Tahimik lang akong nagdadrive habang wala nang malay si Hortem at nasa backseat naman sina Cliff at Naia.

"You guys are so stubborn." Her sharp gaze landed on me through the rear mirror and I had no choice but to avoid it. "I told you to contact me first before doing anything yet you chose to move without precaution."

She pulled the pendant on her necklace and it immediately transformed into her laptop. Pinakiramdaman ko siya at nagkatinginan kami ni Cliff dahil hindi namin inaasahan na pupunta rito si Naia. After all, she couldn't fight at her fullest anymore.

"So, both Jett and you stained her car with blood, huh?" she said to Cliff while running her fingers through the back seat.
"Yeah. You know, it's that time of the month," I jokingly said to ease the tension inside the car and I was successful since I saw Naia's lips twitched. On the other hand, Cliff looked at me as if I just said something stupid.
"Not funny," mahina niyang sabi at napangiti na lang ako dahil sa itsura niya.
"Quite funny," Naia butted in and Cliff gave him a disapproving look.
'Where is Jett when I need him the most?' he complained.

At least, the tension was gone and we were back to our old selves. Naia continued typing her report of what had happened while using her animus. She touched the window and looked at Cliff.

"Well, that was a nasty fall," sabi niya at napatingin siya sa sugat na nakuha ni Cliff nang tumalon siya papunta sa kotse kanina.

Even though we've been living and working together for several years, I am still amazed every time she uses her animus. With just a simple touch, she'd know the history of an inanimate thing. That was also one of the reasons why she chose to be our Keeper. According to her, she was tracking the killer of someone she treasured. Hindi ko alam kung sino at wala rin akong balak pilitin siyang sabihin pero alam kong iyon ang dahilan kung bakit hindi niya magamit ang kakayahan niya nang maayos.

"Where's Jett, by the way?" tanong niya.
"He escorted Kiyoko to the Senshin's base," sagot ni Cliff habang nilalagyan ng gauze ang sugat niya sa binti at braso.
"Tantei High?"
"Yeah. We can't accommodate those Blacks anymore so she suggested bringing them to Shima."

Pagkasabi ko no'n ay napatigil sa pagta-type si Naia. The look on her face was the same as mine when I heard that word from Kiyoko the first time but somehow, her eyes radiated an immense emotion. I felt rage and despair at the same time.

"Uh-huh. She revealed that its guardians are originally Senshins."
"And the location?"
"She didn't say anything about it. I guess it's still confidential."

Pinagpatuloy ko lang ang pagda-drive at halos pasikat na ang araw. Napatingin ako kay Hortem at hanggang ngayon ay wala pa rin siyang malay. Well, after seeing those unimaginable situations, I guess his brain couldn't comprehend what he had seen and just like other humdrums, they would rather think of it as some kind of hallucination instead of truth.

I called Nigel and told him to send us a map of his current location. Naia projected the map on the windshield and I followed the track. After about thirty to forty minutes, we reached the border of the city and saw an old, abandoned apartment. I parked the car few meters away from it and reverted it back to its miniature model. Cliff managed to carry Hortem on his shoulder, even though he was injured, while Naia and I led the way.

In the middle of daybreak, the apartment looked like it was on fire. The orange light illuminated its crumbling exterior, as well as the thin, almost invisible, thread running through the damp front area.

"Wait," pigil ni Cliff sa amin. "Knowing him . . ." He took a coin out of his pocket and tossed it toward the thread. It fell to the wet ground and what happened next stunned me. "I knew it," he said, confirming his suspicion.

The coin was corroded easily by the liquid and I could smell the strong odor of it, kind of like a vinegar. We immediately covered our nose and stepped back due to the nature of that chemical.

"Hydrofluoric acid, isn't it?" Naia asked in a muffled voice.
"Yes. This might be his first line of defense against those who were tracking him."

I was glad that I didn't walk straightaway to the front door. I remember the lessons I received during the Academy days about harmful chemicals and that acid would surely burn me and stop my heart from pumping blood. Damn it, he didn't even tell us about his defensive measures!

'Nigel, we're here,' I said but there was no response. 'Nig—'
'Optimus S, Naia,' Naia suddenly announced using her patheia.

After a few seconds, he got out of the house with a face mask and protective glasses while holding a listening device. He pointed at the right side and we realized there was a trapdoor covered with tall grasses.

'You can get inside the house using that way,' he said and Naia led the way.

