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Chapter 23

Posted by PURPLEYHAN STORIES on Sunday, June 25, 2017

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“—run away. Nel?”

“Ah. Huh?”

Napatingin naman ako kina Blake at lahat sila ay napatingin sa akin. I was still in dazed after seeing that woman who resembles my mother. A lot of thoughts have been brewing inside my mind—the probability that she’s still alive or maybe that was just my imagination.

‘Are you okay?’ Cliff asked.

‘Not really. The painkillers are wearing off,’ sabi ko na lang kahit na hindi ‘yon ang dahilan kung bakit ako wala sa sarili.

‘You should rest.’

‘How about you guys?’

‘We need to assist the other agents and help our allies.’

‘Oh. Okay.’

Nagpaalam ako sa kanila at dumiretso sa quarters ng Custos sa isang building dito sa campus. I immediately felt the exhaustion as I opened the door of my room. I was actually planning to have a talk with Dad but my body wasn't coordinating nicely.

Tomorrow, I said, and after a few minutes, I was already dreaming.


***


I woke up to the sound of alarm blaring through my ears. Napabangon naman agad ako at pagtingin ko ay kakagising lang din nina Cliff.

“What’s happening?” Cliff asked, still groggy from lack of sleep.

“Wake up, dolts.”

A hologram appeared in front of us and hearing that voice made Blake’s team snap back to reality. Afterwards, Naia also came into sight. Our Keepers are here.

“It’s been a long time, Evan,” I said while looking at Evan Brooks, Rubeus team’s Keeper.

“Penelope,” he called and I cringed hard when I heard my name. Aside from Dad and Dale, he also likes to call me by my complete name.

Nagkatinginan naman sila ni Cliff at nag-iba agad ang atmosphere sa room. Blake and I exchanged nervous looks, wary of the history between those two.

“Clifford. You’re also here, huh?” Evan said while adjusting his glasses, a sign that he’s judging someone’s abilities.

“Yeah. That scar on your forehead looks pretty good, too.”

“You . . .”

“Hah! So what’s the matter now, Evan?”

Luckily, Blake managed to catch Evan’s attention. Lumapit naman ako kay Cliff at sinamaan ko siya ng tingin. He’s not the type to get worked up to someone’s words but when it comes to Evan, his competitive and immature sides would always predominate. With their blonde hair and Caucasian facial features, they look similar. Well, no wonder, since they’re cousins but they treat each other as strangers and rivals.

“Group missions,” sabi naman ni Naia kaya napatingin kami sa kanya. “I know that the war just ended and you guys are drained but these missions are waiting for you.”

“Rubeus,” Evan looked at his team. “You need to investigate the matter about the illegal trade of weapons between these two countries. I sent you the mission details.”

“Optimus,” sabay tingin sa amin ni Naia. “You are assigned to look into a congressman’s funds. According to reports, this guy uses the government’s money to sponsor several underground organizations.”

Pagkasabi niya no’n ay nag-iba ang tingin niya. She didn’t say it but I’m sure she chose this mission because it might be related to Nox. Bigla ko tuloy naalala ang nangyari bago ako makatulog. That woman who looks like my mother . . . I wonder who is she is.


***


Nag-prepare kami sa kanya-kanya naming assignments at napansin ko naman na hindi pa rin maganda ang mood ni Cliff.

“Why are you still affected when it comes to Evan? You guys are too childish,” I murmured while cleaning off the bloodstains on my dagger.

“He’s the childish one.”

“Both of you are.”

Lumayo naman ako dahil baka masaktan pa ako kung patuloy ko pa siyang aasarin. Those two were rivals ever since we were young and I guess until now.

Nauna na kami ni Cliff at paglabas namin ay nakita ko ang ilang Senshins na sinusugod sa Medical department nila. I suddenly remembered Kiyoko since she seemed like knowledgeable in the field of medicine. Jett escorted her back here but I didn’t see her in the battle. Maybe she’s in Shima?

“You’re not going to meet your Dad?” biglang tanong ni Cliff at mukhang bumalik na siya sa dati.

“No. Seems like he’s busy,” sabi ko naman.

I wanted to consult Dad regarding that woman but we need to do our duties first. There was a notification on my watch and it seemed like Naia already sent us the mission’s details.

