After having kept watch on the third faction and their rival Aural group Heise for a fair amount of time, Angela Holystone and Baise have a good enough idea of what they are planning to do next.
To be honest, they aren’t even trying to keep their plans a secret as they have been openly arming themselves with weapons and defence mechanisms to use against supernaturals, especially Psychics.
Considering what’s going on with the state of the war currently, it is obvious that preparing to go to battle with Psychics means they are going to Kesley.
So, their pursuers are not missing the opportunity to get ready to leave either.
That all said and done, the problem remains what it was before.
Angela and Baise are doing nothing but keeping an eye on them. Keeping a close eye on them in fact, but they aren’t doing anything past that.
They aren’t going in for the kill because there’s a high possibility they would fail. In which case, they would have to come up with strategies to beat them, and that is a task quite hard to do when your opponent has enough diversity to have two Psychics, really capable Aurals, a brilliant Spirit-user, an anomaly of a supernatural, and someone with two legendary eyes and a conniving big brain.
As such, Angela has decided to stick close and watch them for longer and go in only when they get a good chance. Her mistake is in not realizing that the Phoenix has sent in other Hellfires after her very target and that if she delays too much, her prey might be stolen.
However, as much of a possibility as that is, it is also a possibility that while targeting Abgere, they will involuntarily open a path where she and Baise can sneak in for the kill. After all, the Phoenix told her to ‘kill Abgere’, not necessarily ‘defeat him’. That means even if she steals someone else’s kill, it still counts. And to be fair, with the Phoenix’s personality in mind, doing that might just be a better way to impress him.
Still, all that happening depends heavily on chance, and Angela isn’t even aware of the most important part of the problem.
So, things are not in her favour.
Still, as the third faction and the Aural group Heise leaves for Kesley, she and Baise prepare to do so as well.
One way or another, things will come to a conflict, and what exactly will happen there can only be speculated or fantasized before, the only real answer will come when the conflict actually begins.
Ethan: “So, how much longer until we are there?”
Sneha: “I am not sure but it certainly wouldn’t take long provided you keep your mouth shut.”
Answering in an irritated voice, the Aural keeps walking ahead of all of us, leading the way as none of us know it.
If only the six of us were going back to Kesley, then we would have taken the jet. And, if only a Psychic like Gabriel was going back along with one or two others, he would have just teleported back there. But, this time, the six of us are joined by an Aural group large enough to be called a mini-platoon. Plus, we are going to a place we are highly likely to get into battles with.
Thus, we are doing as much preparation as we can instead of just using the fastest method that we can use, and so this method we are using now happens to be through an underground tunnel through to a place 100 kilometres away from Kesley.
This place we will end up at after exiting the tunnel is basically a shrine that Heise used to be in, a place where they have ‘weapons’ stored that may help us in the upcoming endeavours. There, we will also be able to take a faster transportation method like cars or the like to get to Kesley.
It is the most effective method of getting to Kesley. That said though, it is certainly not the safest.
Because of their aversion to sunlight, the Vampires have been making bases underground for a long time. This tunnel we are in right now is a path that they created that would lead to many of these bases. In other words, this tunnel is their territory, and we are trespassing.
Hence, Mr Eyes of Truth has had to keep using his eyes continuously so he can detect any traps set by Vampires for intruders like us.
Ethan: “Seriously, why does this tunnel have to be so damn long?”
Thus, his impatience has reared its head in front of us.
Sneha: “Actually, most of the times Aurals use this place, they just use their abilities to speedrun through it. But, since we have on our side a human incompetent enough that he can’t even do that, we can’t do that.”
She says, only partially sarcastically.
Ethan: “I see. So, when you Aurals use this route generally, you just run straight into and through any traps like a bunch of bulls chasing a guy that angered them while blowing steam off their noses. Interesting.”
Of course, when it comes to sarcasm, our Aural friend has much to learn before she can compete with this guy.
Sona: “I don’t mean to be a bother but Sneha, we really could use a serious answer to the question he has been asking for the past hour.”
True enough. We have been in this place for so long that it feels like we haven’t seen the light of the sun in days.
So, I too am starting to wonder how much longer will it take?
Sneha: “Hang on for a little while longer. It won’t take more than half an hour for us to be there if we continue at our current pace.”
Hmm. That’s good to know.
It means that in some hours from now, we will be in Kesley.
We will be confronting the Phoenix.
I have no idea what is in store for us there, and I have no idea how everyone around me is feeling about this.
I know Ethan has a fair bit of excitement welling up within him and I know Sona’s caution has grown a lot ever since confronting the Phoenix became our objective. But, that’s all I know.
I have noticed a few things though.
