The sound of a shotgun rang off as Leon fired the final blast needed to take the chainsaw wielding maniac down. Aforementioned man flipped backwards, the chain saw dying out as the shot echoed into nothingness. Wiping grit off his forehead, Leon slung the shotgun back over his shoulder, thumbing his shotgun shells, making note to try and pick up some more if he could. Crouching over the man, he inspected the body, looking for anything of value. He was rewarded with a nice ruby hidden in one of the man’s pockets. This should help me get some ammo from the Merchant. Where is he anyway?
Dismissing the notion, Leon continued along the path, raising his pistol as he checked shacks along the way. Mainly, he was preoccupied by Hunnigan’s new intel. Los Illuminados, eh? First it’s pharmaceutical empires, then it’s parasite involved cults. Life never gets easier, does it? In all seriousness, he was fairly concerned. His training told him that cults didn’t crack well, so he wasn’t likely going to get any inside info. Even if everyone was infected with some kind of mind controlling parasite. The thought that one of those things could...no, was inside him was more than a bit unsettling.
Enough of that, Leon reprimanded himself. I have to find Luis right now. If he knows anything, that’ll make my job that much easier. If not, then he might be able to point me someone who does. And if that fails, there’s always the Big Cheese himself…
Leon ruled out that last thought as a last resort. He still felt his chest hurt from where he had been stepped on while pursuing the man. If that person hadn’t been there, he might have well been dead by now. Leon wracked his brain for the name of the person. He could have sworn he recognized them, though to be fair, he was half unconscious at the time he’d seen them.
Looking about, Leon felt that his surroundings were vaguely similar to the village he had arrived at. It only makes sense to be close. He could even smell the faint traces of smoke in the air as he walked, presumedly from the pyre. Cautiously, he pulled his gun out of its holster, just in case more villagers showed up. Approaching a gate, he leaned against it, ready to peer around the corner.
Pushing it gently open, he beheld the abandoned village, though the bodies were gone. Leon was about to take a step in when he caught sight of a villager. Quickly moving back behind the door, he considered taking the shot, but more soon followed and he decided it would have been his head. Instead, he moved quickly to the wall of a nearby house.
“What are they doing?” Leon muttered. Their behavior was much more organized than he had seen before. Even when they had done normal things, they had been moving slowly and disjointedly. This almost seemed...purposeful. From what he could tell, they were headed towards the southwest gate, which he hadn’t been through yet.
Suddenly, he could hear a slight creak in the building. It sounded like it was coming from the upper floor. Opening the door silently, Leon moved silently on the balls of his feet. Pointing his gun up the stairs, Leon tensed as he stared down the sights.
Two bangs rang out, and Leon managed to pull his shot at the last moment. The bullet whiffed past Manuela, hitting the dresser behind her with a splintering. Just a bit behind him, a spot in the floor marked the pulled head shot. Leon had just begun to speak, when he remembered the situation. He motioned for silence as he moved quickly upstairs. Rushing past Manuela, he peered around the edge of the window, seeing the villagers still plodding along.
“They just showed up” Manuela explained, looking around the other side of the window. “I was about to head southwest when I ducked into this house. They seem to be heading towards the lake.”
“We’re going to have to follow them” Leon concluded motioning for Manuela to follow him. Hesitating a moment, she reached out and grabbed Leon’s arm firmly.
“Wait. Leon...I have orders to bring you in. The parasite inside you is just too much of a risk. You could turn into one of them if we don’t do anything.”
“Bringing me in won’t do anything. I can guarantee you that they have no cure for it, and that by the time they figure it out, I’ll already be dead. Back in Raccoon City, traditional anti-virals only did so much for the virus. The only cures were synthesized from the actual virus, and as called Daylight. Trust me when I say that I’m more useful here in the field. I can at least help you to Ashley. Besides, I have a hunch that the man I ran into earlier might know something. The village chief wrote a note about how me running into him could complicate things. I intend to find out how exactly he could “complicate” it. If it’ll make you feel any better, you can take my weapons.”
Manuela shook her head and motioned for him to stop as he moved to take off his pistol holster. He nodded affirmatively, regarding her silently. Gently he reached out to her. “Don’t worry. I doubt that I’ll turn any time soon. But from now on, I’m taking point okay?”
The unmentioned command hung in the air, and after what seemed like an eternity, Leon began down the stairs, intent on following the villagers. Manuela followed after a moment. He looks so determined, was this how he acted in Raccoon City? Please God, I hope I don’t want to hurt him, Manuela prayed, hoping beyond hope.
A few hours later, and Manuela was praying that she’d get the chance to clean up. Her suit was soaked completely up to her midriff. They had just finished clearing out the swamp, and the fights had involved them wading through low-lying water. Still, she had it better than Leon. He was wet up to his head from when a villager had jumped off a ledge above him and tackled him under. That had been a moment of panic as Manuela had watched them disappear into the murky depths. Luckily, Leon had gotten the upper hand with his knife, though he had refused to heal the wounds he had taken in the struggle, saying they had to find a yellow herb first to make the best use of the herbs.
