Ulysses . . .

“Hmp. I still don’t trust you.”
“I don’t care as long as I do my job. I don’t really need you trust since you’re just a humdrum.”
“You, jerk!”
“I already know that.”

I was awakened by the conversation of two cautious voices. My head was still spinning and panic started to rise when I couldn’t move my body but I chose to stay silent because of the situation. I tried remembering what happened before I passed out and realized that one of them was Ulysses. The other one was a female and I could only think of Raven.

“So what are you going to do with that girl?”
“I’m going to dispose her body.”
“Is she really dead?”
“You already checked her pulse and heartbeat. What validation do you still need?”
“Fine. I’ll report this to the higher-ups. Inform me after you get rid of that body.”

I heard how the door closed and opened, followed by the hum of the engine. I was in the driver’s seat before I lost consciousness but it seemed like I was moved to the back after that. The car started moving and before I could do anything, I heard his voice inside my head.

‘You can now move but don’t get up yet,’ he said and I felt the warmth finally coursing through my body.
‘I thought you were going to kill me a while ago, and damn, you really shot me,’ I retorted while moving my arms.
‘I had to or else I won’t be able to save you,’ he explained.
‘I realized what you were doing a second before I lost consciousness.’
‘You mean your temporary death?’

Napangiti naman ako pagkasabi niya no'n at naalala ko ang nangyari kanina.

“Your desire to catch a Black is too strong that it affects your judgement. That desire, Penelope, would be your death,” he said a while ago and I noticed his emphasis on the word ‘desire’.

Aside from being an agent and instructor, he’s also a surgeon and I remembered how he uses a single word to describe his favorite neurochemicals. When he shot me, I tried hard to recall what he meant by that and that word was the only one I could think of.

During one of our lectures, he said that it is associated with the desire and pleasure system of the brain and it acts as a reward chemical. DA, a contraction of dopamine, a neurochemical but in this case, DA meant something else.

‘So you’re a double agent now. That’s why I haven’t seen you this past year,’ I stated as I sat down. Ulysses threw a kit at me and I immediately treated my wounds.
‘Hoh. I thought you wouldn’t figure that out. Out of the four, you’re the weakest when it comes to these topics,’ he teased and I scowled in return.
‘Hey, that was an emergency situation. I must have remembered it due to adrenaline.’
‘And? What’s the mechanism behind the release of adrenaline?’
‘I don’t know. This isn’t an emergency situation anymore.’

I heard him chuckle after I said that and it made me nostalgic. However, it was short-lived. The nostalgia was replaced by curiosity and apprehension.

‘Who was that?’ I asked, wincing in pain, as I removed the bullets from my flesh. They seemed like a special type because they didn’t penetrate deep enough and there was a small hole at the tip.
‘Raven, a zweite.’
‘I knew it.’
‘You know her?’ he asked.
‘Yeah. She’s the wife of a politician that we’re monitoring—oh, damn it.’

I grimaced at the sight of my arm and leg after removing the bullets. Just after I recovered from my previous accident, this happened. My body just became canvas etched with scars.

‘What the heck are these bullets?’ tanong ko naman habang nakatingin nang masama kay Ulysses.
‘Oh. I made them. They contain cardioplegic drug to ensure your heart will stop for several minutes, mixed with drug to induce hypothermia. Upon contact, the bullet will release those drugs and enter your system, inducing a temporary death,’ he explained and I was scared for a second, knowing that my heart stopped moments ago.
‘You’re horrible.’
‘I already know that. I’m actually surprised that your body reversed the process on its own. Most, if not all, need at least three medical activity to revert back the body to its normal temperature and for the heart and brain to resume activity again.’
‘Okay, stop that. It’s getting creepy.’

Tumigil naman siya sa pag-e-explain sa mga nangyari kanina at natapos na rin ako sa pagbebenda. Napahawak pa ako sa dibdib ko para lang i-check kung normal ang pagtibok ng puso ko dahil sa mga sinabi niya. Mukhang nakita niya ‘yon dahil saglit siyang napangiti kaya sinamaan ko siya ng tingin.

We stayed silent for the rest of the trip but I got anxious when the streets got darker and the atmosphere screamed danger. I subconsciously reached for my earpiece but I realized it was gone.

‘I destroyed it,’ Ulysses suddenly said.
‘Why?’ tanong ko at hinanap ko ang iba ko pang communication devices pero wala na lahat sa akin.
‘I need to or else they’ll be able to track you.’
‘My team? Of course they would.’
‘You’re now dead so you shouldn’t be tracked.’

Nagulat naman ako sa sinabi niya at saka ko naalala ang sinabi ni Raven kanina. She said she would report my death to the higher-ups.

