may ask, do you have any plans for tonight?” the young cashier suddenly asked as she almost finished scanning all his items.
Zero found her question very surprising, but also very bold. He told her that he would unfortunately have to deal with a teenage girl whose behavior was quite complicated to manage. The young woman could not hide her disappointment at her interlocutor’s answer. However, after this later had paid for his purchases, she wrote her telephone number on the back of his receipt before giving it to him.
“Have a nice day,” she said.
“Thank you very much, you too.”
As she walked back to her older brother’s car, the looks on people’s faces made Faenys more upset than she already was. Unable to take it anymore, the young teenager snapped and started yelling at them.
“Yes, I’m new around here, so what? Why do you care?”
It was clear that Miss Kririah was extremely angry against her big brother, and it was her way to relieve some pressure. The reason was rather obvious, Preston had just done to her what she considered to be a “dick move” by refusing her the access to information which she wished to obtain. What right did he have to do such a thing? He was not her father. Besides, whether he liked it or not, her decision was already made. She would take part in the competition, but to do so, she had to get information about it first.
So, as she walked through the mall parking lot, Faenys looked for any information about the King’s race on the internet. She wanted to know how to enter the race, but also what the rules were. Since it was an official event, she was sure to find answers. Fortunately for her, she found what she was looking for within seconds.
Some of what Faenys found was consistent with what the cashier had told them – the King’s race was indeed a quarterly competition held on Route 40 – while some of it contained information about the entry process. With this, the young teenager now had everything she needed. The only thing she had to do now was to retrieve her car, which was still in one of the containers.
A few minutes later, Preston found his little sister in the mall parking lot. He asked her if anything had happened during his absence. But he got no answer from Faenys, who preferred to remain silent. The young man ignored her and put the groceries in the trunk. Just as he was putting the last item he had bought into the trunk, Zero’s gaze was drawn to a young woman wearing late 19th century clothing who was walking in the distance.
Seeing Preston’s surprised face, Faenys asked him what was wrong and what he was looking at before looking back in the same direction as him. Turning his attention momentarily away from the mysterious woman, Zero then noticed that she had completely disappeared.
“I—I thought… Anyway, it was nothing. We’d better go,” he said afterwards.
As they climbed back into their vehicle, the teenager took one last look at where her brother had been looking, wondering what he had seen to be in such a state of shock.
To be continued!!!