Marcus shot off repeated rounds as he took down demons in front of him. He was fast and meticulous. The majority of them appear from the right and the front, which Marcus quickly took care of.
Meanwhile, Alexus took the ones on the left and the back. Again, his shots were quick and steady. They had improved by quite a large margin compared to before, which pleased him that the training was finally bearing some fruit.
It wasn’t easy moving quickly from one demon to the other. They weren’t running straight at him like some kind of zombie; most of them materialized out of thin air, which was enough to startle anyone.
Worst of all, Alexus didn’t know where they would come from, making it that much more difficult. They had a horrible knack of materializing way too close, almost to the point of touching his arms.
“Demons are teleporting in!” Marcus shouted. Gunshots continued to fire. The demon spazzed out as the magical bullet completely killed it.
“They’re not teleporting; they’re materializing after they camouflaged!” Alexus shouted.
Alexus felt danger behind him, his elbow backhanded against the demon that suddenly showed up, knocking it out in one hit. Then, spinning around, he saw the demon on the floor sprawled out. The gun quickly pointed downwards, and two more shots rang out, hitting it on the chest.
The demon spazzed out as if it was going into shock. It wasn’t pleasant to see, but Alexus hardened himself and quickly scanned around for more.
It was all instinct. Alexus’ body moved at unexpected angles, allowing him to dodge many deadly attacks. It’s true; while he could use the Dragon Scale Armor to protect him, there was a catch. Crystal stated that there were at least ten deadly attacks it could thwart before dysfunctioning, and right now, he wasn’t keen on breaking it anytime soon. Who knew what could be crawling around here; many demons could surpass the power of an Adult Type Demon.
Plus, getting used to dodging and parrying was something he needed to work on fast. He didn’t want to count on the Dragon Scale for the rest of his life. However, the possible thought of not having it on one day does cross his mind, and he wanted to be ready for those days.
“Clear, on my end.” Marcus had his gun pointing forward, scanning around for possibly more.
“Same,” Alexus replied, although the darkness made it difficult to ensure that nobody was present. He had to scan the room with the flashlight on the gun to make sure they didn’t miss a single one.
“Good,” Marcus replied. He hurried off into the next room.
Alexus turned around one more time, taking a hard look around him. Then, he followed after Marcus, watching for any unsuspecting movements that caught his eyes.
From what he could see, the second room was clear, allowing them to quickly move towards the third and the fourth. Each one was unusually clear, giving them a chance to move through without any problems.
Eventually, they came upon a fifth room. However, the entrance was different, making them stare at it with complete dismay. It was as if an unknown force was trying to force them back.
Hanging from the half-broken door were small, shriveled-up heads that he would find in Peru. There wasn’t just one or two, but ten, each strung up like a bead. Their heads were small and dyed black, with their eyes and lips are sewn shut. Some had piercings on their nose, while others had quite an exotic, fluffed up a piece of hair or were braided. Even if they weren’t looking at him, it gave him the shivers. Whoever did this probably knew how to make these shrunken heads, and it was real from the smell of it.
“Who in the… never mind. I shouldn’t have even asked.” Marcus was disgusted at the shrunken head before him.
“They were quite popular in the past. The Jivoran Tribe would trade these shrunken heads for guns.” Alexus replied, remembering information about them that he didn’t expect to come popping out in his head. There was a time when he did read about it, but to suddenly remember it now was a bit unexpected. “The tourist would buy them up. One gun for one head.”
“Are you serious?” Marcus looked at Alexus funny, thinking he was making it up.
“Yea, it wasn’t just guns, also gold,” Alexus replied, taking slow steps towards the door. “There was a mass of headhunting during those days.”
“Human life is quite cheap, isn’t it,” Marcus grunted; he walked forward, guns were drawn. As he passed under the mass of shrunken heads, the heads started to crackle with life as if they were laughing.
“What the hell?!” Marcus took a couple more steps forward, turned towards the laughing heads, and shot one.
The shrunken head exploded outwards, leaving a puff of smoke and sand. Marcus coughed as he shook his hand in front of him to clear the air.
