Manuela stopped running as they entered into the open air, exiting the tunnels into a series of broken ruins. Taking a deep breath, she looked around at the dusty landscape of half crumbled buildings, noticing a pair of taller towers off to one side with a wooden bridge between them.
“The lab should be just ahead,” Leon summised, searching for the exit of the ruins. He pointed to the far side, where a door was set into the sandstone walls, with some kind of portrait carved into it. “There it is. Let’s go.”
Leon took point, jumping down from the ledge they were on into the ruins, clearing the area with his pistol as Manuela landed behind him, pulling out her machine gun. “Clear.”
Manuela moved to lead when they both saw movement to the right. Turning, they aimed their pistols, settling their aim on none other than Krauser. He had ditched his shirt, and wore a splash of red paint across his face, which was framed with grim determination.
Leon’s mind flashed back to the note the Merchant had provided them with, signed by Krauser. In particular, the last lines sprang to mind:
And after I get rid of Leon and Manuela and retrieve the sample, I’ll put them both in a body bag and bring them to Wesker. I’m sure Wesker will find Manuela interesting. I have to make sure not to damage her too badly.
“So, you three are all hooked up now, is that it?” Krauser asked pointedly, walking parallel to them.
“Where’s Ashley?” Leon demanded, tightening his grip resolutely. All doubt about Krauser had disappeared in his mind with the note. The man he once fought beside was gone, replaced by a tool for biological warfare.
“Do you really want to know? She’s beyond that gate,” he replied with a flick of his head, motioning towards the door they had seen moments prior. “But you’ll need three insignias to open it.”
“What are you doing?” Manuela asked questioningly. Krauser frowned deeply at her, his expression a thin veneer of control and focus over his overwhelming desire to kill.
“There’s one in the north, and another in the east,” he stated simply, motioning to both hiding places as he spoke. Leon “hmph”ed as he took a half step forward.
“And let me guess, you’ve got the last one,” Leon asked, half rhetorical, half sardonic. Krauser cracked the smallest of smiles, as if remembering how their mission had gone together. It disappeared just as quickly as he turned, aiming his machine gun at them.
“It means you’re on a pretty tight leash,” he countered, lining up the shot. Leon relaxed his posture, walking slowly.
“Sounds like you thought this one out pretty well,” he complimented, briefly flicking his glance to Manuela. In response, she rushed to the side, running to cover. The sudden movement made Krauser adjust his aim to fire at Manuela, and in that moment, Leon fired off his grappling hook, knocking Krauser’s gun astray as he pulled on the trigger, bullets spraying harmlessly into the walls below. With a leap, Leon rolled into cover as Krauser recovered his stance quickly, grunting in anger.
Manuela looked over as Leon made it to cover, and he met her gaze, motioning to the east area, then pointed to himself and motioned to the north. Nodding, Manuela waited for Krauser to pause firing. Swiftly, she stepped out of cover, ducking into the lower path separating the two from Krauser, which lay outside his aim. Leon took advantage of the distraction to rush towards a nearby building, completely ignoring the door in favour of sliding through the open window, throwing his arms over his head as he lay by the window, dust raining on him as bullets impacted the cover.
Rolling away, Leon took quick stock of what was in the room. A couple of barrels lay not too far from his head, and a few feet away, he could see the base of a ladder, which lead to the roof. Swinging out with his stun rod, he knocked holes in the bases of the barrels, pushing aside the bits of timbers and pulling out the ammunition he found within. Crawling closer to the ladder, he quickly pushed himself up and climbed up the ladder, hearing not only bullets impacting the metal rungs below him, but the door being kicked in. Not even waiting to reach the top, he threw himself through the hole at the top, rolling to a stop, aiming the Broken Butterfly at the hole.
