Welcome to Ashgate

Welcome to Ashgate
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Byun Bora was in desperate need of a job.

The clicking of the mouse echoed consistently throughout the room as the she browsed through multiple web pages. She knew she shouldn’t panic, but it was hard not to. Her apartment rent was due in three days, she couldn’t pay the electricity bill, and she was showering in cold water the past week.

Byun Bora needed a job to save her.

Her phone rang, Bora glancing at the screen of the device that showed signs of age. She sighed. She also needed to replace her phone. When she answered the phone, the voice of her very cheerful brother made her quickly snap back her worries.

“Hey, noona!” Baekhyun sang, Bora hearing the tippity-tap of the keyboard from his side. “How’ve you been?”

Bora cleared . “Hey, Baek.” Ignoring his question, she reverted with a simple one. “Where are you?”

“At the office. I have a paper to write.”

Baekhyun was a journalist. He wasn’t very much a contemporary one who wrote about news, about war or burglaries, he was one who had a niche set of readers. His one and only article that was a hit was written years ago when he wrote about Area51 and the possibility they were experimenting with aliens. All the articles following was research by him about the supernatural, pseudo-science, and folktale-folklore or existing cultures.

Bora knew that his topic of writing did not appeal to the masses, but it was something that kept him independent and financially stable (for now). It was obvious that the one who was struggling was Bora, and not Baekhyun.

“How are you, noona? I heard some nurses from the Saint Mary Hospital were laid off.” Baekhyun had hit the nail right on the head, Bora giving a hmm and hoping it passed off as nonchalant.

“Yeah. I’m currently finding a job.”

Bora was laid off from her job as a nurse when it was discovered by the public that a particular nurse from her department had been mercy killing patients. It had caused a big hit to her department, considering she was the head nurse and she allowed it to happen under her nose.

She dealt with a lot of backlash from the public. Bora’s confidence in her work abilities lowering until it left her with self-doubt. She had no idea how she allowed it to happen, though the patients that passed were those who had very little percentage to live.

The news made headlines, and Bora was now facing hardships in securing another job due to everyone knowing what happened. Her name was doxed and she was receiving hate mail for a while.

Even if it had died down a bunch like all news do since it has been a month and a half, hospitals and clinics still did not accept her and would reject her just by seeing her name.

“I hope you get one soon,” her brother said to her, his fingers pausing over the keyboard. “You’d tell me if you were struggling, right?”

“Of course,” Bora lied through her teeth. “Don’t worry about it.”

Baekhyun let out a disbelieving grunt. Bora tried to steer away the topic away her, focusing it on the male who was four years younger than her.

“What are you working on?”

Baekhyun hummed, Bora knowing he was already aligning the story in his head. Bora had always tried to listen to whatever topics Baekhyun was writing about because she wanted to support him. However, his chosen topics needed more than an open mind.

“I got this fresh lead, just researching about it.” He paused, another click of the mouse from his side. “There’s this town called Ashgate that’s in the middle of nowhere. They have this reform academy, y’know… To send kids who need to be disciplined. Person said that the kids that finished their reform program would come out a new person.”

Bora frowned. “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what they are going for?”

“Mhm, person just claimed that they not only come out fresh and new, and newly reformed… They are also a little bit weird. The whole town is unusual. OP claims that the kids seem like they aren’t the same as they were before.”

“OP?” Bora asked, not understanding the term.

“Original poster.” Baekhyun paused. “I found the lead on reddit.”

Bora relaxed. “Baekhyun, is reddit even a reliable source? You know people like to just post eerie things.”

“Most reliable information do not come from mainstream media, noona,” Baekhyun replied. “Anyway, I’m heading off. I need to do some research. I think I’ll be burning the midnight oil.”

“Alright. Take care, Baek.”

With a click, Baekhyun was gone, and Bora sat in front of her computer, recalibrating her thoughts. Job, yes. Job. She needed a job, and she needed a break from all the business of the city. Her mind was brought back to her conversation with her brother, and before she knew it, she was typing down “Ashgate” on google.

The search bar popped up a few options. “Ashgate Aether Reform Academy” being the first. She reached the site, a big mansion popping up on screen. For a small town in the middle of nowhere that seemed to have nothing, the academy looked like a historical castle.

