Crystal and Alexus gazed out into the dimly lit hallway; they were both on edge, wondering if another crazy Demon like the one ten levels above was possibly crawling around in this level as well. The thought of meeting another one just like that kid gave him the shivers; from this day forth, he now saw kids entirely differently. They were monsters, especially the demon ones.
“It’s clear.” She took a slow step forward, her eyes glued towards the front.
They both stepped out, searching from left-to-right; our feet crossed over each other as they walked sideways for a bit, then turned right. Crystal led the way towards the direction they needed to go, he didn’t know the schedule for Timothy, so there was no point for him to go ahead.
Each step felt heavy, and his head still slightly throbbed. He was surprised that he was still walking okay without dropping on the ground dead.
They passed a couple more doors, passing by glass windows filled with exercise machines. All of the rooms were empty, making the whole place eerily quiet.
Alexus couldn’t help but think this was like one of the horror movies, where a possible demon would be popping up every turn to scare them. Those thoughts riddled his brain, making him even more nervous than he should be. His imagination for a moment went completely wild until he was able to be brought back to reality from Crystal’s pat on his shoulder.
He wondered where all the people had run off too; usually, it’s packed with people in the gym to the point where it was difficult to find a running machine during certain hours. However, half of the machines were still running, telling him that they hadn’t been gone for a very long time.
“Over here.” Crystal motioned Alexus over towards the door. She stalked towards the side of the wall, reached over with her hands, and slowly opened the door.
He, on the other hand, his hand gripped tightly on the hilt, ready to swing if need be. Crystal opened the door with her foot. She snapped around with the gun in front of her.
Alexus quickly followed behind her and noticed Jones, Marcus, and Timothy huddled together, looking at the monitor.
“Stick up your hands where I can see them!” Crystal shouted, startling every one of them.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! We’re human!” Jones shouted. He twirled towards Crystal, throwing up his hand in the air. Timothy and Marcus followed his example; they gulped when they saw the rifle pointed directly at them.
“How do I know you’re not an illusion or possibly possessed?” Crystal squinted her eyes, glaring at them. Her rifle didn’t even budge from her position. “Plus, that’s what all demons say when they deny that they are demons.”
Alexus stared at her in disbelief. He wasn’t if she had trust issues or was just being overly cautious. All Alexus could do was debate what to do next. The possibility of them being a Demon was extremely low, but he didn’t know much of what the Demon could do except to possess a body and have ridiculous amounts of strength.
“Shit, woman. You know us. You walked in on me singing an old power ranger song when I was half-naked changing!” Jones unconsciously slipped out in between desperation of possibly getting shot.
“Dude, what did you just say?” Timothy slowly turned towards him, flabbergasted in what he had just heard. “Did I hear you correctly? Power Ranger song?”
“Shut up,” Jones hissed. His chocolate brown skin started to turn pink. “They were my favorite childhood memories. It was just one of those urges, where you are all alone and want to sing for the hell of it.”
Timothy started to snicker. “Why, what was your favorite ranger, black?”
“No, it was the red one.”
Timothy thought over what Jones had said. He then shook his head in agreement with him. “He wasn’t so bad. I believe the white one was the best out of all of them.”
Jones scrunched his face and shook his head as if Timothy was crazy. “Red was always the best; the white was only second best.”
“I think you got your power ranger information backward,” said Timothy, “the white one always saves the whole team numerous times.”
“Not exactly,” Jones retorted.
Alexus, on the other hand, stared at the two in disbelief. How were they not panicking anymore?
“Yep, you’re still the same.” A wide grin erupted on Crystal’s face. She lowered the rifle and straightened her back. Then her head whipped towards Timothy, her feet strutted forward as she stopped in front of his face, still with the ridiculous grin on her.
“W-what?” Timothy unconsciously took a step backward. “Is something wrong with my face?”
“No.” Crystal’s lips twitched, her eyes glared into him to the point where Alexus thought there would be a hole in his head. “You got some serious explaining to do, that’s what.”
