I told Audrey everything. Yes, including my plan that would need her and her sisters. After my story was finished, Audrey just sat there, agape.
“So, what do you think?” I broke the ice.
“This is, r-really sudden, Mister… I can’t really process this immediately. I mean, there are so many things… I’m…”
“Audrey, it’s really simple,” Faye, the middle sister who listened beside Audrey, butted in, “This man needs our help to escape the bad guys. It’s not complicated at all,” She got the bottom line right, I guess.
“But… Uhm, it was really specific… So let me get this quick, this fine sir over here is currently in the mafia’s hit list. Soon they will pick him up, and definitely kill him. But they will kill him in this specific place… A cliff near the sea. Am I getting this right?”
“Yes, you are. I worked with them for years, I know how they eliminate people—it’s always that cliff.”
“You are awfully calm for someone who’s gonna get whacked soon,” Faye threw a snide remark with expressionless eyes.
“Well, that’s because I’m sure I can persuade you people into helping me. Again, Miss Audrey, if you helped me, I shall pay for every aspect in you and your sister’s life. Food, clothes… all of Julianne’s tuition fees, I will pay them. She will continue her education as high as possible.”
Once again, that dimly lit dining room was silent. The sun were gone already by that time, and night was creeping in. I barely could see Audrey’s face, but I could imagine she’s full of confusion. I understood why though, so I just sat quietly and wait for her response.
“Yo, old man!” Suddenly, something hit my thighs. The pale-skinned, skinny teenager called Julianne or Julie—Now fully clothed—was there resting her chin, “You’re some kind of hotshot? You sure you can pay everything for us?”
“Yes, I’m not kidding. If you want, I can give you an advance payment right now. Several thousand? Give me half an hour.”
“Wow, that would be great!”
“Julie, stop! Mind your manners! Mister, I’m really sorry for Julie, she’s still a kid…”
“I like her. She’s straight to the point.” Like how she immediately tried to drown me when she thought I might be a dangerous man.
“Aww, Mister, you don’t just say you like a girl! It might cause misunderstanding, you know!” Julie hit my thighs naughtily. I just smirked at her.
“I’m sorry to pry too much into your life, Miss Audrey, but I know you and your family are in a tight spot. You need money, while you still haven’t found any job. I remind you, I can help you. Immediately.”
“Hey, I just got back home from a job interview, you know!” Audrey seemed upset, but gradually her expression turned into a disappointed one, “…But when I arrived there, I was immediately rejected because of my background… So I guess that doesn’t count…”
“God damn it, get a hold of yourself, Sis,” Faye ruffled her hair, her face looked like she had to deal with Audrey’s chronic pessimism every day.
I could see in their ruby eyes—Faye and Julianne were ready to sign the deal with me. While Audrey was still on the tip of the cliff. I was sure everything is full of merits for her, but the work was something really unusual. That’s what made her hesitate.
“I will wait for you here, all night if I must. I need your answer. I have a feeling that I might be picked up tomorrow.”
“That’s scary,” Muttered Julie with a flat tone.
A quick silence ensues, before Audrey gave a long, hard sigh. Everyone’s eyes focused on her. She looked around hesitatingly, then said, “Okay, but with one condition. He has to pass the ritual first.”
The statement had different reaction. Faye put her palm on her face as she shook her head. Julia laughed like a maniac while saying, “Whoops, you’re done, Mister.” Meanwhile I sat there without knowing anything.
“What is this ritual?”
“…It’s not too late. Let’s just go to the place,” Audrey stood and left the room, followed by Faye who kept protesting. Julie and I were the only ones left, so I asked Julie the same question as before.
“It might be worse than getting shot and dumped on the ocean,” Her answer terrified me.
All four of us left the house. The sky really have became dark. This small suburbs on the sea side was very quiet, there wasn’t much activity at all. It was like a ghost town. What a perfect setting for me, following these three girls into the unknown.