“ARA is Ashgate’s one and only reform academy, aiming to bring the best parts of our students out with a disciplinary curriculum.” Bora’s eyes fell on a photo with a bunch of students. “Class of 2023.”

There was something eerie about the photo. Some of them looked normal, their hands clasped in front of them, and their eyes fixed on the camera with a certain softness in their stare. However, some of them were smiling—their lips stretched out so hard, she was sure it was forced.

Bora shook the feeling away, reminding herself that tough discipline would always change a child and she knew that very well. She browsed through the rest of the website mindlessly, passing a few pictures of extracurricular school activities like rock climbing, or teatime.

Then she stopped scrolling when she reached an ad.

“Looking for an in-town medical helper!” The banner read, the words dancing around like it was designed by a teen back on MySpace days. “Free lodging provided. Work sporadically depending on patients. Good pay and allowance.”

Bora didn’t know why she wanted to give it a try, but she did. She thought that maybe going to Ashgate would bring her away from the city—surely, a town that was in the middle of nowhere wouldn’t have heard about her and the news that had ruined her career, right?

She sent in her resume to the email, adding her details, her pay expectations to which she snowballed lower than she expected, and sent it on its way.

The next morning, she woke up to a reply.

“Dear Ms. Byun,

I am pleased to have gotten an application from you. My name is Eldridge Ho, sole practicing doctor in all Ashgate. As much as I am surprised that someone of your caliber has shown interest in our small town, I do think that Ashgate has a charm of its own.

Attached to this email are the details of what we can offer you if you do take the position as general nurse. Please note that this is a one-person job. As of now, we have no other applicants or other employees.

I can assure you that your workload won’t be too high. Judging from your location, you’ll be able to take a train from Shaire Station. The train ride will be around seven hours. The logistics will have to be arranged on your own. If you ever reach Ashgate, you’ll be able to find me at the Greenview Clinic.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Dr. Eldridge Ho. “

Bora blinked at the screen.

Funny how he was already expecting to see her despite never even talking to her.

But Bora made up her mind and thought that a small town may just be what she needed.

She packed up her bags and left.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The train ride to Ashgate was a long one. By the time she was thirteen stations away, Bora had to transfer to a steam train for the last six stations. There were no windows, and Bora looked out and tried to enjoy the changing landscape.

The trees were getting thicker, and a few run-down signs could be seen. The sky was less blue than she was used to. Bora knew Ashgate was near when a big sign came to view.

“Welcome to Ashgate!”, below the title was one line – “Population: 920”.

The train came to a stop, Bora taking note of the time. It was 3 pm. She had gotten on the train around 8 am in the morning, so the travel was exactly 7 hours. As she grabbed her bag, she turned around to leave the train when someone bumped into her.

It was a young boy with a hoodie drawn above his head, covering his eyes. He muttered a small apology, looking back at her uneasily before stalking away. She noticed that he seemed jumpy. As Bora stepped off onto the platform, the emptiness of the train station almost made her reevaluate her life decisions.

The train station was empty, the ground coated by brown dried, upswept leaves. The ticketing booth was left unmanned, and Bora wondered where all the people went or what she would have to do if she wanted to get on the train. She checked her phone, letting out a sigh of relief when she noticed that there was still a signal.

It wouldn’t be the 21st century if there isn’t a signal, she thought.

As she was checking the attachment from her phone, she heard a yelp.

Whipping her head around, she saw that the hooded boy was being pushed forward by a bunch of men. He yelled, trying to punch two of them without no avail due to his smaller framed size.

“Let me go! Get away from me! I am not going back to that academy!” He screamed at top of his lungs, Bora stepping forward as her first instinct when she noticed that the two other men had uniforms on.

Stitched to their chest, there was a dark blue crest with the word “ARA” engraved on it. Bora remembered it from the website, holding herself back from saying anything. She watched as they dragged him away, the boy thrashing in their arms.

Was he a runaway? Bora knew better than to meddle with the rules of the academy.

It took more than a little effort to dispel the thought of the young boy, Bora having to remind herself to stay out of trouble and just do her job. She went on her way to find Greenview Clinic, the female following the signs toward the town of Ashgate.