“You alright?” Alexus asked, wearily watching the laughing shrunken heads. Going under it made him feel like I’ll get cursed if he wasn’t careful.
“Yea,” Marcus replied. “They’re harmless; let’s get moving.”
“Gotcha.” Alexus slowly agreed, not sure if he should consider what Marcus said. Then, taking a step forward, he stopped and glanced up. The laughing heads continually moved up and down, with some even swinging side-to-side while it swirled around. Being near these creepy heads wasn’t something he would’ve ever expected to see down here. From the looks of it, they were all female heads.
Alexus gulped. Female heads. Thinking over it one more time, then it hit him. “Marcus,” Alexus called out in a whisper. “Marcus.”
“Yea?” Marcus was halfway through the room as he looked over his shoulders towards me.
“They’re all females,” Alexus replied, staring at him.
“What Simon said was right.”
“Simon. He said they killed the women.” Alexus hurriedly replied, moving quickly away from the shrunken head that was still shaking, until finally, one of them had their sewed lips wide open.
“Please!” A woman’s voice sent out a shrill voice. “Please! Save me!”
Alexus froze as his eyes became as wide as dinner plates. He couldn’t believe the shrunken head just talked; something like that wasn’t possible.
More and more of the shrunken head’s lips were undone, and the torrent of voices of different females spoke.
“Help! They’re going to kill me!”
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Where am I? Why can’t I see?”
“No. No. No. No. No. This isn’t possible. This is all a dream. Yea. A dream.”
“What’s going on? Please, is anyone out there?”
Both Marcus and Alexus felt uncomfortable at the sight of the shrunken heads throwing a tantrum. They were making quite a bit of noise, as suddenly one of them screamed so loud it sounded like nails running down a chalkboard.
Alexus leaned backward, bringing up his hand to cover his ears. The pain from her scream made his head throb, making him feel like he was hit with a sledgehammer.
Marcus grunted in pain; he raised his gun and shot every one of the heads until they finally went silent. Alexus let out a pained breath of relief and stared angrily at the shrunken head. Whoever thought of collecting shrunken heads like that was sick.
“My head.” Marcus groaned. He rubbed his head with his hand. “What kind of sick bastard had to create such abominations?”
“That’s a question you and I want to know,” Alexus replied. Then, rolling his shoulder, he stretched a bit. “I hope there aren’t any more of those.”
They started to walk again, and when Alexus finally looked around, he was taken aback. It felt like he was in some kind of ritual. One whole wall was lined in black, green, and brown paint. They were decorated with foreign words that he didn’t even understand, with symbols he could barely decipher. A couple of stars were painted here and there, maybe even what looked like Latin words, and pictures of stick figures that looked like decapitating ahead.
They were even old, bloodied handprints all over the wall and the surrounding wall, as if someone was attempting to get out. The handprints were mostly centered around the altar, giving it an eerie feeling. Quite a few more shrunken heads dangled up from the wall where the giant head with majestic antlers was placed. Even the tips of its horn looked like they were some kind of fresh meat stabbed into its horn, hanging up there to dry out, but Alexus wasn’t sure. He didn’t want to find out.
Underneath all that crazy mess was a long table on top of a colorful rug that didn’t fit the whole scene itself. Black and red candles were lit, animal skulls, dried up plants, large and small shells, and even crystals were scattered all over the table. Underneath the table was an even smaller table with multiple metallic bowls and three black candles surrounding it.
Walking over, Alexus peeked to see what it was, and suddenly he was swamped with a pungent smell of rotting blood. He held in a gasp, knowing full well that it was blood, and from his guess, it was human.
“Is someone being sacrificed?” Alexus joked half-heartedly.
“I don’t know, but don’t touch anything,” Marcus replied, turning away from the altar. He went through the first open the door to the left, away from where they came from.
“I’m already a step ahead of you on that,” Alexus grunted to himself; there was no way he was touching something like that. Maybe he could become cursed for touching something that he shouldn’t. If demons were real, why not curses?
