***

"Here's the complete list of the artifacts," Four said while giving me a folder.

After the disappearance of the three drittes from their base, he was assigned to be the leader temporarily. Their morale seemed to be a little low because of the absence of their superiors but I could also see the competitive gleam in their eyes. The auction would surely be a gateway for these viertes and quintes  into getting in the next circle—to be a dritte.

We loaded the van with the collected artifacts and went back to our seats. Pitch drove as I took a look at the items to be auctioned and damn, we got an impressive list of pieces here. Some were considered jinxed while several were national treasures. Hindi ko alam kung paano nila nakuha ang mga 'to pero siguradong maraming magkaka-interes sa mga bagay na nandito ngayon.

Pagkatapos no'n ay saglit akong tumingin kay Pitch. I was still wondering what happened that night after I disappeared and why he didn't tell them that I was there.

"Did you have a good sleep last night?" I teased and he glowered at me. Good thing he was driving or else, he might have unsheathed his sword. "What? Your fault for overestimating your skills."

"I'm going to kill you someday."

"Sure, you can."

Hindi ko alam kung ano na ang degree ng sama ng tingin niya sa akin pero pagkatapos no'n ay agad niya rin namang sinabi kung ano ang nangyari.

"He didn't say anything. Ebony got angry," he confessed.

Ebony always wears his conceited smirk but that night, Onyx wiped it off his face when he inquired about my Mom. That was the first time I saw him frightened. He was humiliated and was treated as an inferior person. No wonder he got angry after that.

Pagkatapos no'n ay hindi kami ulit nag-usap hanggang sa makarating kami sa post office kung saan may isang officer na nagbigay sa amin ng maliit na papel. Doon nakalagay ang direksyon papunta sa auction house.

After a few minutes, we arrived at a busy street dominated by skyscrapers and outrageous buildings. At the right corner, a three-storey building caught our attention. Its marble black exterior and dome-shaped roof, along with Blacks surveilling the vicinity confirmed that it was the auction house.

He parked the van right in front of the building and we showed them our black sun tattoo for verification.

"Unload the items," the head security ordered to his subordinates.

Bumaba na rin kami ni Pitch at pumasok sa loob. Halos nakanganga ako nang makalagpas kami sa entrance dahil sobrang laki ng lugar na 'to. The spacious lobby and stairways were covered with red carpet and the hallways were lined with high-quality paintings and sculptures. Crystal chandeliers ornamented the ceiling like frozen stalactites. The place gave a five-star hotel impression.

Nakita ko naman ang ilang kakaibang Blacks na lumilibot sa building. They were wearing Mandarin suits whereas most of the Blacks inside were in their lounge suits. I realized they are drittes from other bases.

They were continuously monitoring and checking the venue to ensure that the auction would proceed smoothly. In addition, they wanted to know if there were any spots or places where outsiders or Erityians could infiltrate in order to disrupt the event.

Dinala naman kami sa main hall kung saan mangyayari ang auction. The hall was designed with tiered seating, carpeted floor and extravagant displays. Only a single podium occupied the stage and behind it was a drawn curtain covering the entire backstage.

The vierte who was assisting us brought us to the backstage and we were welcomed by Coal who was still recovering from his injuries last time.

"Are all of them in good condition?" he asked as I gave him the list of items.

"Yes. We already checked them," sagot ko naman.

Agad naman siyang tumayo pero halatang hirap pa rin siyang igalaw ang braso niya.

"Well, since you're already here, might as well look at all the items that will be auctioned in a few days."

Naglakad kami papunta sa isang hallway at sa dulo no'n ay may pintong bumungad sa amin. He opened it by scanning his eyes on the wall and I gasped when I saw the collection gathered inside the room.

Yes, there were a lot of artifacts but what surprised me was the group of beings behind the bars. May mga kakaibang hayop ang nandoon at hindi ko pa nakikita ang ilan. The last three cages were full of . . . humans . . . and I recognized some of them. I saw politicians, socialites and even criminals—all placed in the same cage. The middle one was filled with either mutilated or mutated people. The last cage made my stomach churn.