The town of Ashgate were different than she thought. Bora found herself standing at the center of the town. People were beginning to stare at her, and Bora wondered if it was because she was an unfamiliar face.

“Hi,” a voice greeted, Bora dragging her eyes down to a tall and lanky young boy. He seemed friendly, his eyes sparking with a welcoming stare. “You’re new. We don’t really get visitors. Are you a tourist?”

Tourist? Bora smiled at him, and he smiled back. He had a toothy grin and was about thirteen years of age.

“No,” she replied. “My name is Bora. What’s yours?”

“Jisung,” he sang. “Eleven years old.” He bowed down into a little bow. “I’m the one kid everyone likes.”

He was tall for an eleven-year-old, she thought. Bora couldn’t help but laugh. “The kid everyone likes?”

“Ahuh,” he answered in confidence with another flash of his toothy grin. “So are you here to send someone to ARA? That’s the only reason why anyone would ever come to Ashgate.”

“Not at all,” Bora replied. Deep down she wondered why Aether Reform Academy had such importance to the town. She had been to other cities where reform academies were the norm, and people hardly gave it much thought. “I’m here for the Greenview Clinic.”

Jisung snapped his fingers, giving her a point with his finger. “Ah! The new nurse?”

Bora blinked, Jisung continuing to talk. “I heard a new nurse was coming to help Dr. Eldridge.”

Bora had given Dr. Eldridge a confirmation right after she had gotten the email. Her upcoming presence to be an announcement to the townspeople of Ashgate struck a weird bone in her body.

“That should be me,” she said. “How did you find out?”

“We all knew you’d come. I searched you up.” Jisung lifted up his phone and she saw that he was on her Linkedln. “Dr. Eldridge put up an announcement on the town board to ‘welcome you warmly’. We need a nurse after Nurse Jane disappeared. She stayed only for two weeks.”

Jisung offered her his hand in the most gentlemanly way possible. With his other hand, he offered to hold her only bag. Bora decided not to ask about Nurse Jane, taking his hand and allowing him to lead the way.

“You’ll get used to the staring once they warm up to you,” Jisung told her.

“How long will that take?”

“A couple years.” Jisung grinned at her. “We still call Officer Johnny “the new guy” and he’s been here five years.”

Bora tried to mellow out the feeling at the pit of her stomach when she noticed flyers all over the bus stations. She didn’t get to read them when she felt a tug on her hand, Jisung pointing right in front of them. Greenview Clinic was a small clinic, and Bora could see that it was both a clinic for humans and for pets.

“I’ll be here, Nurse Bora. You can go in and say hi to Dr. Eldridge!” Jisung chirped, plopping on a bench. “Then I’ll show you the café by the street.”

Cages lined up by the glass, a small poodle lying on its side and sleeping. She reached up, tapping a finger on the glass when the canine stirred, lifting its head up ever so slightly before laying back down. It looked sick and dehydrated, Bora reaching out to slide the glass doors.

The clinic seemed empty. Too empty.

Bora sniffed, seeing how dust danced in the air. There were papers strewn all over the room, across the table and on the floor. She could see a small light from the room on the left down a short hallway.

She stepped closer, edging towards the light when she peeked from the side.

If this was Dr. Eldridge, he looked exactly like she expected him to look like. He was balding on the crown on his hair, and his facial hair was white. Bora wanted to say something, but she observed that he was in the middle of shaving.

Right in front of him was electronic Philips’s shaver. The man glanced at it before reaching for something. In two minutes, he was unwrapping a sharp blade, the male chuckling to himself.

“Let’s do this the way I do it, shall we?” He murmured, angling the blade close to his skin before he began to shave his face.

Bora felt like she was overstepping, the female about to step back to give him privacy when he hissed. A drop of blood slid down his cheek, Bora watching him curiously as he swept a finger over the blood and it off his finger.

“Mhm,” he murmured, his eyes going to the mirror before he stared straight at her and smiled.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[Greenview Clinic]

“I’m so sorry for trespassing, I didn’t mean to walk in on you—”

“Oh, Bora. Don’t fret,” Dr. Eldridge told her, raising a hand in the air as if to tell her that everything was fine. “What you did was completely innocuous!”

The doctor did not show signs of offense, and Bora decided that she had apologized enough for walking in on him. He wiped his face with a white towel, motioning her to the table.