In a flash of movement, Krauser somersaulted through the hole in a single bound, landing perfectly on his feet. Turning to face Leon, he briefly looked surprised before a large Magnum bullet found its way into his chest. Clutching it in pain, he staggered back, but didn’t fall over. Instead he smiled and unclipped a blue canister from his belt, tossing it at Leon. Covering his eyes, Leon had enough hearing to be able to barely hear what Krauser said over the flash explosion. “That’s what I’m talking about…”
When the flash cleared, Krauser was gone. Looking around carefully, he reloaded his gun. Standing up, he noticed one of the insignias Krauser had been talking about. Kneeling down, he could see that it displayed a panther on its face. Tucking it into his pack, he glanced at the landscape, trying to figure out a way to Manuela. His eyes drifted up the tower, and he could see a brief flash on one of the wooden paths ringing the top. The other piece, he realized.
Manuela, meanwhile, was following the lower paths, which turned with hard angles and steep walls. She was about to turn one when she heard Leon’s voice somewhere in the ruins. “The second piece is on the tower!”
Looking up, she could see one of the towers just ahead of her, and a path that seemed to lead to it. Taking a step, she was surprised when Krauser leapt over the edge, landing a dozen feet ahead of her. Drawing her weapon, she went to fire, but he jumped at her, flipping quickly before landing and knocking her arm aside, causing her to fire passed his head. At this range, she could see the still open wound on his chest that seemed as if it should have killed him. She managed to spin away as his fist swung where her head had been.
Holstering her pistol, she swung a kick at Krauser, which he caught with one hand. Continuing her spin, Manuela let the blades on her left hand spring, swinging at Krauser’s head. He ducked, but the motion loosened his grip enough that she could get her foot out. Releasing the other blade, she swung to hit him, only to have him grip her wrist and punch her square in the stomach. Fighting past the pain, she kneed him in the stomach before driving a set of claws up through his torso, causing them to emerge through his back in a bloody, but yellow tinted explosion.
Eyes widening in realization, Manuela tried to pull her claws out, but Krauser gripped her wrist, ignoring the blades in his chest as he stood and punched her straight in the face. With her claws still in his chest, she couldn’t escape and he began throwing blows at her, repeatedly striking her. Desperately, she retracted her left hand’s claws briefly, meeting Krauser’s punch with one of her own that caused the bones in his hand to crack painfully against the metal. With a flex, her claws sprung forward, impaling down the length of his arm. Grabbing his arm with her so he couldn’t escape, she yanked her hand down, causing the blades to slide out the bottom of his arm, ripping away portions of flesh and muscle, the bottom half of his arm hanging in four fleshy flaps.
When his grasp loosened, Manuela retracted the claws that were in his body and stepped away warily. Grunting in pain, Krauser looked like he was going to get back up, but instead unclipped a flash grenade from his belt and let it slip, flipping out of the trench as Manuela covered her face. When she stopped reeling from the flash, Manuela could see he had gone, but a streak of blood was splashed across the wall, showing his path towards the tower.
Leon arrived at a door embedded in the tower just as Manuela reached another door just a little ways below him and to the side. As he stepped in, Manuela rushed up the steps to meet him, only for the gates on both the doors they entered to slam down, locking them in the tower. With an annoyed shake of his head, Leon turned towards the top of the tower. “Guess this is the final confrontation.”
The pair arrived on the roof, strongest weapons out, prepared for an ambush. But only the shrieking of the wind through the ancient ruins met them. Spotting the wooden extension he had seen the insignia bit on earlier, Leon stepped cautiously onto the wood, turning to see the second piece, marked with an eagle. Motioning for Manuela to cover him, he grabbed the piece, tucking it into his backpack. The clicking of a weapon caused him to spring up, first seeing Manuela aiming her rifle, then Krauser atop a pillar of stone, aiming his machine gun at them.
“Two down, one to go Krauser,” Leon challenged, aiming his Broken Butterfly at Krauser.
“We’ll see about that,” Krauser contented, throwing his machine gun aside. Raising his arms up to the sky, he thrust out his chest. “WITNESS THE POWER!”
On command, his chest began to ripple, as if something were crawling through it. The crawling worked its way up both arms, subtly warping them at first, but soon bits of metal began to pierce through his flesh. Before too long, the metallic sections consumed his fingers, giving him a pair of armour-like, bladed wings.