I have noticed that Abgere and Gabriel have been keeping quiet for a long time. Well, they were never very talkative, not with us anyway, but now it seems that both of them have become mute or something.
Aside from that, I have also noticed that Sneha and Abgere have been glancing at Gabriel from time-to-time. Those glances have been filled to a certain degree with suspicion but not severe enough that I should confront them about it right now.
As for the members of Heise, those who are tasked with keeping important supplies, medical professionals and the non-combatants like Trisha safe seem to be less nervous compared to those who are walking alongside us, as they know more than anyone else that a battle with the world’s second most powerful man is a possibility.
All in all, the third faction and its allies seem to be … tense.
It’s like we know something big is going to happen.
The anxiety of that something big happening is enveloping all of us. I realize that not sharing our anxieties is a dangerous path to take, especially right now. And, I think everyone knows that. Still, I don’t think any of us will be taking any other path.
And so, we continue marching on with dangerous worries and unyielding weakness in our hearts.
The Phoenix levitates back on the floors of his office, looking like a feather floating down from the sky to the ground.
And to greet this feather, a Ghost already awaits on the ground.
Rosevelt: “What are you doing here, Ozyllus?”
The Phoenix asks, neither surprised nor fazed even after sensing the presence of that Ghost.
Ozyllus: “I just came to ask you something.”
The Ghost of the God says in a serious tone.
Rosevelt: “I can guess what that something would be.”
Considering the timing, this ‘God’ could only have one thing to ask of the Phoenix. It’s not even a matter of guessing as there is nothing but a single choice given to choose from.
Ozyllus: “Well, then, answer it.”
His voice grim and slightly angry, he asks with his brows furrowing.
Ozyllus: “Tell me, what are you going to do about the mess you have created?”
The Phoenix smiles as if hearing this God’s anger has revitalized him.
Ozyllus: “We had a deal. You were to not interfere with my plans.”
Ozyllus’ anger only grows as he reminds the Phoenix of their promise, their ‘deal’.
Rosevelt: “That was no deal, Ozyllus. That was just a condition you forced me to agree to by threatening me with everything that mattered to me.”
Rosevelt: “But guess what, all of it is gone now anyway. All of them have died now anyway. There is nothing I have got to lose anymore.”
Ozyllus: “You still have the entire Vermilion.”
Rosevelt: “Ah yes, the entire Vermilion. The hundreds of Psychics that matter to me as much as the sand on the ground that I can’t even see clearly from here. Those are what you will use to threaten me?”
Rosevelt: “Haha! They are nothing but playthings for me, a way to pass time. Take them away and I’ll be bored.”
The smile on the Phoenix’s face as he says these words to the God is everpresent, as if he’s celebrating something.
Rosevelt: “Do you think boring me will be enough of a threat to make me agree to what you want? Do you think that is enough? Do you, Ozyllus?”
As he asks so, it’s as if a dam has broken and vengeance is flowing out of it.
Rosevelt: “You planned for thousand years and meticulously placed your pieces to do your bidding. I can’t even fathom to understand how painful it would be for you to see one thing after another going out of your control.”
As if romanticizing him, the Phoenix continues.
Rosevelt: “You know, I would be sad for you, if I considered you a human being, and if I hadn’t lost all purpose to feel anything.”
Ozyllus, as he let the Phoenix finish, then speaks.
Ozyllus: “You are a fool, Rosevelt.”
Rosevelt: “Oh, and how is that?”
Scoffing on the God, the Phoenix asks.
Ozyllus: “You think there’s nothing for you to look forward to, you think there’s no purpose left for you to live for, much less die for.”
Not mocking, not accusing, Ozyllus simply states.
Rosevelt: “Well, of course. Everything that mattered to me is gone, and the sweet release of death is nowhere in sight either. Heck, even Walter Schmidt couldn’t kill me.”
Ozyllus: “THAT is exactly why you are a fool.”
To the man mocking his own immortality, Ozyllus simply states again.
Ozyllus: “It’s true that my plans are falling apart but only to the extent that not everything will go as I intended it to.”
The Ghost of the God, as he steps on the floor, looks directly at the Phoenix, who looks back at him.
Ozyllus: “And you are right, Rosevelt. It hurts to see years of planning not working out. But, you know what, at the end of the day, when the war will finally end the way I want it to, it will all be worth it.”
The Phoenix, as he hears that, feels just a tiny bit irked.
Ozyllus: “I am telling you this now because you, who fails to see what is right in front of you, will lose the opportunity to see that moment. You will die before that happens.”
Surprise, shock, awe, a bit of excitement, dismay, annoyance, curiousness, the Phoenix feels far too many emotions, some of which he had forgotten he had, as he hears Ozyllus’ absurd words.
Rosevelt: “I am the one man in the entire world who is-”
This time, Ozyllus scoffs.