Once again, Manuela was reminded how much better at this Leon was. He had survived the worst possible situation in existence, and even managed to keep a child alive through it. Then he continued exposing himself to the same danger when he saved her. How can I compare to that?
Manuela found her forward motion halted as Leon’s arm blocked her. She snapped out of her thoughts, looking at him for explanation. Leon motioned for them to get low as he approached a long in front of them that sat on the edge of the ridge. Whipping out a pair of binoculars, Leon began scanning the lake front. Manuela’s superior eyes could see the lake just fine, but she was more busy looking for the monster she had seen earlier.
“In the middle of the lake.” Focusing on the area, Manuela could see a couple of villagers in a boat, lugging something over the edge. It’s one of the cops! Manuela realized just in time for the body to hit the water, floating limply as the villagers began boating to the other end of the lake. Manuela feared she knew what came next.
On cue, a massive mouth burst forth from the water, engulfing the man with ease. Manuela got her first decent look at the beast. Its large off-pink body was marred with wounds and areas of gaping flesh. As Manuela thought about it, she realized it looked quite a bit like a salamander. Beside her, Leon lowered his binoculars, his expression grimly determined.
“Oh no...we can’t…”
“If we take a boat, we should be able to cross safely. It seemed like those villagers have done that before. Besides, they headed to the other side of the lake, so we should track them there.”
“Shouldn’t we go around? We can’t take that thing on if it decides we’re on the menu!” Manuela knew it was a losing battle. A quick glance could tell anyone that the entire lake was ringed by steep cliffs, so even if they did circle around, they would be hard-pressed to get down, and by then they’d lose the trail. Leon didn’t even say as much. They both knew.
Manuela still hesitated as Leon untied the boat, helping her in with a smile. Settling into the boat uneasily, Manuela found herself clinging tightly to the side, eyes nervously glancing into the water every few moments. The humming of the motor only served to get on Manuela’s nerve, and she kept throwing looks to Leon, hoping that he would turn around.
Searching the depths, Manuela swore she could see shapes in the depths. Like piranhas, she worried, feeling her pulse rising. Memories of teeth and splashing begin replaying, only her grip tightening on the wood keeping her attent.
“You can take a breath. We’re…” Standing, Leon trailed off as he looked over the edge, and Manuela hesitantly followed his gaze, seeing the dark shape in the water. Quickly, they both brought themselves to the deck, grabbing the edges just as the beast rammed the bottom, lifting the boat well out of the water. By some stroke of luck, neither of them were thrown out.
Leon just about let go when the boat gave a sudden tug, moving fast enough to throw him against the motor, and almost out of the boat. Through the spray, Manuela could see a rope leading into the depths attached to their boat. Shit! We must be stuck on it!
A short distance ahead, the beast surfaced, dragging them along. Leon cursed as he spotted it moving towards a log. “It’s trying to tip us!”
Stabilizing himself, Leon seized the handle in the motion, trying desperately to wrangle the boat to the side, or as much as it would allow with the tension. Narrowly avoiding the log, he began heaving to the other side to avoid another bit of flotsam.
“MANUELA! TRY TO HIT IT WITH SOMETHING!” Leon shouted over the noise. Manuela nodded, patting herself down to try and find something. Grenades? They’re useless in water. Pistol? Won’t do anything. TMP? Same. What can I..? Manuela’s eyes settled on the bottom of the boat, where a number of harpoons lay. It wouldn’t be enough to kill the beast on their own, but maybe…
“I NEED YOU TO KEEP US STEADY FOR A MOMENT!” Hurriedly, Manuela began scraping up the spare rope and tried to thread it through the harpoon bases, trying as best as she could to secure them. Taking the last bit of rope, she tied a short line between her holster straps and the seat of the boat. Taking one harpoon, she wrapped the rope about in her hand over her glove. This is gonna hurt like hell.
Just as she did, the boat stopped moving. The silence on the water was unnerving as Manuela stood up tentatively. Leon also stood, pulling out his pistol. Back to back, they surveyed they looked into the gloom. It was Leon who spotted the beast.
“This side!” he announced, beginning to unload into the beast’s open maw, seemingly doing no damage. Manuela steadied her aim, trying to stop the shaking in her arms as she looked into the abyss. Tensing her legs, she hurled the harpoon deep into the mouth of the monster, causing a gushing spray of blood. Quickly, she began pulling back on the line, grabbing hold just in time as the beast submerged, passing under the boat. Feeling the motion, she yanked just in time to prevent them from capsizing. A roar came from the depths of the lake in obvious pain.