I almost forgot that Nigel was also a Keeper. Naia did the standard way of letting other teams know the presence of his or her team. The Keeper must say his or her team, class and name. That way, the other Keeper can check through the database if he or she is saying the truth using those information and his or her voice details.

Binuksan ko ang trapdoor at bumaba kami sa hagdan. Gaya sa dati niyang lugar ay may ganito na namang set up. How did Nigel find this kind of place? His hideouts always have a basement or some sort of secret passages.

In less than a minute, we got inside of the house and just like his previous base, all sorts of spying devices and weapons were scattered. Now that Kiyoko's gone, I'm sure the place would stay like this for a long time.

"Is that Hortem?" tanong niya nang nakaupo na kami.
"Yes. The governor," sabi ko habang nakatingin kay Hortem na hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring malay.

Napanganga na lang ako nang sabay-sabay silang tatlo na nagbukas ng kanya-kanya nilang laptop. Something projected on the wall and when I looked at it, it was like a blueprint.

"What's that?" tanong ko kaagad.
"His project's blueprint."
"So that was his plan," bulong ni Cliff habang pabalik-balik ang tingin sa blueprint at laptop niya.
"Quite clever."

In times like this, I really miss Jett. Two Keepers and a wing strategist for company meant a lot of thinking and brain capacity. Clearly, I couldn't keep up. Since I am a frontliner, while Jett is a specialist, we don't need to do their kind of stuff. My head throbbed just by listening to their conversation.

"So, what are you guys talking about? Do you mind sharing the details?" I said with a hint of sarcasm and I saw Naia's lips twitching.
"As you can see, once he obliterated the park, he would build a private domain using the money he has embezzled from the government and use the businesses he'll established for his personal profit," sabi ni Nigel.

That was what Hortem said to me a while ago. He contracted the Blacks to bomb the park so that he can build his private establishments.

"But something is really off," Cliff butted in.
"You're right and we need to know the details immediately so why don't you two spy the city hall?" Naia suddenly suggested and that caught me off-guard. Naia was known for her cautious and well-thought decision but what she just said was a bit hasty.
"Wait, are you sure?" I asked but without warning, the atmosphere became heavy. Naia and Nigel looked at each other, as if they were sharing some kind of secret.
"You know it, too, right?" she queried Nigel but Cliff and I were still confused.
"Of course," seryoso namang sagot ni Nigel.
"What's happening?" tanong ko at huminga nang malalim si Naia.
"I'll tell you the details later but first, we need to plan your espionage. We need to know why the Blacks want him dead." Napatingin naman siya bigla sa bintana. 'Jett, come in.'

Hindi ko naman kaagad napansin na nasa labas si Jett at makalipas ang isang minuto ay nasa harapan na namin siya.

"Jett, you're in charge of outside support," sabi ni Naia nang makaupo si Jett at naka-project na rin ang map ng city hall. "Cliff can use Hortem's DNA to open confidential files and Nel, you need to lead him to their main computer system."
"Roger," we said in unison.

Our meeting was finally adjourned after she explained the details and I felt the exhaustion from all the work we did for the last two days.

"You can rest for today," Naia added and after hearing that, my eyes started to get heavy.

Sabay-sabay naman kaming tumayo at naglakad ako papunta sa gilid. Dahil wala namang kahit anong kama o maayos na matutulugan dito ay umupo at sumandal na lang ako sa pader. Cliff and Jett did the same thing. I was about to close my eyes but I met Naia's gaze.

"I forgot to tell you," she said and paused for a while. "Your dad is coming."

Pagkarinig ko no'n ay parang saglit na nawala ang antok ko.

"Dad? Why?"
"Because the Erityian tribes are finally making their moves," sagot naman niya at nakita kong nakatingin na rin sina Cliff at Jett, samantalang si Nigel ay lalong naging seryoso ang expression.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Hideo invited him."

Wait. Hideo? Senshin's ruler? Why? And why did Dad agree? What the hell is happening?

"But for what reason?" I asked and this time, Nigel walked toward us. "The four tribes have been distant with each other for centuries. Why would he invite him? And why would Dad agree?"
"They are preparing for a fight," she said. "An all-out war between the Senshins and Shinigamis, and this time, the Huntres and Custos might also be involved."

After hearing that, my exhaustion was replaced with anxiety. The four tribes hadn't been in contact for so long, except for the occasional face-off of Senshins and Shinigamis, and it has long been believed that once the four tribes, with their opposing cultures and beliefs, meet each other, it only means one thing—the Erityian race will cease to exist.