The sound of water droplets echoed through the walls of the underground tunnels. It was the only sound in the underground tunnels. The pitch blackness was the perfect cover for the five men who lay lifeless on the ground as they held their breaths. However, that did little to comfort them. The sound of water droplets was soon overshadowed by the growling and rapid footsteps that were quickly approaching their location. The five men lay motionless but their bodies tensed up as soon as they heard the footsteps and growling quickly making its way to their location. Their bodies tensed up subconsciously as there was no other place for them to go. It was a dead end. If they were discovered, it would mean their death. Despite the immense pain and fatigue, they each felt at varying levels, not a single one of them spoke or made a sound. They forcefully controlled their breathing.
“Stay with me, Shane…” Quinn, the leader of the group whispered. He could see the light flickering red on Shane’s left hand.
There was no response. Shane’s body was slowly getting cold to the touch.
“Crap!” Quinn gritted his teeth. He looked directly above him, through the small opening in the tunnel, the creatures that had ambushed them were still present. This was to be expected. Stupid as the creatures were, they could pick up the scent of the five of them. Their scent still lingered directly above their location. Fortunately, they had managed to fall into a tunnel that had a small amount of water flowing through it. This had helped mask their scents. Unfortunately for them, the creatures above them were innately drawn to hearts. It was instinctive for them.
Quinn knew they were safe as long as they waited it out through the night, provided they were not sensed by the creatures. Once it was sunrise, the creatures would have no choice but to return to hiding. Unfortunately, they did not have that luxury. To make matters worse, they for starters, are in the underground sewers. This was probably the most likely place for the creatures to seek refuge from the sun. Secondly, Shane could die at any moment. He had almost depleted his heart manna entirely from the battle with the opposite team. He had continued to deplete his heart to escape from the creatures. If his heart turned to zero, he would be just like the creatures above them. At that time, death would be sure for the rest of them.
“We are losing him,” Leo whispered. His voice, although quiet, did little to hide the panic he was feeling. “He’s losing too much blood. We got to do something about it. It’s only a matter of time before the creatures smell his blood and locate us or worse...” Leo pushed down on Shane’s abdomen with force as he tried to slow down the bleeding. Although he had not finished his sentence, the three other men were well aware of what he meant.
Quinn gritted his teeth as his mind wrestled between his emotions and the logical thing to do. The logical thing to do would be to end Shane’s life, but his conscience would not let him. The longer they stayed, the lower their probability of leaving alive. His decision not only affected him but the other men in the same predicament as him. As the leader, it was his job to ensure the safety of his teammate.
“Hold out Shane,” Quinn whispered. He was going to take a gamble on their lives and hope that they somehow manage to pull through.
“What are you doing?” Despite the pitch blackness, Zach who was closest to Quinn could hear the slight movement of Quinn’s body.
There was no response from Quinn.
“Look at them leaving,” Daniel whispered. This caused Leo and Zach to look above them. They could hear the footsteps of the creatures moving further away from their location. “It’s almost daybreak,” Daniel answered.
“We got to get out of here. Come on-” Zach was just about to pull himself up when he felt Quinn activate his heart manna.
“W-What are you d-doing?” Zach, Daniel, and Leo both looked in Quinn’s direction with shock and dismay. “Stop!” The three of them dragged their badly bruised body from the ground and tried to push Quinn off Shane, but they had overestimated their abilities and underestimated how badly injured they were.
“You do not have to do that Quinn! We can still get Shane to the hospital in time!”
The three men stared at their leader who was in a great deal of pain. Despite the pitch darkness, they could see what was happening clearly as though it were day. They had channeled their heart manna to their eyes. This made seeing in the dark an easy feat.
Quinn, in agony, continued to infuse his heart manna into Shane’s body. The process was extremely painful. Quinn’s body was visibly aging while Shane’s open wounds were closing at a visible rate. His pale skin had turned pinkish. He was not completely healed, but compared to his previous condition, he was much better. Quinn on the other hand was suffering. His skin had turned pale and shriveled, while some parts of his hair had turned grey and the other parts had fallen off. He had rapidly aged within a few seconds. The sight alone was scary to Daniel, Zach, and Leo who watched with horror on their face. They were not sure if they would have done the same thing Quinn had done if they were in his position. He was bleeding from his eyes, nose, and ears, yet, he continued infusing his heart manna into Shane’s unconscious body.
