The sound of air whistling in from the side and the front was the first thing I heard when I opened up my eyes. Even worse, a bright beam of sunlight was shining down on me, blinding me until my vision slowly adjusted to the light in the room.. A loud beeping sound could be heard as the mist around me started to dissipate, clearing the area around me and allowing me to see..
It took a moment for me to finally be able to see, but when I finally adjusted, I saw a glass door open up as the mist was flushed outside, letting me to see a bit better. Confused, I turned my head and noticed that I was inside some kind of container. What was worse, was that I soon discovered that I wasn’t able to move. My body wouldn’t listen to my brain and it took a considerable amount of effort to even move my arms.
“Where the hell am I?” I croaked. My throat was dry and my voice was raspy. It felt like I was gone without water for three days, and I didn’t know why.
As my mind was trying to piece everything together, I felt the bed or whatever it was shake and move. It groaned and cranked, eventually turning me upright before stopping and leaving me partially standing, as my legs felt like they’d collapse at any moment. Barely even able to hold my own weight, I weakly pushed the glass door opened even more as it creaked open as if it wasn’t oiled for years. As I did, the door suddenly fell out as if the hinges had snapped, and I fell out the glass floor and onto the ground with a loud splat.
My hands whipped up in front of me to brace myself, but the pain that raced across my forearm and down my body to my toes told me that I wasn’t dreaming this. With a groan, I laid on the ground confused, in pain, and weak. There was just nothing in my favor right this moment, making this a miserable experience. I had never been this weak before, not even after I had almost died during my transformation as an Ouroboros.. It just felt like the life was sucked out of me and I was only given the leftover energy that could barely do anything with.
I didn’t know how long I stay on the ground, letting the cool air brushed against my face. Shivering slightly, I pushed up as best as I could to just get to my sitting position. It took too much effort that I was gasping for breath.
Finally, I was able to sit up. I examined my hand, noticing that I was wearing the same Dragon Scale suit that I remember wearing when I encountered Naz. It felt like nothing much has changed, but I wasn’t sure what was really happening.
Looking over my shoulder, I noticed that I was inside a mechanical pod. The machine clank and groaned, the electricity sparked off on the side as I noticed the giant black dome behind it. My eyes turned wide in surprise, completely shocked to see the Garden here of all places. I was sure that I was out of the machine in the first place, making this whole experience strange.
This made me wonder if everything that I went through since the time when I entered all just a dream, but when I looked at the Dragon Scale that I had on right now, it couldn’t be completely a dream. The Dragon Scale I wore inside the Garden was completely different from what I was wearing now, meaning that something must’ve happened during the time I was asleep. I think.
My head was whirling with different possibilities, but no answer came up in my mind. The next question was, where was everybody? Looking around, I noticed a huge change. When I looked up, the sunlight that was glaring into the room made its way down the open ceiling that seemed to be torn apart by something monstrous. Metal beams were peaking out in jagged edges that were wrapped upwards towards the sky.
What was even more surprising was that the Garden was in shambles. Tear marks could be seen across the top as if it was peeled open, what was worse was that it was caked with dried up stains of blood and even decayed bodies that were already dried up bones and flakes of meat that told me that it’s been awhile.
Miraculously, my pod was still intact, while the majority of the ones inside were not. My guess was that at least half of the people were dead by the sheer destruction of it, but on the other hand they were many other pods that were open up and empty.
The walls and the machines were still sparking off with electricity, telling me that the power was still on. Even the lights on the Garden dimmed and flickered a couple of times, telling me that it was ready to go out.
Whatever the monster that was trying to get into the Garden did a fine job of destroying half of the Garden completely as if it was searching for something. I had to wonder how such thing even made it past the shield that kicked back Gluttony himself since I entered.
The better question was, why was I still sleeping inside the Garden all this time? Where was everybody?
“Beep. Beep. Beep.” The machine on my Dragon Scale started to make noise as clunking sound could be heard. “Alexus Tyger. No. 099. Full body restoration in progress.” A female’s voice chimed in as the gears were rolling into place. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain being as a numerous needles stuck into my arms and legs as liquid started to pour into my body.
“Nutritional Value 65%. 75%. 87%. 100% for one day. Stimulating muscles. Please hold.” A light static shock blasted through my body, causing me to jerk. I was shocked, unable to do anything but be tossed around like a ragdoll as I froze in place. Eventually, I was able to get a better grip of my body, making me wonder when the Dragon Scale had such a function.
