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Chapter 20

Posted by PURPLEYHAN STORIES on Friday, April 14, 2017

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My mouth was hanging open when we arrived at Area 008. As expected, the CIA's ability to conceal something like this was exceptional. On the outside, it looked like a barren land with nothing but stones and boulders, but in reality, the base was just covered in some sort of camouflage with a color similar to earth and dirt.

"You really can't tell that there's a building here," Cliff commented.

We stood in front of the door, which was hard to see, and several buttons were embedded on the wall. According to Von, we should press the red button as it represents the Custos tribe. I pressed it and a hologram appeared before us.

"This is Area 008. May I help you?" the guy asked and judging by his look, he might be a B- or C-class agent.
"We're here to see the zuerst," Nigel said and his expression suddenly changed.

Bumukas ang pinto at sinalubong naman kami ng dalawang agents. They were wearing suits and ties, just like usual CIA agents, but their orange-ish eyes gleamed in the dark hallway.

Habang naglalakad kami ay napapatingin ako sa paligid. The interior was loosely based on Cerebrum so there was a sense of familiarity. We stopped in front of what looked like a laboratory and one of the agents pushed the button near the door.

"Doctor Liev, the S-class agents are here," the other agent announced.

The glass door opened and when we entered the lab, I didn't expect it to be this developed. There were a lot of equipment and machines that could only be made by Custos or Senshins. My eyes wandered around the lab but when I saw the monitor beside a capsule, it seemed like I had forgotten how to breathe.

"What a familiar face," somebody said and I didn't notice the woman beside the cubicle. "Nigel, right?"
"Liev," Nigel said. "So you're still working here, huh?"

I didn't expect him to know someone from here. However, looking at them, it seemed like they were of the same age or maybe they were classmates during their Academy days.

The woman might be around forty or fifty but her fair skin and ash-colored hair made her look like in her early thirties. Her red eyes and the red, claw-like marks on her face were accentuated because of her Caucasian features. She was wearing a lab gown and it looked like she just finished running some diagnostics in the capsule's system.

"What happened?" tanong ni Nigel at napahawak naman si Liev sa mukha niya.
"Ah. This. I got it from him," she said while pointing at the capsule.

My heart started throbbing painfully as we approached the capsule and when we saw the person lying inside it through the monitor, Nigel almost collapsed.

It was a familiar face. Someone I had seen several times in my childhood but with his blank expression and wild eyes, he looked like a complete stranger.

"Ansel . . ." Nigel's voice faltered. "How . . . where did you find him?" he asked, his eyes still on Ansel Choi, their team's specialist.
"As you know, the tension between Senshins and Shinigamis has reached its climax," Liev explained as she led us toward the separate room, "and the Director asked us to monitor the movement of Elites."
"You mean, the higher Shinigamis?" I asked since I'm still not familiar with their hierarchy.
"Yes, they are the Royal's guards," sagot naman niya. "I sent some agents to follow them but unfortunately, almost all of them didn't return. I asked for assistance from A-class agents and we learned that they made an alliance with some underground organizations."

Wait, what? Alliance with underground organizations? Then, that means . . .

"Nox is one of them, huh?" Nigel said and I could feel the gloom and anger in his voice.
"You're right and we managed to capture one of them," seryosong sabi ni Liev at tumingin naman siya kay Nigel. "Now that I told you the story, tell me what is this all about. Why is Ansel Choi, who was supposed to be dead, with them?"

There was an uncomfortable silence after Liev dropped that question. Besides us, only Dad and maybe some Executives had an idea about the existence of zuersts so her reaction wasn't surprising. However, seeing a zuerst in person still bewildered me.

Wala namang nagawa si Nigel kundi sabihin ang totoo. He told her about what he knows about Nox Organization and the existence of zuersts. Liev listened quietly but she couldn't hide her disbelief and disgust.

"Damn Blacks," she cursed after hearing Nigel's explanation. "That's why Ansel's eyes have different shades of red. How dare those humdrums to experiment on Erityians?"

Nigel's expression was a mixture of grief and hatred. I knew that he had already expected to see his members as zuersts, as pawns of those Blacks, but the reality was too much to handle. Even I, who wasn't close to Ansel felt uncomfortable to see him in that state. I couldn't imagine how he felt seeing his former comrade like that.

Pagkatapos no'n ay sinabi rin ni Liev ang naging observations nila kay Ansel. She said that three agents died while subduing him due to his destructive animus. Luckily, one of them managed to sedate him. According to her, he was marching to Tantei High, along with several Blacks when they spotted him.