“Like?” Timothy crossed his arm in front of him. The others finally relaxed as well. “I, for sure, know I did nothing wrong.”
“Oh?” The pressure around her intensified by three folds.
“Really…?” For some reason, Timothy wasn’t so sure himself. He gulped and fidgeted under her intense gaze.
“Please, tell me why you added extra symbols into the talisman that I have personally created?”
Alexus couldn’t help but be shocked at what I had just learned.
“That’s simple.” Timothy’s eyes brightened, understanding now why Crystal was up in his face.
“Your method was too simple and straightforward. It’s a perfect textbook copy. Not only that, the placement of the talisman was too conspicuous. I had to hide it, where people didn’t normally look. So why would you even put it next to the laboratory lights? Are you seriously trying to tell the world, hey, it’s here?”
“No, I thought it would be a great deterrent if the demon saw it.”
Timothy sighed, “I think you got this backward; what you need to be wary of is its other Normals.”
“Nobody is going to know. Plus, normals don’t believe in this kind of thing.”
“You don’t know that. For all we know, we could have a spy.”
“I highly doubt that.”
“You’re too trusting of humans, Crystal. You should know the history of humanity; we have traitors left and right.”
Crystal was silent, thinking over what he had said.
“Plus, what I have done was hide it where it’s less visible and reinforced the shield with my added twist.”
“You didn’t reinforce the shield. You weakened it. You should know better than I that the complex the written talisman is, the more power it drains to keep it holding up.”
“True, though I thought I had gotten around that.”
“Apparently, you didn’t.”
“I made the protection stronger. It held this place up until the last attempted break-in and repelled them successfully.”
Crystal ground her teeth, and she deeply sighed, shaking her head.
“Though,” Timothy tilted to the side and looked over her shoulder, “Alexus, why are you wearing that strange suit? You look like you’re in spandex.”
“Well, about that….” Alexus wasn’t sure where to start. He was debating if he should tell them that they were testing this suit and she shot him, or should he skip all that and just get right to the point? There were just too many thoughts in his head, making this decision a little tricky.
“That’s the Dragon Scale, we were testing it, but that’s beside the point.”
“Yes, it’s one of the best body armor that I made. The material is flexible, durable, waterproof, cold and hot, resistant to a certain degree, sweatproof, and body odor proof. It can even stop a force of a four gauge shotgun shell without dying, though we haven’t completed a live dummy test yet.” Crystal proudly stated. She reached over, grabbed Alexus’ wrist, and brought up his hand to show off the watch. “This watch also reads and keeps up-to-date of all your vital organs and health.”
Marcus finally spoke. He was listening in on the conversation the whole time. “So, let me get this straight. You made that?” He pointed towards Alexus.
“Yeah, it took longer than I expected too, but it’s four years of my work of blood, sweat, and tears. My goal is to have a good working prototype for production in another year,” said Crystal.
“Are you sure that a thin piece of cloth can stop the force of a four gauge shotgun?” Marcus asked, not quite believing in what she had said.
“Absolutely.” Crystal replied, not backing down from what she said. “Tested it out, but not with an Ouroboros in it.”
“Why do you need live testing anyways?”
“Simple, it has a special ability that helps control your special ability. But, of course, that was the whole purpose of making a Dragon Scale in the first place.”
“That’s great and all, but does it work?”
“Yes,” Alexus croaked, stepping in on the conversation. “When the Demon attacked me, the suit repelled it perfectly. It felt like someone swung a metal bat ten times the strength of it in my stomach.”
“Hold up, you guys met a Demon already?” Jones held up his hand and stared at them with complete shock. “So, the alarm wasn’t just field testing?” He anxiously looked towards him, waiting for him to answer.
“Yes, they’re already here.” Crystal replied. She pulled out the handgun and threw it over towards Marcus to catch.
The handgun flew upwards into an arch while he caught it flawlessly without even dropping it. Moments after, three magazines were tossed towards Marcus. He grabbed them and loaded one. A loud click could be heard as the slide moved backward and loaded the bullet.
“Thanks,” Marcus replied. However, he wasn’t thrilled at what he had heard from Crystal.