With a grunt, I weakly got up onto my knees and finally up on my feet. I stumbled a bit, but I could feel myself getting stronger by the second. It wasn’t easy getting up, but that small accomplished made me feel a whole lot better. Even though it was trivial, it felt like I accomplished something big.
“Please go to the pod to receive bottles of water that will sustain you for three days.”
Next, I heard the pod that I just came out from, crank as the side of the panels opened up. Clean water bottles were neatly stacked side-by-side, I was surprised that something like that was still kept intact. As fast as my body could handle, I stumbled over, trying to grab the water bottle a little to desperately.
Grabbing a bottle of water, I hungrily ripped open the water bottle and started to guzzle down the fresh water. Cool water slid down my throat, slowly quenching my thirst. The first one was down in under a minute, even as I struggled with coughing due to how I guzzled it down. Wiping my lips, I let out an exaggerated sigh of bliss.
I then rummaged through the open panel and found a backpack, ten bottles of water, matches, granola bars, and other non-perishable foods. Picking up the bag, I started to neatly put them in order into the bag.
A thought occurred to me that there was possibly other water bottles laying around in the other pods, so I hobbled over with what little strength that I had and tried to peel back a couple of the broken pods. The first one I came across was half partially broken and a dead body was sticking out from inside. My lips twitched into a thin line, not liking the thought of the dead body present, but I ignored it and continued doing what I needed to do.
Struggling for a moment, I was able to get my first broken pod open, allowing me to fish out the food and water inside. I was glad that both the food and the water was still intact, though they had a couple drops of dried blood smeared on a couple of them.
Eventually, I went through a few more, and found that quite a bit of them was already empty. The one’s that didn’t have anybody in it, already had their water and food gone, telling me that they were survivors out there somewhere in the world, but it seemed like they were in a rush to get out, leaving behind a couple of extra food or water bottles behind. Even the ones that had a dead bodies in them were scavenged, made it that much harder for me to find as much.
Even still, while I was looking for more food and water, I was trying to find any other survivors that were like me, but so far the pods were either empty or had a dead body in it. It wasn’t a heartening feeling, seeing so many people dead. Even while scoring through the people, I saw their names lightly glowing on the side of the pods, telling me who they were.
I noticed there was a set pattern, the people who supposedly went to other countries were dead. It made sense, because the past few weeks inside the pod, we barely had any communications with them, thinking it was a glitch that a group of people were sent. Other than that, after what happened today, I wasn’t even sure if those group of people were even alive.
I searched harder, hoping that I could find my teammates pods. Praying inwardly, I begged to the higher being that they were alright. The first pod I found was Jessica’s, which was empty. Timothy, Kathy, Sara, James, Jones, and even Marcus’s was empty as well.
Simon’s pod was shattered and curled up into a ball. I was shocked to see how easily Simon’s pods was in shambles, what was worse was Marcus’ pod; it was in pieces. At first, I couldn’t even tell if it was Marcus’ pod until I saw his name tag that he wore when he got inside the pod. Though, I wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead. There was a couple of skeletons near the broken pods, but that wasn’t easy to identify.
It suddenly dawned on me that I couldn’t find Crystal’s pod. With every pod I checked, the thought of her having died began dawned on me even more. Standing in the piles of death and debris, something caught my attention on the side of my eyes. Large metal poles and debris was covering a pod deep inside the Garden.
Pushing my way through the debris, I pulled away as much as I could until I found what I wanted. The pod was completely intact and running, my hand reached over and wiped away the smudges of dust and dirt. What welcomed me with peaceful expression still sleeping was Crystal with her hands folded in front of her.
Naz was nothing but a liar in the end.I was glad that I didn’t completely believe him. To see another familiar face was like a small blessing in disguise and I was immensely relieved by a familiar face.
With a sigh, and a fist pump, I was glad to see someone I knew. My hands rAn alongside the glass door that kept her in place as I tried to figure out a way to get her out. I wasn’t to keen on leaving her here in all this chaos and death, plus there was a chance that she would’ve never been able to get out of here if I didn’t find her.
My fingers found some kind of lever, I pulled as a loud clanking sound was heard followed by air escaping the pod. The glass door slowly opened, allowing the mist to roll out.
