***

"We managed to track the movements of some quinte and vierte but the 'circles' above them work meticulously so their traces are harder to see," Nigel said while operating the control area.

The room was like a larger and more advanced version of his station above. Half of the left side was occupied by the control area where several wired equipment and buttons could be seen. Beside it was a collection of peculiar equipment that I had never seen before but I could sense that those were dangerous, even for skilled agents. On the center of the room, huge computer screens hovered and I couldn't understand how they stayed in air without any wire, stand or anything that could support their weight. They were just . . . floating.

My eyes drifted on the right side where different kinds of weapon were stocked and there were also shelves containing folders and papers which looked old. But what amazed me was the Erityian writings on the wall which only glowed once a shadow passed them.

"Is it true? Nigel killed a dritte?" Kiyoko suddenly asked and I couldn't look at her without feeling nauseous because her eyes were too distracting. I still couldn't believe that her eyes have different colors, and from different tribes.
"Yeah," maikling sagot sa kanya ni Jett.
"Why did you do that?" sabay harap ni Kiyoko kay Nigel. "I thought you're going to infiltrate them once more?"
"Sorry. That guy was pissing me off," sagot ni Nigel sa kanya.

Saglit namang umalis si Kiyoko dahil may pinakuha sa kanya si Nigel. Lumapit ako kay Nigel nang wala na si Kiyoko sa loob.

"How did she end up like that? Um, I understand if you can't tell me—" Napatigil ako nung biglang ngumiti si Nigel.
"You can ask her about that. She'll gladly tell her story."
"Really?"
"Yeah."

Habang hinihintay naming bumalik si Kiyoko ay naging interested naman si Cliff sa ginagawa ni Nigel at pumunta naman si Jett sa gilid kung saan nakadisplay ang iba't ibang klase ng baril at iba pang armas.

"Wow. You gained access to that site," sabi ni Cliff at pagtingin ko ay naka-display sa main computer ang site na ang pangalan ay Death Index. Names of people, their current whereabouts and description were listed.
"What's that?" tanong ko.
"This is one of their ways to communicate with each other," sagot naman ni Nigel. "The inner members write the name of the people that the organization wants to eliminate and any Black can kill those included in the list. They will receive bounties for their respective kills and it will help them reach the inner circles."
"Looks like a lot of Erityians are on the list," sabi ni Jett na ngayon ay nakatingin na rin sa screen.

I scanned the names displayed on the screen and saw some familiar ones and I have to admire their guts to include those four names.

Priam the "Destroyer"
Ice Queen
Death Goddess
Hideo the "God's Vision"

They really knew the Erityians well because the four rulers were listed. Their aliases in the black market or underground society were considered as rumors or myths because they don't usually show themselves to the people, but still, hearing those names could make anyone terrified. 

"They have the audacity to include the leaders of Erityian tribes, huh?" sabi ni Cliff.
"They'll just meet their demise if someone dares to pick them as targets," dagdag ni Jett.

May ilan pang Erityians na nakalista at ang iba naman ay politicians, businessmen, dealers and tycoons. These Blacks were really dauntless, maybe on par with Shinigami's fearlessness and insolence.

"But underestimating them may cost you your life, too."

Napatingin naman kaming lahat kay Kiyoko, na kakapasok lang sa room habang may dalang folders. Inabot niya kaagad ang mga iyon kay Nigel at humarap sa amin.

"What do you mean by that?" tanong ko.
"Fifteen years ago, during the Shinigami and Senshin War, they managed to sneak into the Shinigami's base," she started and the smile on her face was replaced by a dismal expression. "Hindi ko alam kung saan nila nakuha ang information about that. Siguro doon nagsimula ang interest nila sa eye experiments. Muntik na rin nilang makuha ang katawan ko but luckily, Lace was there."

Hearing my mother's name sent shivers on my body. So she was saved by her? But something felt wrong . . .

"W-wait, wait. Your body? What do you mean?" tanong ko ulit dahil hindi ko masyadong maintindihan ang sinasabi niya.
"I was already under an experiment when they arrived." Pagkasabi niya no'n ay kita ko sa mga mata niya ang lungkot at galit. "I was prepared to die. No. I wanted to die so I requested her to kill me."
"Her?" tanong naman ni Cliff.
"Rielle, a Shinigami but we have the same fate. Anyway, she cut my body in half." Hearing those words made me wince and I remembered the long scar on her body. "But that girl still missed the critical parts of my brain. My consciousness was still there. Alive. Then Lace and Ansel arrived. Siguro nag-panic sila nang nakita nila ang katawan ko kaya naman sinubukan nilang iligtas pa ako kahit alam ko namang imposible na. Ansel, their specialist, sew my body together."