“Hey, Jones,” Alexus called out towards him.
“You said today was the day to leave; what happened to you leaving?” Alexus asked.
Jones uncomfortably shifted on his feet, his hand raised to run his finger in his thick dredges.
“Well, I honestly thought it was now. We were supposed to be ready for the sign to break out of here.”
Crystal hissed. “You guys were leaving? Are you nuts? Don’t you understand how dangerous it’s out there?” She stormed.
“Not me,” Timothy raised his hand, “only him.” He pointed towards Jones.
“Hey, I want my old life back. I’m not like you, who’s keen on being part of the company and playing pretend scientist. I have a love of my life out there waiting for me.”
“News flash, she’s not waiting for you.” Crystal sharply replied without a heartbeat. “Your girlfriend already moved on and married someone else.”
“Lies…You’re lying!” Jones whispered, not believing a single thing that she had said. He stormed towards her and grabbed her by her collar. His face was close to her nose as he spits in outrage.
“Take what you said back! She wouldn’t dare cheat on me!” Anger riddled his body. He shook uncontrollably.
“Woah there. Calm down, Jones. You’re taking it out on the wrong person.” Marcus tried to pull him back; Jones shrugged his shoulder, not liking his hand on him.
“She’s lying! Julia won’t leave me!”
“Actually, she would,” Timothy interjected. He raised his finger in front of him.
“Shut up, Timothy! I don’t need your dumbass comments.”
“Hey, It’s true, you know. I checked your files and searched her up. All Ouroboros on the list that had committed so-called murder is considered dead. So all of us are written off as dead.”
“What?” Timothy’s face paled like a ghost. “Tell me he’s lying.”
“He speaks the truth. Our past is wiped clean, and now you all have new identities. If not, all of you will have been put to death.” Crystal replied.
“Quit bullshitting me. You’re lying. I know it.”
“She’s not.” Marcus once again tried to persuade him. “She speaks the truth.”
Jones’s hands let go of Crystal’s collar; he took a couple of steps backward, stumbling in a daze.
He kept repeating the exact words, it’s a lie, over and over again.
“Wait, how did you find out?” Timothy asked, completely confused. “I don’t remember telling you anything.”
Marcus gave him a halfhearted smile. “I have ways.”
“Yes,” said Marcus, “what are you going to do now, Jones?”
Jones froze, his head bobbed back and forth like a willow. He then turned around with a dead expression. “I’m going to get out of here and find her.”
“Are you serious?” Timothy asked. “Hello? You’re dead. Do you think she will be jumping for joy when she sees you in front of her doorsteps? I would be terrified as if I saw a ghost. We’re considered supernatural beings that are not human. She’ll probably think you’re a demon when you arrive in front of her doorsteps.”
“Shut up,” said Jones, his volume increasing every word.” Shut up. Shut up. Shut up! Why can’t you for once shut your damn mouth.”
“Hey, I’m just being helpful.” Timothy threw up his hand, backing away from Jones’s fury.
“That’s enough.” Marcus stood in between Timothy and Jones. “Jones, I need you to calm down.”
Jones turned around in complete frustration. He kicked the nearest chair, slammed the monitors onto the ground, and punched into the side of the wall. A loud bang could be heard as a hole appeared with his fist inside the wall.
“This is complete bullshit.”
Crystal was about to stop him as well, but Marcus shook his head.
“Let him vent it out. He’ll need it.”
“But right now, he’s attracting way too much attention. There are possibly Demons swarming in the corridors right as we speak. We need to make our way down towards the basement, fix the talisman, and get the Animus Progressium underway.”
“You know what the Animus Progressium is?” Timothy asked, interested in what Crystal got to say. He was itching for more information. “What is it? How come it’s so well locked away?”
Crystal stopped talking. She turned towards him, not too pleased at Timothy. “It’s a project to save humanity from destruction. At the rate the number of demons is multiplying, humanity is on the brink of total genocide.”
“Really? I never heard of this.”
“You wouldn’t understand. Right now, our priority has shifted, and we need to save as many Ouroboros as we can.”