When Alexus turned around, ready to follow Marcus, he was face-to-face with a demon, hiding in the dark shadows opposite him. It wasn’t like any of the other demons they had come upon throughout this mission.
The demon’s body was lanky and lengthy, wearing a black co-tailored suit, letting the end flow behind him with nice matching black dress shoes. A pale face stared back at Alexus with heavy bags under its eyes, wearing a top hat. Its head was partially wrapped in gauze, only showing half of its face. There was no way he could tell if it had pupils or not. It looked like they were just black empty holes in his head. His hands were neatly folded behind him, staring at him with sinister intent.
“Another one graced our presence.” The voice was low and raspy, making Alexus have goosebumps.
“Who the hell are you?” Alexus suddenly spoke. The swell of energy around this demon didn’t compare to the other demons he had met. Instead, a sinister evil pervading energy wafted through the air, bringing the same smell of decay and death from the bowl.
“Interesting.” The demon said, the end of its lips curled upwards. “Truly fascinating that a creature like you exists.”
“I asked who the hell are you!” Alexus replied, getting annoyed that this demon wasn’t answering his questions but at the same time trying to cover up his fear.
“Alexus? What the hell is going on over there?” Marcus called out towards Alexus; he could hear him shuffling around in the back.
“I got a demon here,” Alexus called out, aiming his gun straight at the demon in front of him.
“Kill it!” Marcus replied.
“With pleasure.” Alexus pulled the trigger as the bullet went flying towards him. Each of the bullets embedded in his chest as a magical sigil formed around him, but suddenly the wound started to close, and the sigil faded away as if it wasn’t there in the first place. He stared at him with disbelief. He knew that enchanted bullets were supposed to harm demons, not absorbed as if it was candy.
The demon chuckled, snickering at Alexus’s foolish act. He then took a step forward, making him unconsciously take one back. “How many are you guys here? Three? Four? Five?” He tilted his head curiously, staring at him.
Alexus could hear the crackling sound of bone popping into place, making him wince.
“No. It seems there is only one.”
“What are you talking about? There’s not just one of us?!” Alexus shouted back, glaring at the demon straight in the face.
The demon clucked its teeth and shook its head. “No. I’m right. There is only one of you here….and that’s you.”
Alexus felt a shiver when he said the word “you.” It made him feel like what he said was true.
“I’m not alone.” Alexus fired off another bullet, this time, he hit it in the face as many times as he felt like it until he felt satisfied.
The bullet holes and magical sigils just disappeared like nothing had happened, leaving behind a clean face. Again, Alexus was stunned, clicking back the gun near his ankle; this time, he drew his sword from his leg. If shooting him didn’t work, he was sure that fighting him head-on with his blade would do the trick.
“Kuhuhuhuhhahahaha!” The demon threw back his head, laughing at Alexus’ display of power. Its hand drew back, tilting its hat forward.
Alexus didn’t understand what was so funny. It made him a bit self-conscious about what weapon he would use without thinking before the demon could retaliate. He rushed forward.
With a swing of his blade, Alexus struck.
The demon dodged effortlessly out of the way with just a couple of steps. Alexus continued attacking, each step and swing faster than the next. Even still, the demon didn’t seem phased at the attack he was giving.
Alexus wasn’t done yet. He willed up his magical power, fueling the Dragon Scale itself.
Mechanical wheels clinked as vents opened up on his leg and hand. The swing became ten times faster and more powerful, making the attack almost invisible to the human eye. The demon raised his two fingers at the last minute, catching his blade.
He was shocked. For a demon to catch the swing so effortlessly, especially a blow empowered by the Dragon Scale, was mind-blowingly worrisome. This was something that he needed to tell Crystal, especially if there was a demon who could be even faster than him. Even moving the blade was impossible, making this whole encounter surreal.
“Who are you?” Alexus asked, staring at the demon who clashed against him. His head leaned over as his lips went up into a curl.
Hot rotten breath exudes out of his mouth as the demon speaks. “It’s time to wake up, Alexus Tyger.” An evil chuckle resounded in Alexus’ ears. The demon’s words made him flinch backward. He didn’t understand what the demon meant or how the demon knew his name.