“Crystal.” I softly spoke to her at first, hoping that I wasn’t dreaming. “Crystal?” I called out to her again. She was wearing the same Dragon Scale suit that she wore, when we went to the demon hunting in the mansion, which made me think that the Garden might have gave all of us a new suit while we were sleeping. That was the only explanation that I could think of at this moment, because it wasn’t normal to see her in a Dragon Scale armor when she didn’t go in with one.
This time, she stirred. Her eyes moved underneath her eyelids telling me that she was alive. Slowly, but surely, she opened them up and blinked a couple of times, before she met mine.
“Ale…xu…s?” Her words were soft that I almost missed her calling out my name.
I nodded, reassuring her it was me.
“What are you doing here?” She coughed, confused in what was going on. “Did you guys deal with all the demons?”
With a strained breath, she shakily pushed herself up, trying to get comfortable. Her head bobbed a bit, making her slightly droop forward as if her head was to heavy for her body. I had to help her sit up and use whatever strength I had to keep her from falling forward.
“No.” I replied, the whole demon extermination at the house was no more, plus there was no way back in so it didn’t even matter anymore.
“Then what about Marcus? Timothy or Simon?” She asked, grabbing the side of my arm, trying not to fall. “I thought we were rescuing Jones.”
“Don’t worry about that, we got something else to worry about.”
Crystal tilted her head, lost in what I had meant. It didn’t click to her that we were both out of the Garden and out into the real world. Making everything that we went through a dream, though what got me quite surprised was that it seemed we probably had dreamt about the same situation.
Which made me wonder if the Garden was like a hive mind that connected all of us together in on one place.
“What are you talking about? Jones is in trouble….wait, why am I in a pod?” It was finally clicking with her. I understood her mind was a bit slow since she was being forcefully awoken, even I had difficulty comprehending everything in the beginning as well.
“We were in the Garden, Crystal.” I helped her out of the pod. She took her first step like a newborn lamb and shakily moved forward, but failed. Her legs gave out and she collapsed into my arms. “You okay?”
“Yea.” She gave out a deep sigh, frustrated that her legs weren’t listening to her. “Can you explain to me what’s happening? I’m completely lost.”
“Well, I woke up hours earlier than you, but from looking around I could tell there was some kind of fight.” I replied. It was true, while searching for any other survivors, I found scratch marks in the metal walls and the floor. Weird contorted and misshapen bones of monsters that I have never seen before were also scattered all around the Garden as well, telling me that they weren’t completely human. “I think, while we were all sleeping inside the Garden, something bad happened. Look.”
I pointed upwards where an ugly tear was shown above. “That’s not done by human hands. I bet it was something big, possibly monstrous so considering the sheer power needed to rip the metal beams in half.”
“How is that possible. No demon should be able to get through. It’s just not possible.” She said breathlessly, shocked at what she was seeing before her.
“Are you sure its a demon?” I had to wonder if it was something else that barged in this room, but so far I haven’t heard about any other magical creatures out there except demons themselves.
“Yes.” Crystal nodded her head as she gripped onto my arms, getting back on her feet. “There is still dark residue of energy left behind.”
“Wait, you can sense energy?” I thought I was the only rare few who could see energy in the first place, and I haven’t seen anything dark or heavy. Maybe a strange dark speckles of dark dust like particles floating in the air.
“Yes, but I can’t see it. Can’t you feel the dark energy lingering in the air? There is too much death and destruction. Hatred, fear, and sorrow is also mixed in with it as well.”
I was amazed how she was able to pinpoint so many emotions in one, because I was sure that there was only one way to sense energy and that was to see. The thought of feeling it didn’t cross my mind until now. When I tuned into what she was talking about, I did notice a bit of heavy air mixed with dark emotions.
Bringing my attention back to her, she continually spoke. “Well….I’m not sure if its a good thing or a bad thing, but I noticed a large amount of Ouroboros are dead. You remember the groups that went to different countries?”
“Yea? What about them?”
“What?!” Her voice shot up an octave. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. The name plates I have found on the Ouroboros side have been quite a lot. Everybody we knew for a brief moment of time is dead.” The word dead felt like sand in my mouth and I didn’t like it.
“Then what about our team? What happened to them?” Her grip tightened, staring into my gaze searching for an answer.