“And how do you expect us to fight with one gun, one rifle, and a sword? The other two of us don’t even have a weapon. So you want us to beat them with our fists?” Timothy sarcastically stated.
“If you have to, yes.” Crystal curtly replied, her hand tightening around the handle of her rifle.
“Either way, there is a hidden weapon storage floor down. We’ll get there and restock our supplies. I’m running out of ammo.”
“How many bullets do you have left?” asked Marcus.
“My guess is a good half magazine left.” Crystal checked herself, rummaging in her pocket for any more. She patted her chest, side, and even her back pocket. There wasn’t a single magazine after what she went through.
“That could be a problem. We’ll do what we can with what we have until we make it to the weapon storage. Let’s get moving; we don’t have time to stick around any longer.” He started to head towards the door.
“I’m right behind you.” Timothy followed. He looked back once more at Jones but didn’t say anything else. Jones was still too frustrated to say anything as he banged his head against the wall a couple of times like a madman.
“Let’s go,” Crystal called out towards Alexus. She motioned her head to follow.
Alexus started to follow, then stopped and walked over towards Jones. “Hey.”
Jones didn’t turn and kept on banging his head.
“Jones, it’s time to go.”
Jones still didn’t answer.
“Look, I don’t have a girlfriend or have someone that I love.” Alexus’ hand raised towards his head, pushing back his hair and down onto his neck. “So I don’t understand what you are going through, but you need to come back to yourself. You’re stronger than this. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be for you with her.”
Jones sighed. He pushed himself off the wall. “Maybe….maybe..” His face solemn,
Alexus could tell a spark in his eyes that brought him back to sanity. He straightened himself out as if nothing was wrong and pushed past him. He knew he wasn’t the type to give great pep talks, but he thought this was all he could say.
“You coming?” Crystal called out towards Alexus, snapping him back into attention.
“Yea,” Alexus replied and hurried towards the group.
Marcus and Crystal leaned against the wall, peeking out the side, to see if there were any demons about. Marcus turned towards Crystal, nodded, and Crystal went out first with her gun drawn.
Timothy, Jones, and Alexus quickly fell in line, following behind Marcus. Marcus came out last, covering our back. He diligently scanned out behind them in the dim-lit hallways, ensuring that nothing was present to creep up from behind.
They continued down the hallway, quickly but efficiently moving around. Unfortunately, the dimly lit hallway made it challenging to see beyond the long hallways and the turns. They didn’t even have any flashlights to help them look into the dark, but they still moved forward and back towards the elevator.
Eventually, they made it back; Crystal walked over and pressed the button. The elevator dinged and started to make noise. Alexus leaned towards the elevator, wondering why it would take longer to get to our floor. Then it hit him; the sound of the elevator was coming from the top floor, making him freeze up.
“Crystal,” Alexus whispered with a hiss.
“What’s wrong?” Crystal asked. She looked over her shoulder towards him.
“We need to stand away from the elevator now.” Alexus hurriedly replied. The time was ticking; the elevator was cranking as it came downwards every second. Any moment now, there was a possibility of the enemy riding in on the elevator itself.
“Why?” Crystal gave Alexus a confused look, unsure where he was going with this.
“The elevator went up to a high level, and we don’t know if that boy got on or not. Right now, it’s not the time to be standing in front of it and possibly get killed.” Alexus hissed.
“Move back!” Crystal started to shuffle backward, but before they could all even attempt to move out of the way, the door to the elevator dinged, initiating its arrival.
With a slow creaky movement of the door opening, dark ghastly swirls of smoke erupted outwards, bringing in a foul air of sulfur. They all took a step back, ready to fight or flee, and observed for any possible attack.
“Aaaaaahhhh~” A deep resounding breath of a sigh could be heard coming outwards.
The temperature in the air slowly started to become colder, and Alexus drew out his swords in front of him.
“I’m so tired.” A young girl’s voice spoke out from the dark, catching all of them off guard. Something dreadful was inside the elevator, and he didn’t like it at all.