Approximately a minute into the process, Quinn’s body began to twitch uncontrollably.
“Oh no!” Daniel had noticed something off and quickly pulled himself up from the ground.
“What is it?” Leo asked as he watched Daniel hurriedly rush to Quinn’s location despite his grievous injuries.
“Can’t you see it?” Daniel pointed towards Quinn. “It’s no longer Quinn offering his manna to Shane, it’s Shane sucking Quinn’s manna unconsciously. Quinn can’t stop even if he wanted to. We have to get him off Shane or he will die.” Daniel, activating his heart manna started to heal his wounds and numb the pain he was in.
“Crap!” Zach and Leo immediately forced their heart manna to heal and numb their wounds to push Quinn off, Shane. They knew if they delayed, Quinn would die a painful death and Shane would hate himself for the rest of his life.
“Quinn!” The three men gritted their teeth as they pulled Quinn away from Shane. Exerting as much force as they could muster with the little heart manna they had left, the three men managed to pry Quinn off, Shane.
“Quinn?” Leo called out as Quinn fell to the ground motionless.
“Is he?” Zach’s voice was a little shaky as he tried not to think of the worst possible outcome.
“He’s unconscious…” Daniel said with a pained expression. He had just seen the most selfless act in his entire life.
The three men looked at his lifeless body and felt immense sorrow and rage. They were in pain seeing Quinn’s condition; their rage came from a feeling of helplessness. They still did not know how the mission had taken a turn for the worse. It was supposed to be an easy operation. Things had gone smoothly at the start; it was in the crucial moment that everything had turned into chaos. They still had no idea how the creatures had gotten there and why it seemed like they had been set up.
Shane slowly regained consciousness as he slowly tried to push himself off the wet ground of the tunnel.
“Shane…” Zach quickly helped Shane up as soon as he regained consciousness.
“What happened?” Shane asked as he rubbed his head. “Hmm?” Shane knew his body best. He knew what condition the body was in just before he lost consciousness. “What’s going on? Did you guys die as well?” Shane asked as he looked around. The pitch blackness coupled with his almost healed body created the impression that he was dead. He knew he was at death’s door just before he passed out. The last thing he heard was Quinn’s voice telling him to hold on.
Shane was just about to ask Leo what had happened when he saw the lifeless body of Quinn next to him. “What happened to Quinn?” Shane reached over and held Quinn. He had barely recognized the old-looking man. It was the clothes that had helped him identify his leader.
“Quinn…” Daniel wanted to explain what had happened, but the sight of Quinn sacrificing himself was etched in his mind. He still could not comprehend what he had seen. Heart manna is life to the men in their world. The higher the amount of Heart manna a man amassed, the longer they got to live. There had been many stories of young men robbing heart manna from family members just so they could live to die another day. Yet, Quinn had sacrificed the very currency of life to save Shane. He could not begin to quantify what that meant.
The reason creatures known as heartless existed was because they had run out of Heart Manna. No one knows why, but whenever men ran out of Heart manna, they would turn into mindless creatures that haunted and fed on the heart manna of men. It was different with women. Women without hearts would simply start to age and eventually die a natural death unless they found love. Then they and their chosen partner would live for as long as their love remained true.
Shane seeing the look on Leo, Daniel and Zach immediately understood what had happened. He turned to the unconscious Quinn with a look of horror, grief, and gratitude.
“You idiot! Why would you do something so stupid!?” Shane overcome with emotions let out a roar in grief. He held onto Quinn’s frail body as tears rolled down his cheeks. Seeing Quinn’s present state, no one among them did not feel pain.
“We got to go.” Daniel looked at the far end of the tunnel. There was a loud growl followed by faint footsteps. Shane’s brief moment of emotion had alerted the heartless creatures that were hiding from the sunlight.
Without wasting much time, the four of them gently picked up Quinn’s body. Activating their heart manna, the four of them leaped out of the tunnel and raced towards their hideout.