“Ben Santos, 46 years old,” sabi ni Cliff habang tinitignan ang report ni Naia.

“Another corrupt official huh? Money really makes everyone a sinner,” I added.

We read the report and planned our strategy. It would be really helpful if Jett is here but he still needs to rest. I just hope my injured leg and arm would not affect me that much.

Cliff opened his car and we started to work on our plan. He and Naia managed to hack Ben’s office server and got his schedule for today.

“So he’s in a bar right now, huh? Let’s go and get some drinks,” I said and Cliff’s car roared to life.


***


Upon entering the bar, I could see several teenagers smoking and drinking while others were dancing on the stage. The music was loud and people were having fun, especially that middle-aged guy who looked too happy with his girls and drinks.

Cliff and I sat near their table while wearing our disguise. When one of the girls made her way to the comfort room, I immediately followed her. Pagkarating namin sa banyo ay dumiretso siya sa dulong cubicle at bago pa may makapasok na iba ay ni-lock ko ang pinto. She was already tipsy so she didn’t notice me until I barged into the cubicle.

“S-sino ka—!” She wasn’t able to finish her question because of the sedative I injected to her.

“Sorry, Miss, I need your skimpy clothes.”

I took her clothes and covered her body with my bloodstained suit. I just hope she wouldn’t be mistaken as dead.

Tinignan ko naman ang sarili ko sa salamin. I looked exactly like that girl. I guess I could also pull off a sexy image, though I’m sure Cliff and Jett would laugh at me.

Pagkalabas ko sa comfort room ay tumingin ako sa side ni Cliff at tumango, saka ako dumiretso sa table kung nasaan si Ben Santos. This guy has the time to drink and flirt with girls while the city suffers from crimes and people do not know that their money were already pocketed. What an ass.

Lumapit ako sa kanya at hinigit naman niya bigla ang bewang ko. I was disgusted by his expression but I played along since this would be crucial to our plan.

“You’re already drunk, Sir,” I playfully said, leading his hand to my waist.

“Not yet, baby,” he said and I could feel his grip going down my thigh.

“Do you want to go home now? I’ll come with you,” I whispered.

“I like that, baby. Let’s go, then.”

Agad naman siyang tumayo at kinailangan ko pa siyang alalayan. Two of his bodyguards approached us and one of them supported this asshole’s weight.

‘You look funny,’ he said and I almost kicked his shin.

‘You’re annoying. Just put him in the car.’

‘Okay, baby.’

‘I swear, I’m going to kill you after this.’

Cliff was almost carrying Ben when we got to the parking lot. The other bodyguard helped him and I sat beside Ben, while the two of them occupied the front. Nagulat naman ako nang bigla akong hinatak ni Ben papunta sa kanya. His arms enveloped my body and I almost puked when I smelled the mixture of alcohol and sweat from his body.

“I hit a jackpot tonight,” he murmured.

I wanted to hit this perverted old man hard but might as well use this opportunity. My hand wandered through his pockets and I felt his phone and keys. I smiled at him, caressed his face with my hand while the other carefully pulled the set of keys out of his pocket. However, I was surprised when he suddenly pulled me closer, his lips reaching for mine. I pushed him away and pulled the keys out at the same time.

“Why did you that?” tanong niya dahil mukhang nagulat siya sa ginawa ko.

“You’re too excited, Sir,” I smiled, trying to distract him while slipping the keys to the holster bag on my legs. “We shouldn’t do it here,” sabay tingin ko sa bodyguards.

Nag-iba naman ang reaksyon niya at nakuha niya pang tumawa sa sinabi ko. Napilit ko siyang huwag muna akong hawakan hangga’t ‘di pa kami nakakarating sa bahay niya kaya naman nagawa kong ayusin ang mga susi na nakuha ko. His phone would be a valuable source of information so I must get that, too.

Nakarating naman agad kami sa bahay niya at agad siyang inalalayan ni Cliff at ng driver. Sumunod ako sa kanila at nang nasa front door na kami ay pumalit ako sa pag-alalay sa kanya.

“Ako na ang maghahatid sa kanya,” sabi ko sa driver pero mukhang ayaw niya pang bitiwan ang boss niya.