“You’ve lost it completely!” Manuela said, fighting back the last sentiments of remorse as she steadied her rifle, taking aim through the thermal scope. Through it, she could see the plaga in his body, infusing his entire body, and she knew he was gone.
“Prepare for your death, comrades.” With that, Krauser leapt forward with incredible speed, kicking Leon square in the chest, knocking him off the tower before turning to Manuela. With horrific speed and precision, his blades found her own armbands, managing to break through the metal, but stopping mere centimeters from her flesh. Her now broken claws fell from her hands, no longer supported, and he kicked her away into a wall vengefully.
Leon, luckily, had caught himself on the ledge, and was struggling to climb back up. Looking up, he saw Krauser tower over him moments before the man’s combat boot crushed down on his fingers. Letting go with one hand, Leon grabbed his stun rod, using his swing to land a hit on Krauser’s leg. Taking advantage of the opening, Leon kicked off the castle wall, flipping over the edge with a solid kick to the still stunned man’s chest, knocking him back while getting back onto the tower himself. Spotting Manuela he spun the stun rod in his hand, driving it into Krauser’s chest, throwing the man back. Taking advantage of the opening, he rushed over to Manuela, grabbing her forcefully and pulling her to her feet, both of them aiming at the staggered man.
A moment passed, with Krauser raising both his arms to form an impenetrable shield. Both sides stared each other down, waiting. Rotating his shield, he raised up, approaching with one arm held in front of him as he advanced. After one of Manuela’s powerful rifle shots flicked off like it was nothing, Leon knew that wasn’t an option. Quickly, he lowered his aim, firing at Krauser’s foot. This caused the other man to fall, exposing his head. Raising his magnum, Leon fired a pair of blasts into Krauser’s head, making the man reel back. He was about to plug a third in when Manuela rushed forward, spinning a knife in her grip before driving it into Krauser’s chest. Taking out her pistol, she plugged a series of shots point blank into his chest while still keeping him up by the knife.
The man grunted, refusing to fall but unable to get up. Leon moved slowly to stand beside Manuela, looking down at his former friend. Leon realized after a moment that Manuela was holding back tears, shaking only slightly.
“I’m sorry…” she said quietly before pulling the knife out. For a moment, Krauser looked between the two of them, his expression switching rapidly between anger, pain, and something they couldn’t place. Finally, he coughed, spitting a bit of blood before moving one of his arms so they could see his waist. Attached to it was the third insignia...and a timer. With a final laugh, he fell back, the lights going out in his eyes.
Looking up, Leon didn’t second guess the ticking her heard below them. Peeking over the edge, he could see a set of explosives lacing the edges of the towers. Gently, he touched Manuela’ shoulder. “We have to get moving. This whole thing’s going to go up.”
Manuela nodded, grabbing the last insignia part, pausing only a moment beside Krauser’s corpse. Following after Leon, the two rushed down the tower, relieved to find the gates open once more. Running full tilt, the two lid over low ruin walls and skipped steps as the ran towards the door. Leon rummaged through his bag as he ran, grabbing the two pieces, while Manuela held hers in her hands. Manuela fitted hers in as Leon handed one piece to her, fitting his in moments later. As the door slid up, both agents looked at each other and slid under, rushing into the darkness. Turning a corner, they both ducked and covered their ears as an explosion rang out, sending a gust of wind down the tunnel, sending dust into the air.
While catching his breath, Leon felt a vibration in his pocket. Whipping out his com device, he frowned as he saw Saddler on the other end. “So, it seems you killed Krauser too. How should I return my appreciation?”
Leon was taken aback at the question. “What? What are you talking about? I thought he was with you?”
Manuela looked over, snapping out of her stupor. She glared daggers at Saddler as the man spoke. “What are you talking about? Did you really think I’d trust an American? To tell you the truth, I was contemplating how to get rid of you. But thanks to you, that’s no longer necessary.”
“You were just using him from the start,” Leon accused scathingly, ice in his voice. Saddler smiled annoyingly, unfazed by the retort.
“Oh I must hand it to you...You’ve demonstrated quite a bit of promise by killing Krauser. When your assimilation with Las Plagas is complete, I’ll have you serve as my guard!” Saddler suggested, a diabolic smile plastered on his face.