“I have asked our dear Jisung to bring you around, I take it that you’ve crossed paths with him?” Dr. Eldridge asked, Bora noticing that he had his eyes on Jisung who was waving at them from outside the clinic.

“I have. He’s a bright one.”

“Quite a pleasure to be around, I must say.” Dr. Eldridge nodded. “Today was meant to be a simple introduction, Bora. I’ll need your assistance tomorrow when Monday comes along. Sundays are to make sure everyone is well rested in Ashgate.”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is your desk,” Dr. Eldridge told her, motioning to a small desk by the side of the clinic. “I have just recently returned from a prolonged two-month vacation was unable to assist Nurse Jane witht he upkeeping of our abode when I hired her. I may ask you to lend a helping hand in restoring structure and cleanliness around here.”

Bora nodded again, Dr. Eldridge telling her that she must be tired.

“I stay at the Aether Reform Academy. As the demands of my work require me to frequently commute between the academy and Ashgate, it has been incresingly burdensome to balance the two. As a result, I engaged the services of nurse to provide assistance with my daily affairs,” he told her. “But I come to the clinic if my schedule insists. You will be staying here….”

He motioned to the right side of the clinic, Bora peeking from the doorway. There was a small bed, a ventilator, and a desk right by the window.

“You’ll oversee opening and closing the clinic every day. But your patients are usually from the elderly home, the academy, and if they need help they usually ring so you can treat them within the confines of their humble abode.”

“So, I’m a house nurse?”

“You’ll be travelling to them to give them their treatments, yes. Nothing special. The people of Ashgate are rather healthy. I try not to give them…” Dr. Eldridge paused as if he was trying to think of a word. “Modern medicine.”

“Ah….” Bora nodded. Some doctors had their own preferences, and Bora knew that very well.

“The sheets have been washed, Bora. Our last nurse, Nurse Jane, lodged right here.” He smiled. “Pretty little thing, really.”

“Why did she leave?” Bora asked, observing his features in cas

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mandalee
Beeen so busy! Had this in drafts for far too long! Don't be a silent reader -- Upvote, Subscribe, and Comment! (Hopefully), see you soon :)

Comments

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Nicole121314 #1
Chapter 11: Baekhyun missing or just went to some adventure of his own haha...
suholeadernim #2
Chapter 11: I wish you continue this ;(
Sharo001
779 streak #3
Chapter 10: I loved the end! Mathew and Bora made a lovely little family with the boys. Now, I am invested in what exactly that marble will turn out to be and how it involves Sehun. I’m hoping you will decide to write it at some point. In the meantime, I am getting ready to start your new story. I am also enjoying ‘I’m Here for You, Always,’ your plots are always so interesting.
Myzurah
#4
Chapter 11: Would this really the last, or there will be another bonus chapter about what happened to Baek?
Lucasfatboy
#5
Chapter 11: Last chapter 🥹🥹
findingalaska #6
Chapter 11: T__T So its discontinued! Really! Thank you for giviing us such a good story but istg, whyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Elderwise sounds like sth i would read! Sending love. xoxox
leetakashi
#7
Chapter 11: I’m mad this is discontinued because LJ is so funny. I like how his issues are about fitting in Aether and battling “complex” emotions regarding Bora. It’s so cute how he calls her “mum”! Matthew being salty is so funny, he now reminds me of The Bracelet Club the more dorky he is. Thank you for such a wonderful story, I hope Baekhyun is safe in Elderwise even if it’s something that we may not get to read.
Myzurah
#8
Chapter 10: For sure, you won't ever disappoint with your fantasy themed stories. I would make all your stories into a movie/series if I'm a producer hahahhha.
silverfixofweed
#9
Chapter 10: I'm so happy that L.J finally got a home! Ashgate was prolly the most traumatic for everyone D:D. Oh Sehun is a new character now? I dint expect anything more, but if there is, count me in! The twins are hilarious NanaxJaemin JenoxL.J. Why is Nana calling L.J babes? XD that is funny. This story was more serious than the rest bt you did the fantasy tag justice <3 feels so unfinished in a way :(
somnambulis #10
Chapter 10: oooooohhhhh oh sehun's name came out