The creaking of the gates made a titanic groan as they swung open, making Manuela’s hesitant backwards steps sound like nothing in comparison. Numerous villagers had two ropes in their hands, and were tugging harshly at them, but making slow progress. As Manuela reached the other gate, and began trying to lift it, another bellowing made her stop with terror, and she slowly turned around to see.
Out of the darkness, an enormous grey arm lurched out, backhanding villagers into the walls with a pulpy crunch. A foot of equally elephantine proportions followed suit, crushing a few villagers. Wading out of the darkness came a vaguely man-like monster. Its grey skin mimicked that of a corpse, and its eyes had the same clouded look. A thick rope cut into its neck, snapped at the end from where it had escaped control. The beast roared as it reared back, blood rolling off its limbs. Turning a glassy eye to her, it began stomping over towards her.
Manuela pulled out her SMG, aiming it at the beast, slowed slightly by fear. My gun won’t make a dent in that thing! I can’t try for the gate while that thing’s here. If it grabs me, I’m done for. She tensed her finger on the trigger, sending a spray into the beast’s face. It reared back in pain, clutching its head as it roared. Manuela immediately took off towards the other end of the arena, trying to put as much room as possible between her and it.
I have to kill this thing before I can go find Leon, she summised. The mere thought of Leon’s safety helped take the fog of fear ease. Now focused, Manuela adjusted her stance, grounding her aim while remaining light enough to move if she needed to. Looking at the fence behind her, she smiled as she thought up a plan.
The beast finished its flailing, and turned to her with an ugly sneet, blood splattered across its face. It began charging towards Manuela, shaking the ground with every footfall. Struggling to maintain her footing, Manuela tensed, waiting patiently.
Her patience was rewarded when the beast lowered its shoulder, making a charge at her, lower to the ground than she expected. Panicking slightly, she jumped, to the side, her hair flying in the vacuum created by the creature impacting the wall. Moving quickly as the beast began standing, Manuela ran between its legs, seizing the rope’s end, and yanking hard downwards.
Before it realized what was happening, the beast found the tip of one of the pillars embedded in its eye. Throwing its head back, the rope was ripped from Manuela’s hands, tossing her a bit of a distance, though she rolled with it, crawling to a crouch. The beast shook, crushing a cart underfoot before it ran into a tree, which it leaned against before kneeling down in pain. In response, its back burst, and a terrifyingly large parasite burst forth in an explosion of yellow goo, the laceration in the beast’s back open, exposing the spine.
Without even standing fully, Manuela launched herself into a full run, hoping to reach it before the beast. Luck, and speed, were on her side, and she launched herself off the beast’s hand, landing shakily on the thing’s back. Without hesitation, she grabbed the edge of the laceration to steady herself, and pulled out her knife, holding it Filipino style. No reason to waste ammo, she thought as she gritted her teeth, landing slash after slash into the parasite, which shrieked like a banshee as it struggled in vain to avoid the blows. After a series of slashes though, Manuela could feel the laceration begin moving, likely to close up. Even now, the parasite was beginning to retreat into the body. Letting go, Manuela kicked off, landing awkwardly as the beast stood back up.
Its face was contorted in a look of pure rage. The deep impression where its eye had once been was leaking blood down the side of its face. Its grip tightening on the tree it leaned against, it started pulling it from the ground. Seeing what it was doing, Manuela shot to her feet, backpedaling even as she did so. She rolled behind one of the buildings just as the last resistance of the tree gave way. The beast turned, looking for its target.
The beast took a step towards her hiding spot, but was stopped as a howling broke the tension of the morning mists. Peeking around, Manuela could barely make out the shape of a dog on top of the cliff that ringed the arena. Her eyes widened as she recognized a wound on its leg. The dog from earlier!
Leaping onto a shack, the dog snarled at the beast, prompting it to turn and raise the tree over its head. Manuela held back the urge to yell at the monster as it swung, decimating the shack. Much to Manuela’s relief, the dog managed to jump off before it was flattened. The dog resumed barking at the beast though, to Manuela’s surprise. Still, the monster had abandoned its tree and was now trying to crush the dog in its palm.