“They got out fine, though I’m not sure if they’re dead or alive. I’m hoping that they are still alive.”
“You couldn’t find any clues?”
A deep crease of worry started to form on her face, I knew that she was worried about the others, but right now there was nothing we can do but to survive. We didn’t even know what happened to the outside world and all we had at this moment was each other to count on.
“Let’s first get ourselves situated first before we go looking for them.” I replied, trying to ease her from worrying too much. Crystal had the tendency at times to over think things through and forget all about herself.
“Yea, you’re right.” Crystal sighed, detaching away from me. Just like how the Dragon Suit activated on its own to me, it did the same thing with her as well. She could move around a little more efficiently than before.
“Yea?” She wobbled over towards her pod when she heard the side panel open up. Rummaging through, she pulled out a black bag and stashed away all the water and food. She even downed the whole water bottle just like me and let out a satisfied sigh.
“The Garden. What exactly is it?” I took a glimpse at the half broken structure. I had a couple of theories about it, but I wanted to know what she knew. The last time she didn’t reply and kept it hidden from everybody. Only a few people knew and they didn’t say anything about it as well. It was frustrating to know that no one wanted to diverge such important information to anyone before we went in, though there was no say in it whatsoever.
“Like I said, it’s ancient technology.”
“It’s known for connecting people into one virtual space and safely going through the combat experiences needed to tackle on the real life scenarios. The techies were able to tweak it a little and use it to train against demons while at the same time using it to kill them in real life.”
“Wait,” I held up my hand in front of me, trying to grasp the last part of her sentence. “Killing demons in real life? I thought you said that it was a virtual space? In ancient times there was something this advanced?” I was having a hard time believing something this advanced was hidden away in the deep sea for millions of years, but then again a lot could happen during those millions of years. Humanity had only just brushed against the surface of Earth’s history.
“Yea, I know what you mean. I was surprised when I saw the carbon dating on this machine. We all thought it was impossible, especially for it to still be running. Plus, it can also pull out your soul into the real world and fight against the demons in some kind of weird robotic bodies that this machine seems to have a bunch of.” She patted the pod near her, “They’re mostly made out of magic. Not only that, you can think of it like a game, but your body is safely stored inside the Garden, while you learn how to fight.”
“So, you’re saying it would’ve been fine if we….died?” I wasn’t sure how to say it, everything was just too confusing.
“Well, the robotic body would’ve been destroyed, but the soul wouldn’t be harmed. It will just come back here. Every time we leave Seventh Sanctum, we’ll be automatically moving into the robotic bodies, controlling it like it was our own. It’s quite advanced, its able to create an illusion where it looks just like you. Even the higher ups don’t understand how it works.”
Still, to hear that we were controlling robots sounded way to farfetched. Almost too science fiction that you read in the story books.
“How do you think I was able to upgrade the Dragon Scale Armor so quickly?” She placed her hands on her hips. “I understood their basic outline, but the rest Timothy and I had to put in our own flavor to get it where it is now. We weren’t able to completely copy ancient tech, though we were able to recreate 80% of it, while the rest was both of our hard work and effort.”
“This whole time, I thought you were the one who created it from nothing.” Shocked to hear the truth, I wasn’t sure what else to say.
Crystal shrugged. “It got the job done. That’s all it matters in my book, and even still, I don’t feel like the Dragon Scales is even strong enough to compete with the originals.”
My hand raised up to push back my hair, trying to put everything together in my head. “Is that why we were all summoned into the Garden? To control the robots?”
“Yes, it seems only a certain number of people can harmonize with it, even still they’re not considered all powerful. Look at it now.” She waved up her hand around her, showing the destruction and mayhem that was left behind. “The demons are hell of a lot stronger than the robots, so all we have now is ourselves.”
Then she sighed, thinking about the past. “Though, I have to wonder, how we were all able to get in a Dragon suit. I wasn’t in one when I got in the pod.” That thought did made me wonder how we were all suited up in the first place. It wasn’t normal, and honestly I had to wonder how this was all possible.
Then she leaned over towards her pod, pressed a couple of buttons and she let out a groan. “One hundred and fifty years. That’s how long we have been sleeping in cold sleep.”
I was shocked, unable to say anything but stare at her for a moment. The first time I heard that we slept for one hundred forty-nine years was mind boggling, but hearing it again with one extra years was still mind numbing thought.