"The war might be earlier than we expected," sabi ni Nigel kaya kami napatingin sa kanya. "If they are using him, then that means they're prepared to launch an attack."
"What do you mean by that?"
"In our team, Ansel is the starter—the first line of offense. Once he attacks, the fight immediately starts."
"Then that means . . ."
"Had he not been restrained, the war would have started by now."

Natahimik kaming lahat dahil sa sinabi ni Nigel. I already knew that Team Magnus was one of the best and strongest group among the Custos but I was still taken aback by their abilities. Imagine? If Ansel managed to infiltrate the Latens forest, Senshins would be caught off-guard.

The silence was cut off by a loud thud. When we turned around, we realized that the banging sound was coming from the capsule. Nigel and Liev immediately ran toward it but halted when they saw him.

Ansel's eyes fluttered and just like what Liev said, his eyes gleamed in different shades of red. Napatingin siya sa amin at agad na lumapit sa kanya si Nigel.

"Ansel," he called but Ansel just stared at him. He started pounding the metal capsule but it didn't bulge. He stopped moving and I saw his hands changed its state. I felt the danger of his stance and I realized he was about to use his animus. I instinctively reached for my dagger and Cliff and Jett did the same thing but Liev gestured us to stop.
"Don't worry," she said. "That capsule is made from titanium, alloyed with vanadium. Even if he uses his animus, he can't get out."

I had already researched his animus before but seeing it up-close was astonishing. According to the confidential reports, he could concentrate his body heat to a specific part to melt something, start a spark, or even produce fire. When I saw his hand turning like some sort of flame or gas, I thought he would be able to melt the capsule. Fortunately, it didn't.

"Let me out," Ansel mouthed and we could only hear a dull voice from the monitor.
"Ansel, do you hear me? This is Nigel."
"Nigel? I do not know you. Let me out."

Natahimik naman si Nigel at kita sa mukha niya na nasaktan siya sa sinabi ni Ansel.

"I knew it," he breathed. "Zuersts are only shells. Their memories and feelings were erased, making them the perfect weapons."

His expression suddenly turned into fury and for a second, I was unable to move because of terror, just like what I felt when we saw him that time.

"What do you—"

Hindi na naituloy ni Dr. Liev ang itatanong niya dahil biglang tumunog ang alarm at may nag-project na hologram sa dingding. Dale appeared and he had a serious look on his face.

"What is it, Dale?" Nigel asked, perturbed by the sudden interruption.
"Change of plans. Team Optimus, you're going to Latens forest. Prepare now."
"Wait, what?" tanong ko naman dahil sa biglaang pagpapalit ng plano.
"Why, Sir Dale?" tanong naman ni Cliff at biglang lumabas si Von sa hologram.
"It's because our spies inside the Shinigami base informed us about their plan."

An additional hologram appeared beside them and a map with black dots came into view.

"They knew that we're going to ambush them in Latens so they will disperse their allies in the city to wreak havoc," Von said.
"What do we expect? They are Shinigamis," Liev retorted. "They will do anything to crush their enemies and they will even use humdrums to increase the probability of their victory."

Just like what she said, it was expected. Shinigamis don't have anything to lose if they use humdrums but to us, it would be a huge problem. The Custos and Senshin tribes swore to protect the law and order of the humdrums, to help them in cases like this. However, I wasn't bothered by the inclusion of the humdrums but the fact that they knew our strategy.

"Nel! Let's go."

Napatigil naman ako sa pag-iisip nang tinawag ako nina Cliff at Jett. Although I wanted to stay because I might learn something about Mom, I had no choice. It was a direct order from the Executives.

Nagpaalam kami kina Liev at Nigel para makapag-prepare. Nigel decided to stay because of Ansel. He said he wanted to observe him though I think that wasn't the only reason.

Pagkalabas namin ay sumakay agad kami sa kotse ni Jett at siya na rin ang nag-drive dahil ayaw na naman nila akong paupuin sa driver's seat. Tahimik lang kami at doon ko narealize na sarado rin ang isip nila.

"What's that?" biglang tanong ni Cliff kaya napatingin ako sa kanya.
"Huh?"
"Do you hear something?"

We stayed quiet for several seconds and I heard a faint sound of something ticking. I was about to look at my watch but Cliff suddenly cursed and propelled forward, pulling us with him.

'It's a bomb!' he said as our body crashed and passed through the windshield. We plummeted on the ground but Cliff hastily carried us away. The car exploded and the impact pushed us away along with the shrapnel. My body plowed into the pavement and I almost passed out because of the pain cascading through my body. I stayed lying there for a couple of seconds, trying to breathe normally but my ribs hurt.

Cliff and Jett seemed alright so I forced myself to get up. My arm looked dislocated but that didn't bother me. What concerned me more was the bomb.

Who the heck placed an explosive in the car right under our noses?



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