Manuela stepped out after the beast threw a punch into the earth. As it moved to stand, she unloaded into the wound on its face, causing the beast to fall over in surprise and pain. Moving slowly towards the beast, she continued unloading more bullets into the wound on its back, causing the parasite to burst forth once more. Reloading as she ran, she began hacking away at the parasite, working about halfway through its width before a particularly vicious blow managed to cleave the rest off.
The severed piece twitched violently, flailing tendrils throwing juices everywhere as the beast slowly became dormant, heaving a heavy breath. As the parasite refused to die, Manuela switched her grip on the knife, and plunged it straight into the center of the “head,” instantly ceasing the thing’s movement.
As the silence engulfed the arena, Manuela hesitantly looked around. On the walls, blood and parasitic bits plastered the wall from where the villagers had met their unfortunate end. Hazarding a look down at herself, Manuela could see the huge amount of gunk on her clothing. Shakily, she raised her hands, which were covered in blood from when she gripped the beast for dear life. Covered in...disease.
Instantly, she felt a wave of revulsion. Her mind went into panic mode and she tried to wipe her hands clean, only managing to smear blood all over her outfit. Get it off me...get it off, GET IT OFF, GETITOFF!
Sprinting to the gate she had arrived through, Manuela was barely aware that she was holding her breath. As the river broke into view, she felt the tears rolling down her face as she remembered things she would rather have filed away. Falling to her knees in the water, she began rubbing her suit harshly, sending chunks into the water, which she swept at to get them to move away from her. She kept scrubbing and scrubbing as she felt her mind slip further and further away.
Her eyes widened as a warm sensation ran up the side of her face. Turning, she could see the dog had followed her, and was licking her face. She could feel the skin on her arms, reddened by her scrubbing, even with the suit on, rubbed raw by her own strength. She gave a slight laugh, realizing how sad she must have looked at the moment. Gently, she scratched the dog’s neck, noticing her hands were now clean.
The dog suddenly snarling caught her off guard, even as she realized it wasn’t at her, but rather at the lake. At first, she thought it was snarling at the bits of flesh, but she quickly, and fearfully, realized that it was something in the lake. Backing away from the water’s edge, she decided that she really, really wouldn’t like to know what it was.
As if to counter her point, a massive head broke the surface, engulfing the furthest bits of flesh within a tooth-lined maw several times Manuela’s size, before retreating to the murk of the lake. “Come on boy, let’s get out of here” Manuela said quietly, retreating to a safe distance.
Remembering her mission, she flipped open her radio, and called Leon.
“Hey there. What’s up?” he smiled nonchalantly, as if it were a stroll in the park.
“Just wanted to give you a warning. Don’t go in the lake. There’s something in there. It’s massive and dangerous. I don’t know what it is” she explained shakily, trying to control her breathing.
“Something up? You seem worried” Leon asked, frowning. Says the man who’s infected with a parasite! He’s worried about me? Manuela gave a humourless, and cracked laugh.
“Me? Worried? Why aren’t you worried more about yourself?! You’re infected! I could lose you at any moment!” Manuela yelled, her worries spilling over. What was worse was that Leon just gave a smile.
“It’ll be fine. We’ll figure something out. I think the man I ran into earlier might have an idea. He mentioned he saw a sample of the virus from Raccoon City before. It’s a long shot, but if he’s a doctor, he might be able to do something about it. Now, what happened?”
Manuela took a breath, trying to recompose herself. “I encountered a mutation, and not the one in the lake. It was like a huge person. It killed the villagers that summoned it, but I killed it in the process. I shot it a few times in a wound I managed to open on it, and then its back burst into a parasite. I slashed that a bunch and eventually it died.”
“Sounds like we’ve got a lot to deal with. Nothing like that on this side yet. I’ll tell you if I run into anything. I’ll radio Hunnigan with the details about the mutation. I’m heading back towards the village from what I can tell. I’ll see you there if I can” Leon assured, then smiled. “Take care of yourself, okay?”