Silence followed after her explanation. I couldn't believe what I just heard. Several questions lingered in my head but I didn't dare to ask.

"But how . . . " tanong ni Cliff habang nakatingin kay Kiyoko at ngumiti naman siya sa amin.
"Ansel is a surgeon. During that time, katatapos pa lang ng eye transplant ni Rielle at ang kaliwang mata ni Rin ang ginamit niya para ilagay sa isa kong mata, since a Shinigami's eye may still be compatible with mine, as we were both from the same lineage. But with just one eye, nothing's going to happen."

So she was a Senshin? And what? A Shinigami's eye? Even though they were from the same lineage, it should be impossible. 

"Since their mission that time is to recover the remaining eyes of their comrades, they decided to put a Custos' eye in my other eye socket even though the probability of failure is high. The result was disturbing. He detected activities on my brain but my body remained motionless and dead after being studied for so long. I guess the only effect of the eyes was on my nervous system. But he saw the fluid inside the cryogenic chambers and he was about to use it when several Shinigamis and Blacks arrived."

Listening to her made my head spin. All of Erityians should be purebloods. It is a common knowledge among Erityians that we are only compatible within our tribes since our body compositions differ greatly. Any hybrid would cause fatal effects in the DNA and might kill both the mother and the child. Well, Senshins and Shinigamis might be exceptions since they were originally from a single tribe, but that would be impossible, given their hatred to each other.

"We were surprised when both of them arrived with a body," singit ni Nigel habang may pinipindot na kung ano sa control area. "They tried reviving her for several times but failed. However, when they used that fluid, it instantly reacted with her senses and her eyes fluttered to life."
"But possessing the eyes of different tribes isn't possible, right?" tanong ko naman.
"Yes," sagot ni Kiyoko. "Siguro isa rin iyon sa rason kung bakit hindi nila nagawang buhayin ang katawan ko. Maybe the reaction of these eyes were catastrophic to my body since they are not meant to be together in any way." She looked at us, her eyes gleaming in different colors. "But the cryogenic fluid did its job. It fueled my body to function and became my source of supplements, just like when I was kept inside those chambers. And now, my 37-year old mind was hopelessly trapped in my 12-year old body," sabay tingin niya sa sarili niyang katawan.

I still couldn't understand it. How could some fluid revive her body that was cut in half? Did that fluid replaced her blood? How about her organs? Were they still functioning like they used to? She said her body couldn't age anymore because she was in some kind of experiment before my mother rescued her and the only thing sustaining her daily needs was that cryogenic fluid. After hearing her story, only one thing came into my mind. Immortality. 

Magtatanong pa sana ako dahil marami pa akong hindi maintindihan tungkol sa nangyari sa kanya pero biglang may nag-flash na chatroom sa isa sa mga screen at napakunot ang noo ko nang nakita ko ang laman.

Blacks.

Coal: 353224521502444014151114
Raven: 312432321514?

Jade is typing . . .

"Whoa, are those their codenames?" tanong ni Cliff at tumango naman si Nigel.
"Coal, Raven and Jade," mahinang sabi ni Jett. "All are shades of black."
"So they are communicating through codes," sabi ko nang nakita ko ang numbers.

Jade: 1255053233533?
Coal: 43151444

Napatingin agad ako kay Cliff at nakita ko ang unti-unti niyang pagngiti. Lumapit ako sa kanya at tumingin ulit ako sa screen kung saan nakadisplay ang chat.

"So you already know the meaning," I muttered.

He flashed a smile. "It's easy," he said and I just rolled my eyes.

"For you. So what did they say?"
"They know that Olive was killed by Reds."

Pagkatapos niyang sabihin 'yon ay bigla na lang kaming may narinig na pagsabog sa labas. Muntik na rin kaming matumba dahil sa paggalaw ng lupa.

"What's that?!" tanong ko at sabay-sabay kaming napatingin sa isa pang screen.
"We're under attack," sabi ni Nigel at may kung anu-ano siyang pinagpipindot doon. "By Blacks."
"But how did they know this place—"

Suddenly, I heard several clicks and when I turned around, Jett was already holding his guns. I guess that was the signal to fight those Blacks.

I didn't know how they managed to track us here but that shouldn't matter now. I pulled my dagger from the strap and marched toward the entrance.

"Leave this to us," sabi ko kina Nigel at Kiyoko. "Let's go, Team Optimus."



***