“Don’t worry, I’ll go with them,” sabi naman ni Cliff. “You can rest now.”

Pagkasabi niya no’n ay binitiwan na ng driver si Ben at dumiretso siya sa garage. Pareho naman naming inalalayan ni Cliff ang taong ‘to na hindi na makatayo nang maayos dahil sa dami ng alak na ininom niya.

‘Are you going to be okay with this drunkard?’ tanong niya.

‘Duh? Are you saying that this guy can harm me? It might be the other way around.’

‘Inform me if there’s a problem.’

‘Fine,’
sabi ko nang makarating kami sa tapat ng kwarto niya. ‘You should find anything useful here.’

‘Roger.’

Inihatid ko si Ben papunta sa kama niya at mukhang hindi ko na kailangang mag-alala pa dahil tuluyan na siyang nakatulog. I took his phone and used his fingerprint to open it. I immediately went to his inbox and almost all of his messages were from unregistered numbers. Some were from his staffs and there were also death threats, but what caught my attention was the message containing codes.

HTVGDIPMQXFJTQBBGEP
NPYOVGPCRAKCZUVIPFRHSOLNESBWSVKUPMGXU
HEYSMWTAUFNATOPQRV

Napakunot ang noo ko nang makita ko ang code na ‘yon. I took a photo of the code using my watch and sent it to both Naia and Cliff.

Nilibot ko naman ang kwarto niya at halos itim ang mga gamit niya rito. Somehow, I could feel the presence of a Black. I looked at the wasted old guy and had a second thought. How could a Black be this careless?

‘Nel, I found a vault.’ Napatigil naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Cliff.

‘Can you open it?’ tanong ko.

‘Yeah. Give me a few minutes.’

‘Okay.’

He hasn’t seen the code yet but the vault might contain interesting stuff so he should prioritize that first. I messaged Naia if she has decoded it but before I could push the send button, I felt an odd presence. The sound of footsteps echoed through the mansion, breaking the silence of the night. I immediately changed my appearance to a woman I saw while we were on our way here.

‘Hurry up, Cliff. Someone’s here.’

‘I know. I need a few more seconds.’

As if on cue, the door opened and a woman, probably his wife, appeared. We looked at each other, observing and assessing the other’s personality and abilities. Napatingin naman siya bigla kay Ben Santos na ngayon ay tulog na tulog sa kama at ginamit ko ang panahon na ‘yon para magsalita.

“Hinatid ko lang si Sir since lasing na siya. I’m her new secretary, by the way,” I said while adjusting my polo shirt. Buti na lang at dala ko ang pinagbihisan ko kanina at ‘yong coat lang ang iniwan ko sa babae.

“Is that so?” she said but her expression remained cynical. “A welcome party, huh? Seems like he enjoyed it too much.”

“He drinks well,” I retorted.

Hindi siya sumagot at tinitigan niya lang ako hanggang sa ngumiti siya. She approached the bed and started taking her clothes off.

“I’ll take my leave then,” sabi ko at saka ako naglakad palabas pero napatigil ako sa sinabi niya.

“Ah.” Napatigil naman ako sa paglalakad. “Be careful on your way home. There are wild ravens out there,” she said with a sly smile and I almost stopped breathing when I saw a familiar symbol on her ankle.

Agad kong sinara ang pinto at kinalma ko ang sarili ko. Sakto namang lumabas din si Cliff kaya hinatak ko siya palabas ng bahay. I was already breathless when we got out and I had to pull Cliff away because it felt like we were being watched.

‘We need to get out of here. Fast,’ I said and he gave me a confused look.

‘Why? Did you blow your cover?’

‘Black sun,’
sabay tingin ko sa kanya. ‘His wife is a Black.’

‘A dritte? A zweite?’

His question was answered by a sinister chorus of shrill calls, enough to make my skin crawl. Suddenly, several black birds loomed above us, as if watching and waiting for our next move.

‘A zweite,’ I said as I readied my weapon. ‘Do you know her now?’

‘Yeah. Let’s go before these predators make their attack.’

We used his car to get away from this place, and when I looked back at the mansion, I saw her watching us from the window with a calculating expression just like those birds.

“Raven,” I muttered as the mansion faded away from our view.



***