Ozyllus: “You think, against the monsters that are about to change the course of history, immortality would mean anything?”
He scoffs, he scoffs hard.
The Phoenix doesn’t know how to answer. And trying to figure that out, he stays quiet.
Ozyllus: “Whether I win at the end or not, Rosevelt, I know that you will lose.”
Ozyllus continues his scoffing.
Rosevelt: “I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”
To him who says he has nothing left to lose, to say to him that he would lose, Ozyllus must see something that he doesn’t, thinks Rosevelt. And as he thinks that, he realizes something important.
Rosevelt: “You aren’t here to just talk about that, are you, Ozyllus?”
Ozyllus: “Well, no. There is something far more important that I have to do here.”
Rosevelt: “Ha, is there?”
Mockingly, he asks.
Ozyllus: “Yes, I have to prepare the playground, the matches are about to start after all.”
By playground, by matches, what Ozyllus means is not horrifying to the man listening but would be to anyone else.
Rosevelt: “You want to create a battleground for the battles that are about to happen. Be my guest!”
Rosevelt feels nothing as he allows Ozyllus to do what he intends to do. There is no sense of humanity coming from the man in the position to stop the onslaught. And so, even though the man about to do the onslaught hasn’t lost his sanity completely, there’s still no way he can back down.
Ozyllus: “Well then.”
He says, smirks and hesitates at the same time, but then puts his hands up, and releases – the wave that will engulf more than half the city and turn it into dust, taking countless of lives, raining blood and guts and darkening the history with another massacre.
The carnage left after that should be the perfect battleground.
And knowing that is what will happen, the Phoenix has no intention of stopping Kesley from being half destroyed.
But, he himself doesn’t realize one important thing.
Ozyllus: “I will need you to leave this place too.”
It isn’t just the city that Ozyllus intends to blow sky-high.
And by the time the Phoenix realizes it, it is already too late.
The Ghost of the God unleashes a blast strong enough to blast through layers upon layers of concrete, turning the city into a wasteland, as well as throwing the vermilion bird far, far away so that, by the time the bird can return, there will be no chance of escaping the storm that is coming its way.
Finally, we come out of the tunnel and face the sun, except we don’t because it’s night-time.
But, fortunately, the tunnel ends at a place just a few steps away from the shrine we are to visit so at least we will be able to rest and calm our nerves fairly well.
I bet that is what everyone is thinking right now, except Ethan. I won’t even pretend to know what he is thinking.
He sighs of relief, finally being able to stop using his eyes at full power. Despite the amusing time I had seeing him getting annoyed, I can tell that using any ability for that long on full power would be really taxing.
For better or for worse, our head of the strategy department deserves a break too.
And he would get it now probably, as will the rest of us.
Nothing should go wrong now.
Yeah, everything will be fine.
But still, Ethan puts his hands on my shoulder and says with a tired but smirking expression,
Ethan: “I don’t wanna sound like a geek, but I feel you are setting off some very obvious flags within your mind.”
Kais: “Am I?”
I ask sardonically as if it wasn’t even a possibility.
“Oh my, oh my, oh my, look at what a cute bunch we have here.”
“Ugh, seriously? Do these idiots really think they can go up against us with just these many people?”
“If nothing else, it should be fun, right? Right? RIGHT?”
First a high-pitched childlike voice, then an irritated and exhausted voice of a mature woman, and then the voice of a shrill man shrivelling with excitement. Out of nowhere, these three voices invade our eardrums.
And just as they do, fire, spears and lightning come raining from the clouds right at us.
But, before any of them could even come close to touching us, they are blocked by a shield formed of Psychic energy, and the man who formed that shield steps forward.
Gabriel: “Chang Lu, Laurie Brown, Ross Green, step down!”
Asks, no, orders the Hellfire as he takes the name of three other Hellfires.
And then, as if out of respect for him, they show themselves.
One of them levitating in the air, one to them standing on the top of an electricity pole and one of them dancing on the wires attached to the pole, the three Hellfires all look down upon us.
“Oh my, oh my, oh my, we were told you might interfere, but we never believed it until now.”
“What are you doing, you idiot of a man? Get out of our way! We are on a job!”
“Yes, yes, if nothing else, that much is certain. We are on a job.”
Gabriel: “Well, so am I.”
Not flinching once, Gabriel Washington looks straight into their eyes. And, at that moment,
Ethan: “So, what were we talking about earlier?”
He asks with his head cocked to the side as if mocking me.
Kais: “Fine! Fine! I set off the flags. Now, what do we do?”
I ask. And as I do, Ethan looks at the three enemies in front of us and says with a troubled voice,
Ethan: “It seems we’ll have to split up.