“Who told you my name?!” Alexus shouted, pushing away from him with a vicious stomp kick that separated them apart. “Who are you?!”
The demon cringed forward from the painful stomp. He coughed a couple of times before clearing his mouth with his arm. Then, slowly straightening himself up, he cracked his neck twice. A deep sigh escaped his lips, shaking his head side-to-side as if Alexus was stupid.
“Where I got your name is not your concern,” said the demon casually. He then rolled his shoulder once as he straightened his jacket. “All you need to know is my name.”
Alexus’ hands tightened around his blade, furrowing his eyebrow in front of him as he observed. Something about this demon was unusually refined; he seemed the type who didn’t even want to fight. The casual and calmness that the demon had were unnatural.
It made him even more on edge because he didn’t know exactly what the demon would do next. Would he continue fighting, talking, or would he run away? Though, for a demon, he sure did like to hear himself talk. Alexus thought all demons were bent on fighting or trying to kill them on sight if they found out what they were.
“That is?” Alexus asked.
“Naz.” Naz pulled off his hat and bowed elegantly before him. Then he straightened back up and put back his top hat with a smile.
“What do you want? Why are you even here?”
“That is a good question, isn’t it?” said Naz. “What do I want? Let’s see.” He was thinking over what Alexus had asked.
Alexus, on the other hand, softly shuffled forward, leaning in to strike once again.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The demon spoke. “You wouldn’t be able to harm me.”
“We’ll see about that.” Alexus dashed forward, and he was upon him in a blink of an eye. His sword came crashing down from the side, slicing the demon’s body in a diagonal line. But what was strange about that attack was that he didn’t feel any impact, making him confused.
Stepping backward, Alexus was surprised that the cut that he had made was healing.
“That’s not possible,” Alexus replied, taking another swing. Once again, the wound healed up.
“I told you.” The demon sighed, shaking his head at him like he was some kind of child. But, upon closer inspection, he noticed that he had no exact physical form in this world. Instead, he was moving in and out rapidly between two worlds naturally.
“How?” Alexus was flabbergasted, not sure what exactly to do.
“Easy, you see. I’m a demon.” Naz arrogantly stated.”I was just walking by and found this lovely place. I thought I would come here and show my presence.” He was enjoying Alexus squirming under his intense gaze.
“But why me?”
“You?” Naz snorted, waving his hand in front of him. “I didn’t just come here for you.” He said in a prideful manner.
“Then the others?”
“Like I said, You are the only ‘living’ one here. Think of it like this, this is all just a dream. A lovely place where the so-called Ouroboros like you exist.”
“I am no dream.” Being called a fake didn’t sit too well with Alexus.
Naz chuckled as if he knew something that he didn’t. “You don’t get it, do you?”
“That all you see in front of you is an illusion.”
Alexus couldn’t help but think this demon was either an idiot or not quite getting what he was saying. Even if they weren’t in the same room, they were others here with him. Either way, he didn’t have time to play along with this demon. Jones needed his help, and dilly-dallying here wouldn’t cut it.
“Don’t worry about him,” Naz spoke as if he read Alexus’ mind.
“He’s not real.”
“Okay, this is getting old fast. My friends are real, and you’re just trying to trick me. Now get out of my way.”
“With pleasure.” Naz stepped away, actually letting Alexus through. He was taken aback at how easy it was that he was immediately suspicious. Demons don’t just let their prey through without a catch.
“Go on, I’m not going to bite.” Naz snapped his pearly white teeth that seemed so out of place with his whole appearance.
Alexus hesitated, not quite sure what to do. Then, shaking his head, he cleared his thoughts and steeled himself. There was no way he would leave Jones out there to fend for himself, and right now, he either needed to kill Naz or just run for it. The strange thing was that he didn’t even hear Marcus shooting or fighting against any demons in the other room. It made him wonder what was going on.
Naz once again replied. “Alexus Tyger. It’s time to wake up from your dream.” He laughed evilly, giving Alexus a goosebump as Naz disappeared like smoke.