And just like that, the boat was moving. Manuela found herself hanging over the edge, held inside by her rope alone, while Leon was holding tightly to the motor. Reaching out a hand, Leon yanked her back in, while trying to steer them around the obstacles.
Steadying herself once again, Manuela took aim at the thing in front of them, waiting until they had finished banking to take a shot at the beast. It gave another roar as she pulled it out. How many shots will this thing take? She only hoped they didn’t die first.
Seeing the opportunity for another shot, she had just enough time to regret her decision as the best began submerging, the harpoon head lodging in its head as it disappeared. “Grab onto some…”
The cold water caused Manuela to nearly let go of the breath she was holding. She had never encountered anything this cold before. With powerful strokes, Manuela managed to surface, shaking her head to get her hair away from her face as she felt for the boat. With a toss, she managed to right it, pulling herself over the side with a slosh. Coughing, she looked around, trying to spot the beast, hoping it wasn’t coming in for another run.
“Do you see..?” The cold of the water was nothing compared to the freezing sensation in Manuela’s blood as she beheld the empty spot next to her. In a motion that nearly toppled the boat, Manuela was leaning over the side, trying to spot Leon. Please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead…
She heard a gasp not too far to her left and saw Leon’s head break the surface, and he quickly spotted her. A wave of relief had just started to rise when it sank to the bottom of the lake as she saw the rising wake behind Leon. Alarmed, Manuela grabbed one of the harpoons, barely taking stance before throwing with all her might, causing it to hit the water next to Leon. Thank God I tied more than one of these.
Leon quickly grabbed the harpoon with one hand while withdrawing his pistol with the other, firing as the force of Manuela’s pulling briefly caused him to emerge fully from the water. He took another shot as Manuela grabbed his holsters with one hand, launching him from the water into the boat. Both shots found their marks, driving off the monster.
Quickly returning to the motor, Leon reestablished control of the boat as it began moving again. “Let’s try not to do that again.”
Manuela nodded as she stood up, shaking from adrenaline and cold shock. She took a lob at the beast, but her aim was far from close as the projectile barely managed to land near the beast. Taking quick stock, Leon ordered her to take over the motor.
Swapping quickly, Leon grabbed the end of the rope, wrapping it about his gloved hand a few turns. Looking over the beast’s body, he could see several areas of exposed innards. Taking careful aim, he took a deep breath to further increase his accuracy as he threw the harpoon. An ear-wrenching screech told him he had found his mark, and he pulled back on the rope, getting a satisfying splurch as its barbs tore their way out.
Manuela could feel herself shaking as she tried to keep the boat going as straight as was safely possible. I can see him shaking. How is he resisting? Manuela’s mind refused to keep up with her multi-tasking, so she was forced to direct all her focus to managing the boat.
She didn’t know how long they were out on the water for, but she was more surprised that she managed to stay awake through all of it as her shivers intensified. Dimly, she could almost hear her survival training like a recording. Cold exposure. Dangerous, even if only for a short time. The shivering and loss of balance were early symptoms, and though she doubted she’d hit advanced stages from the small amount of time in the water, it was still dragging her into a nice sleep. Sleep...that sounds nice right now…
Manuela’s darkening was cut off by the screech of Del Lago’s death throes, as well as the shaking of the boat as she saw Leon fall on his back. The sound of slashing, and then a snap, told her that Leon had gotten caught in, and managed to escape, from the same rope that got them into this situation. Silence descended on the lake, and if pressed, Manuela could vaguely remember Leon helping her out of the boat, and the two of them making it alive on the other shore.
Leon leaned Manuela against him as she finally succumbed to unconsciousness. She had fought it for as long as possible, and she had done well. Now he had to find a place for them to hold up. I just hope I last that long. If he was honest, he was feeling the pull of exhaustion as well, but he had been exposed to worse before. Still, the sooner the better.
Hope came in the form of a small cabin near the waterfront. Pistol out, Leon made sure the place was clear before entering, sealing the door behind him. Hustling while he still had energy, he took the tablecloth from the table, checking it for anything particularly dirty. Satisfied with its cleanliness, he turned back to Manuela, who he had set in the corner. Without hesitation, he removed her outermost layer of soaked clothing. Modesty meant nothing if it meant getting sick. Besides, he didn’t have much time, and he could feel it.
Wrapping the cloth around Manuela, he groaned as a pang came on. That wasn’t the water, he thought grimly, looking to see a spot of blood on the floor. Touching his mouth, he was unsurprised to find it was his own. Shit.
Leon felt another pang as he limped over to a chair, sitting down before removing a set of handcuffs from his pockets. Fumbling numbly with them, he secured both his arms to the chair. If I turn, this’ll give Manuela plenty of opportunity to defend herself.As he felt another pang, he resigned himself to the oncoming sleep, groaning as he blacked out.