We headed for the cliff, and there was a stairway that led back to the far end of the beach. After that, just small caves and cliffs. It seemed like we were heading towards those small caves. Audrey, who led the way, clearly knew the caves as if it was the back of her hand, as she entered one into another without any hesitation.
After several minutes of walking, we finally arrived at the destination—a dead end. There was a small pool in the end of that small opening. It wasn’t dark because there were some holes on the cave’s ceiling, so I could see everything clearly.
"Mister, do you know how the ritual goes?" Asked Audrey as she took off her shirt, revealing a red bra.
"...No, please educate me."
"Look behind us, there's a small pool of water right? Go under there and you'll find a long underwater tunnel. The person who seeks connection to our tribe has to go through the tunnel.” Faye gave a quick, simple explanation while she was taking off her baggy trousers, “When trying to court our mother, our father did the same. Don't worry about drowning, we'll be there to help you."
"Or at least revive you when you drowned! He he." Said Julie, who’s still wearing the same underwear as this afternoon.
The situation was getting scarier and scarier every second. But the chance of living was slightly better with these girls instead of the heartless mobs, so I decided to take off my clothes too, “"...Nothing you said make sense. But whatever, let's go.”
Everyone looked at me with a widened eyes, “ Fufufu, you're brave, Mister. I like it,” Audrey smiled—first time I saw her smiling today.
"Heh, doesn't mean I'm not scared, I just have to do it so I'll do it,” I said as I was completely undressed except my boxers, “So, uh, how exactly do you ‘help’ me down there?”
“Well… Uhm, we, er… If you’re low on air, we can, uh…”
“Faye, you pathetic virgin, just said it! Mister, when you’re feeling like almost drowning, we will give you a kiss! You know, chu chu chu~ like that!”
“J-Julie! How dare you, little brat!”
While the younger sisters had some dispute, Audrey gave a slight, awkward smile to me, “We will go first. And we will wait for you on three places. When you reach us, you can try to breathe through us. Let’s just say we’re like some kind of checkpoints.”
“So there will absolutely no air pockets down there?”
“Okay, that doesn’t sound good. Terrifying even. But whatever. Let’s go.”
Audrey smiled again, then quickly jumped into the water. Faye only glanced at me, while Julie stuck her little tongue out. Then both jumped in at the same time. I took a deep, deep breath as if I will never breathe again, then followed those girls.
As my body was submerged, I was surprised. The cave was bright enough for me to see everything. Yes, I also could see the girls—Julie was the first checkpoint. The cave also wasn’t as small as I expected, though I still felt a little claustrophobic. I touched my chest, ensuring my body and soul, then moved forward.
It was a straight line, no need to turn right or left. That fact made me a little too overconfident. That confidence broke when I realize I haven’t got that close to Julie, yet the terror of drowning overwhelmed me. I turned my head around, and realized the entrance was already too far. No way back, it’s literally sink or swim.
Finally, after quite a long swim, I reached the first "checkpoint". Here I was supposed to get my air replenished by Julie... by kissing her. But for some reason the girl just floated there without taking notice of me--She's trying to tease me, damn brat.
I did not have the air to deal with her, so I just pointed at my puffy cheek while blowing a lot of bubbles. It really felt like I was begging for my life... No, I definitely was begging for my life.
Finally, she glanced at me. Her lips formed a smug, annoying smile. God damn brat, give me air already!
Finally she did it. I knew she felt happy after putting me in desperate situation, but I wasn't annoyed anymore, I was too busy enjoying her pinkish, soft lips--I mean, the air she gave me. This ritual seemed like a good deal... I could kiss three pretty girls for free. Though I have to bet my life for it.
As she separated herself from me, she let some small bubbles out as she giggled. I started to swim away, leaving her behind. When I looked back, she even waved her hand. It was way too surreal—it seemed like she had no problem at all staying inside a flooded cave where the air was quite far away. No fear of trapped in a small, cramped space. No fear of no oxygen. These girls definitely are something.
Meanwhile, the crippling fear and anxiety slowly keep rising inside my mind. The distance to the next checkpoint was far. I hoped that it wasn’t far enough for me to go insane and drown.