***

“This way,” Nigel ordered and we quietly followed him.

We were still in disbelief. All of us thought he had really turned into a Navis—into an enemy. Yet just a few minutes ago, he displayed how an S-class agent fights. I doubted his loyalty to our tribe and his resentment toward the Nox.

“We must hurry,” he added. “They are leaving in a few minutes.”

While we were running toward the building where the zuersts planned to rendezvous, Nigel told us what happened to him.

The day we detained Ansel Choi in Area 008, he asked Dr. Liev to find the source of his altered personality. We were sent to assist the Senshins during their war against Shinigamis so we didn’t have any information about their studies. According to them, a chip had been implanted into their C2 segment of the spinal cord to amplify their motor movements into all their spinal nerves; adjusted their cerebellum to its limits so they wouldn’t feel fear or any kind of hesitation; and modified their cerebral cortex to only recognize and follow certain orders from certain people.
 
“That’s sickening,” Jett commented.

Napatingin naman ako kay Naia dahil sa nangyari kanina. Her expression was a mixture of pain and pity. I’m sure that she was thinking about Mom, especially since she saw what she had went through after touching her most treasured weapon.

“After discovering that, we tried to extract the chip from Ansel but it had been embedded in his spine for so long that it already became a part of it. One wrong move and his central nervous system would suffer, or worse, he’d die,” Nigel explained. “That’s why we opted to create an counterchip to offset the effects of the Nox chip.”
“Is that the same chip you crushed a while ago?” tanong ni Cliff.
“No. That was the chip they implanted to me.”

He said that when the Blacks attacked Area 008 to retrieve Ansel, he and Liev was already in the final stage of programming the counterchip. However, they didn’t have enough time to run any assessments regarding its side effects upon insertion to the spinal column. They knew they’d be made into Navis, too, so they had no choice but to use the counterchip without knowing its risks.

Liev immediately performed the operation as the agents in the Area 008 tried to defend the place against Onyx’s team. And right after the procedure, Onyx found him.

“I had to knock out Liev, or else, she’d be brought, too. Luckily, there was an empty capsule inside the lab, so I hid her there while I faced those Blacks,” dagdag naman niya.

“But how about your cerebellum and cerebral cortex? How come you can still remember everything and make your own decisions?” tanong ko.

Bigla naman siyang ngumiti. “Ulysses was the one who monitored the operation,” he responded, and I almost forgot that that guy was a specialist in that field. “Onyx is a fighter. He doesn’t know the mechanism of the creation of the Navis. Ulysses, on the other hand, has been trusted to oversee that process as his proof of loyalty. When we saw each other, we immediately knew our respective plans. Even without any form of communication, we knew we had to work together for the sake of missions and lives.”

No wonder those two didn’t even doubt each other even if everyone already started to. Their devotion to their respective captains and tribe were second to none. I suddenly felt ashamed for being so emotional that I didn’t even think about the consequences of my actions. I almost jeopardized their plans.

“No,” Nigel suddenly said. “You actually gave us more time.”

Hindi naman ako nakapagsalita. Damn it. They could all read my mind. I must be too preoccupied, allowing my thoughts to let them slip like that.

“Due to your actions, two zuersts have already been separated from the main force,” he reassured, though that was just because they helped me.

We went out of the building and found ourselves in the middle of devastation. Collapsed structures and establishments, damaged roads, and lifeless bodies covered the once lavish district as the clash between Nox and Custos and its allies continued.

"Let's go," Nigel said while looking at the building with minimal damage around 500 meters away from us.

Maglalakad na sana ulit kami nang bigla kaming palibutan ng ilang Blacks. Judging by their coats and sizes of tattoos, they must be viertes and drittes. But what made me hesitate was the presence of some familiar faces.

"I see. So that's your real face," Raven uttered, her voice full of malice.

The zweites arrived and were all glaring at me. I could feel the rage in Ebony's eyes and that was expected because we killed Coal and his life was almost taken by Cliff.

"I won't allow all of you to reach our lords," Ebony growled as he unsheathed his katana.

"The weak do not have the right to decide, humdrum," Naia retorted and that made him seethe in rage. "Leave them to us," she added while going to Jett's side.

"Are you sure?" tanong ko nang maalala ko ang nangyari kanina. Her animus isn't suited for close-range combat.