Manuela nodded dumbly as the link clicked closed. It was only when the dog began sniffing the radio that she snapped out of it. Reaffirming her will, she slipped the radio back into her bag. “Come on Colmillo. We have to go meet up with Leon.”
Leon delivered a swift kick to the boards of the room, before stepping through the hole. He could see the hallway he had already been in through the bars. If he wasn’t mistaken, there should be a mask somewhere around here...Ah, there it is.
Sitting on a shelf, an elegant mask shone, contrasting its surroundings. Leon wasn’t sure how it got there, only that it had caught his eye. I could probably get a decent price from that merchant guy. Hmm? Leon paused his thoughts as he noticed three slight indentations on the mask. Something’s missing from this thing. Maybe some gems?
Putting the mask carefully into his pack, he stepped back out, looking at the tunnel ahead. A wooden platform extended from the wall into a cavern, with one ladder aimed up into a hole, and the other based in the water. After glancing down, Leon decided it would be best if he went up, seeing as it was the only way forward.
Climbing to the top, Leon found himself peering out of a well. Chuckling at the odd passage, he hopped over the top, finding himself on a lonely path, with a tall house before him. The thing was barely stable, and yet it stood tall in the grey mist. Approaching slowly, Leon wished Manuela was still with him for her superior hearing.
Slowly moving up the stairs, Leon found himself in front of a door with a blue orb embedded at about head height. The door was ornately decorated, with strange designs all over. Tentatively touching the orb, he found it spun easily. Cheesy villain puzzle, check, he laughed.
As he turned it, he could see a shape within turning along, forming patterns. He looked at the door for a hint as to what he should be looking for. Immediately, he noticed two identical patterns on either side. Really? This is almost too easy. Quickly, he spun the orb about, solving the puzzle easily. The door gave way to his touch and he entered the room beyond.
It seemed to be a bedroom of sorts, though a rather strange mix of spartan and elegant at that. A single bed lay against one wall in the tight room, a wardrobe beside that. A bookshelf took up one side of the room, with various books in English fitted neatly on the shelves. A small box lay on the table beside it, and a glint came from within. Underneath the solitary window, a desk lay, with various writing materials on it.
Investigating the glint, Leon found a key lying inside the box. It resembles the Insignia on the door. Maybe it’s some kind of code? His thoughts were interrupted as he spied a letter on the bed. Picking it up, he skimmed the contents:
As instructed by Lord Sattler, I have the agent in confinement, alive, though the other escaped. I do not fully understand what the Lord’s intentions are.
I would think he’d keep the two remaining separate. I don’t think Luis would trust a stranger, but if by a chance, they did co-operate, the situation could become more complicated. If for some reason, an unknown third party is involved, I don't think they'd let a chance like this slip by. But maybe it's all Lord Saddler's ploy — leaving us vulnerable so that this third party will surface, if they even exist that is… It's an unlikely possibility, but if a prowler is already amongst us, then our plans could be ruined. I guess the Lord thinks it's worth the risk, if we're able to stop whatever conspiracy is at work. At any rate, it's the Lord's call. We will trust his judgement as always.
Leon pocketed the document. He mentioned Luis in the note. He has to be connected to this somehow. How could he complicate the situation? Pondering as he opened the door, Leon could hear muffled Spanish coming from another room. Sneaking towards it quietly, Leon strained his hearing to try and listen in.
His strained ears were the only reason he wasn’t caught completely by surprise. The sound of a bootfall gave him just enough time to turn as a hand clasped around his throat, and Leon found himself breathlessly suspended in the air. Struggling, he found himself looking into the red, glass eye of the man who had knocked him unconscious. The man cocked his head, then tossed him backwards, causing Leon to land gracelessly and breathless.
“You carry the blood as us, it seems. Nevertheless, you’re an outsider. Just remember, if you become a nuisance to our eyes,you face severe consequences. And your friend, who is not of the blood, will be destroyed” he finished, before turning away with as little regard as an elephant has to a fly. Leon struggled to breath, and managed to fight to a sit.“This day just keeps getting better and better.”