Leon glared at him, tilting the screen surreptitiously so Saddler could see Manuela as well. “Unfortunately, I’m going to have to decline your offer. I have prior engagements.”
Saddler frowned disapprovingly, before smiling once again. “Enjoy your smart mouthing while you can.”
With that, he terminated the call.
Leon knelt beside the cliff, angrily clutching the radio in his hand. Behind him, an entire base lay in ruins and flames, but none of it fazed him as he turned his gaze at the smouldering wreckage of a helicopter below. His grip tightened on the radio as he remembered the casual air that Saddler had when he ordered the rocket strike.
Like that, Mike, the pilot sent to help them, had been killed. As Saddler had phrased it in his mocking call afterwards, “Like swatting at an annoying fly.” The very thought of the man’s words made Leon almost crush the radio in his grip.
Softly, Manuela touched his shoulder. Leon tensed briefly, wanting to hang onto his anger, but allowed himself to soften beneath her touch. Sighing, he rose to his feet, collecting himself as he looked at the smoke trailing into the sky.
“First Luis, now Mike...how many people have to die helping me?” Leon wondered aloud, his voice flat. Manuela said nothing, instead just keeping her hand on his shoulder, tightening her grip slightly.
After a moment, Leon turned away from the wreckage, the effort of looking away visible in his motion. He cycled through his weapons, topping them up with a determined and stoney gaze before pulling out his pistol. “Come on, let’s go kill that bastard.”
Manuela nodded, following behind Leon as they entered the facility, stepping into a hut-like room that served as one of the entrances. About halfway across, Leon coughed violently, buckling over. Manuela turned, realizing what was happening right as another person walked into the room. Entering the door they had just come through was Ada, looking on with slight confusion. Stepping towards Leon, she looked to Manuela. “Leon, are you okay?”
Manuela moved for Ada, pushing her out of the way as Leon stood up slowly, turning with a slow, methodical motion. Immediately, Manuela noticed his red eyes, and didn’t bother to move as he lunged for her. When his hands found her neck, her hands found his belt. Quickly, she searched for his stun baton, struggling with the clasp as his grip tightened. Ada gasped in surprise at the sight, starting to stand up when Manuela located the baton and rammed it straight into Leon’s side. The pain caused him to let go and he reeled back.
His hand went into his pocket, retrieving the pill bottle. Flipping it open, he poured out the pills hastily, downing a few of them, coughing painfully. Stumbling around, he eventually leaned against the wall, coughs wracking his body. Manuela stepped over to him, rubbing his back. After a moment he stood, and Manuela could see his eyes had once more returned to their former grey. Wordlessly, she hugged him closely, causing him to groan.
“Sorry,” she said quickly, letting him go. He waved off her concern, leaning back, rubbing his lower back.
“We have to get that parasite out of your body,” Ada commented, already stepping towards one of the doors out.
“We have to find Ashley first,” Leon coughed, finally standing back up all the way.
“Alright, let’s split up,” she suggested, firing off her grappling hook to some unseen perch, whipping out of view. Manuela watched her go before turning to Leon.
“Are you okay? I thought for a moment…”
“I’m fine. We’re close. Let’s get Ashley and get this damn thing out of me,” Leon commanded, pushing ahead. Manuela watched him with concern for a moment, biting her lip in indecision before following him.
Leon began to step forward as he spotted Ashley suspended in a strange cryo tube. However, both he and Manuela stopped on point, sensing another presence. Turning, they saw Saddler standing behind them, powerful and imposing. He gestured towards Leon with an almost father like motion.
“You’ll soon harbor an awesome power. Yet it seems you would rather choose death,” he stated, shaking his head disappointedly.
“I’m taking Ashley back, whether you like it or not.”
“Ah, the audacity of youth,” Saddler laughed, moments before charging Leon, slamming a palm into him. Leon flew backwards in an arc, impacting the glass solidly before falling beside. He tried to stand himself up, forcing himself up despite horrific coughs and near hurls, bracing himself against the canister. Saddler raised his hand to slam Manuela, but a burst of machine gun fire was sent into his back, causing him to shake with impacts. Manuela backed away from his reach to see the source was none other than Ada, positioned on a higher platform.