"She's with Jett," Cliff chimed in. "They'll be fine."

"Okay, then."

Humarap naman kami sa Blacks na ngayon ay nakapalibot na sa amin. They were sure fired up after Naia and Jett's declaration.

"Disgusting Chromes! Don't let them escape!" Ebony yelled and his troops lurched at us.

"Now!"

Naia's word served as our signal to go. Cliff immediately grabbed my waist and used the debris lying around as stepping stones while Nigel used his clone as a diversion. We were out of their reach after a few seconds but the three of us instinctively got into defensive when we felt someone closing in. The next thing I knew, Cliff's right arm was already bleeding.

"You won't get away."

Napatigil ako nang makita ko si Pitch. He was holding his sword and moved it in full swing, removing some of Cliff's blood on its blade. Inilabas naman ni Cliff ang dagger na nakasabit sa gilid niya.

"Head there first," Cliff muttered. "I'll follow after finishing this quickly."

Pitch's gazed at me and for a second, I thought he had his guard down. His gaze turned into a sinister glare as if he was possessed. No wonder. I betrayed them. And after all, they were our enemies.

"Let's go, Nel," sabi ni Nigel kaya napilitan akong tumalikod.

Just when I turned around, I heard the continuous clash of their weapons and I was tempted to glance at them but I chose not to. We were running out of time. We needed to stop the Nox's plan to start wars around the world using the Navis.

We marched toward the six-storey building while a helicopter hovered over the rooftop but we halted when we heard some gun clicks.

"Good judgment," said the person on the other end of the line. Napahawak agad ako sa earpiece ko.

"Yue?" I asked and I could hear her smile.

"I'll connect you with them."

"Them?"

"Hi, kiddo," a familiar voice greeted.

"Dale?"

"Back from the dead, Nel?" asked someone. It must be Von.

"I see." Oh, god. That was Fenn Lander.

The four Executives were all here. This was the best reinforcement we could ever wish for. Then Dad must around here, too. On a second thought, as a Commander, he would be in the command center to order missions and instructions for his agents.

Dale and Von went out from their hiding places and met us a several meters away from our target building.

"Sir Nigel," Dale bowed. "Glad to have you back."

"We heard about your feat," dagdag ni Von.

"I just did what I had to do," said Nigel. "Enough of this pointless plaudit. We must hurry."

Napatingin naman kaming apat sa building sa harapan. Yue briefed us about the information she got from our allies but she couldn't give us the complete layout of the building because of its tight security. She started telling us her strategy and we all agreed.

"Fenn, get out of there. You're a frontliner," Yue ordered and Fenn, the greatest swordsman of our tribe came out of his hiding place while holding his treasured sword.

"Who will guard the rear, then?" tanong niya. So that was his original designation, huh?

"Dale," Yue answered. "He's an all-arounder. Sir Nigel, you will be the core of the group. Von and Nel, assist him."

"Roger," we said in unison.

The five of us cautiously entered the building. Von switched his tactical light—a flashlight attached to his gun—on the moment we stepped inside. It looked like it was once a five-star hotel with all the lavish designs in the lobby.

‘Check this out,’ Von said while pointing the light at the floor.

‘Four zuersts are here judging by the number of footprints,’ Dale inferred.

‘Two of them are my former comrades,’ Nigel added.

‘Then the two must be some higher-ups of that organization,’ Fenn concluded.

Or the traitors from the Senshin and Huntres tribes, I thought. Midnight, Nox’s head, wouldn’t show himself in a place where he’d be surrounded by his enemies. In addition, seeing the Huntres tribe leader and some detectives from the Senshin tribe in this district was already a confirmation. They must already know who betrayed their respective tribes and would do anything to hunt them down.

This building has six floors and each of those must be equipped with traps. I looked above us to take a glance at the upper floors but I had to stifle a scream upon seeing the grotesque view. The four of them saw my reaction and simultaneously checked out what I had seen.

‘Oh, god.’

‘That’s brutal.’

Above us were people hanged by their neck, dangling in the ceiling as lifeless bodies with their eyes and mouth wide open as if they were watching us. And observing us from the third floor were two pair of gleaming eyes—one pair was green while the other was blue. The traitors finally made their move.



***