"They will be the best lead-in before the Navis," he said as he looked at the people in that cage cowering in fear.

"Mama! Mama! Help me!" one of them cried and I had to control myself because I was so close to helping them.

Inside the third cage were toddlers from our race. Erityian kids who may be around four to six years old.

Pagkatapos no'n ay nagmadali akong lumabas. It was hard to act like a Black in front of them. I wanted to free them but that would surely affect our plan and I couldn't risk that because the law and order around the world would be at stake.

Mabilis akong nagpaalam at idinahilan ko na lang na may kailangan pa akong tapusin na mission. I went straight home and cried for the lives of those children. I swore I'm going to save them. I hope they could hang on for the next four days.


***

I had been monitoring the activities of the Custos tribe until last night. I wanted to know if someone was doing irregular or strange movements but I didn't get any from the footage in our different headquarters. Halos wala na akong oras. Kailangan kong malaman kung sino ang mga kakampi ng Blacks.

Hindi pa rin umuuwi si Ulysses. It seemed like all zuersts were busy preparing the event. Gusto ko naman sanang hingin ang insight niya tungkol dito.

Kahit ang CIA ay abala rin dahil sa mangyayari bukas. According to the reports I read on our database, they already contacted the other CIA for assistance since this auction would be a trigger for terrorism and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. The humdrums' lives is at stake and the Custos can't do this all alone.

"Penelope, are you there?"

Nagulat naman ako nang biglang may nag-pop-up sa monitor nang marinig ko ang boses ni Yue sa earpiece ko.

"Yue?"

"See that screen?" tanong niya at nag-load ang isang footage.

I stared at the video of agents from different classes, staffs from different departments and special ops units approaching Cerebellum where several vehicles were waiting for them.

"What's happening, Yue? I thought there are already agents assigned for the auction tomorrow?"

"We have to closely monitor countries that are at the brink of a war so we're sending agents around the world in case . . ." her voice faltered. That was the first time I heard her worried voice.

"The Navis won't be deployed," I said. "We have to . . . we have to destroy them before politicians have the chance of using them."

Our conversation halted with a painful silence. Destroy, huh? I wish I could really do that. I know that they were once Erityians but those Blacks made them into living weapons without any memories of their past selves. It would be hard, especially for their family, but for the sake of this world, we have to erase their existence.

Pagkatapos no'n ay naghanda na ako para bukas. I have to condition my mind and body because know everything will change tomorrow.


***

I went to Ebony's mansion since all zweites need to get to the auction house at the same time. Pagdating ko ro'n ay napatingin ako kung saan ko nakita si Onyx noong nakaraan. I remembered his scarred face and how he easily subdued both Pitch and Ebony.

"You're here," Raven greeted and she looked cool in her suit.

Nandoon na rin sina Coal, Pitch at Ebony na kasalukuyang ini-inspect ang mga baril na dadalhin nila. Umupo ako sa tabi ni Raven at busy siya sa pagta-type sa phone niya.

Hyacinth: 24430333453043154224344543?

Fox: 52231144024430442315032112433024441532?

Raven: 34230543445052243131011313103134511502444

Grim: 2224511504543013314515430

Grave: 23150244304224222344

Grave: 52150143433440521133440443405211434415032343315540213442033344423243322

Raven: 133431344243

Raven: 2234341401411540221533443115321533

Her lips curled upward as she typed her encrypted message. I'm sure she was talking to some representatives of different nations in an underground chat forum. Naalala ko tuloy bigla ang team ko at kung paano nila mabilis na masagutan ang mga ganitong uri ng code.

"Let's go," Ebony ordered when they were ready and we all went outside.

In a few minutes, I'm going to see the Navis.

I'm going to see my Mom.



***