“Leon, now!” she commanded, raising the gun once more. Leon nodded, slamming a button on the side of the canister, causing it to slide open with a hiss. Manuela rushed over to join him, and together they released Ashley’s bonds, and Manuela threw the barely conscious girl over her shoulder. Turning, they saw Saddler standing rigidly, groaning as he expelled the bullets from within his body through his hand, the small, spent bits of metal clinking on the floor.
“Move!” Ada yelled, firing into Saddler, her shots having less impact this time. They didn’t seem to faze him at all in fact, as he just slowly advanced towards the two agents, unharried. Leon and Manuela heeded Ada’s advice, running to the door on the far side of the room, turning just in time to see Ada aim above them, igniting one of the barrel that lay on a platform there. With an explosion, the barrels cascaded down, and they were thrown back in a burst of dust and debris that collapsed the entrance.
Leon took a step towards the debris, moving to defend Ada, but realised there was no way back, and even then, he still had to protect Ashley. The girl had woken up slightly, and Manuela was trying to get her up and moving. Ashley nodded dimly, rousing from her sleep quickly. Soon, she was up and leaning on Manuela for support. Leon moved passed them, making sure the hallway was clear as they limped behind him.
Encountering a door, Leon approached, reaching out to open it, only to have it slide open automatically. Inside, he could see various machines that he could recognize from Luis’ notes. He ushered Manuela and Ashley inside, holstering his pistol as he leaned over the machine, inspecting it. A control panel to the side caught his attention, and he realized it must control the machine.
“I’ll go first,” he elected. Manuela looked up from Ashley, who she had been administering a first aid spray to. She moved to object, but Leon interrupted. “If it doesn’t work, we’ve killed the President’s daughter. If I go and it fails, she still has you.”
Manuela stared at him for a moment, wanting to object, but eventually just nodded her head. As Leon climbed into the chair and the clamps engaged, she looked at Ashley, who looked between her and Leon and nodded once, passing a silent understanding between them.
Manuela moved beside the chair, placing a hand on Leon’s arm. She gripped it tightly, looking down at him with fear in her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she quickly leaned down, planting a kiss on Leon’s lips. For a moment, he was too surprised to do much, but at the last moment, he returned the kiss before they parted. Composing herself, Manuela looked down at him, a mixture of emotions in her eyes. Silently, she held his gaze for a moment before she moved over to the control panel. Glancing at Leon, she waited for him to nod before she engaged the device.
A pair of arms extended from the ceiling, pointing at Leon’s chest. With a hum, they fired a pair of bright lasers into his chest, causing him to strain against his bonds in pain, though he only produced strained grunting. Manuela held her breath as she watched the screen, where it displayed the parasite wriggling in protest, trying to dodge the lasers. Eventually, it seemed to give up and let go, breaking into pieces that dissolved quickly. As the device powered off, Leon lay back in his seat, panting heavily.
Racing over to him, Manuela undid the clasps, hugging him tight, burying her face in his neck. He returned the hug, sitting up slowly. Pulling away, she looked at him with worry. “How are you feeling?”
“Like a million bucks,” he joked as he stood, stretching his sore muscles. He motioned for Ashley to take his place. As she settled in nervously, Leon went over to the controls. Ashley glanced at Manuela nervously, and the older girl gently held Ashley’s hand. Giving the signal to start, Ashley tensed in preparation, crushing Manuela’s hand in her grip as it began.
Her screams were not as suppressed and she gasped in pain, forcing Manuela to grip her hand with both. When Ashley’s parasite melted away, the device stopped and she fell back, her hand weakly gripping Manuela’s. When the restraints came off, Manuela helped her sit up, only to be wrapped in a hug. Smiling gently, she patted Ashley’s back.“It’s okay. You’re safe now. Let’s go home,” she comforted. Ashley nodded, pushing herself out of the chair, looking at the other door out of the room. As the three regarded it, they knew that things were coming to an end. Leon and Manuela prepared their weapons, gazes determined.