‘W-what will happen now?’ I stammered, still not sure what to feel about this.

He was about to tell me something but his watch suddenly blinked. He told me to crouch and I covered myself with black cloth. It felt like I was temporarily dead again because of my position.

I heard the call got connected and two familiar voices talked to him.

“Sir, we have something to consult,” a voice said and I was sure that it was Von’s.
“We think we saw her.” That voice . . . it was Dale’s.
“Her? Who’s her?” Ulysses asked and I could hear the tension in his voice.
“Lace Andal-Hudson, the woman who was supposed to dead.”

Hearing my mother’s name sent a chill through my whole body and I wanted to ask them about her but I held myself back. Suddenly, I was back there in the forest where I saw the woman who looked exactly like her. I wanted to consult that with Dad but he was busy because of the war and alliance.

‘Don’t move and calm down,’ Ulysses ordered and my mind returned to the present.
‘I know. I’m trying to.’

Huminga ako nang malalim at sinubukang kumalma kahit na ang daming tanong sa isip ko. Pinakinggan ko na lang ang usapan nilang tatlo para makakuha ng information tungkol sa kanya.

“Where are you right now?” tanong ni Ulysses at naramdaman ko naman ang pagbilis ng pagpapatakbo niya.
“We will send you the coordinates and direction.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in an hour or two.”

Nang matapos ang tawag ay agad kong umupo habang naghihintay sa sasabihin ni Ulysses pero nanatili siyang tahimik.

“W-was that really my mother?” I asked but I was scared to hear the answer. “I . . . I also saw that woman during the war between Senshins and Shinigamis,” dagdag ko at napatingin siya sa akin.
“You saw her?”
“Y-yeah,” I answered and I was kind of baffled with his reaction. He wasn’t surprised and his eyes showed suspicion and doubt.

He remained silent and I waited for his perspective regarding this matter but he gave me none. I was getting impatient and frustrated but my attention was swayed when he stopped the car. Isang pamilyar na lugar ang bumungad sa mata ko at napatingin ako kay Ulysses dahil hindi ko akalaing dito kami pupunta. Lumabas siya mula sa kotse kaya naman sinundan ko siya.

“Why here?” tanong ko at tumingin siya sa akin.
“Why not?” he smirked.
“But they know this place,” I reasoned.
“I’ve been using this house since you moved out,” he said and I was taken aback after hearing that.

My eyes wandered at the abandoned house. The moonlight passed through the broken windows and illuminated the interior where the furniture laid stagnant and covered with dust. Ulysses walked toward the door while I carefully examined the surroundings, especially after what happened today. Nigel’s previous hideout reeked of Nox Organization’s traces.

“Hide here from now. I’ll be back later,” sabi ni Ulysses nang makapasok kami sa loob.

Dumiretso naman siya sa desk na nasa gilid ng kwarto at nakalagay doon ang ilang folders. He picked up several of them and gave them to me.

“These are my logs while spying that organization,” he said. “Read them and you might get valuable information. In exchange, you should also tell me the details you have acquired when I return.”

Tinanggap ko naman ang folders na binigay niya sa akin at bigla akong kinabahan. So he really infiltrated the Nox just like us. Huh. As expected from the Captain of the Special Operations and Dad’s Specialist.

Tiningnan ko rin ang iba pang folders at napatigil ako nang makita ko ang label ng isa. Napatingin ako sa kanya at naging seryoso naman ang mukha niya.

“You need to read that, too,” he said with a stern expression.
“I . . . I know. I, too, was doubting someone,” I replied while looking at the folder where he wrote down the activities of several Custos agents he kept under his observation, thinking that they might be Blacks—zuersts, to be more specific.
“Remember Penelope, you are now dead in the eyes of everyone except me,” he declared. “Nobody should know your whereabouts or else this mission would be a dead end. From now on, you are a ghost of the past, just like what they did to your mother.”

My skin crawled with his statement but it also made me remorseful. Naia and the others might know by now that I disappeared and several hours later, they would find out I’m dead. However, just like what he said, should anybody find me alive, his mission as a double agent would be discovered and we would never know who reigns over that organization . . . the members who killed my mother.

“I understand,” sagot ko sa kanya at saglit siyang ngumiti sa akin.
“From now on, I am your eyes and I’ll make sure you’ll see everything so be ready,” he said as if it was a vow. “It’s time to bring them out of the shadows and color them red.”

After saying that, he started walking away but looking at his reliable back, I smiled and let out a sigh of relief because I got myself another trustworthy comrade besides my team.

For the time being, I am temporarily dead, again.