Part 2 - 2
Seven years since D-day. Five years since the Earth Dominion’s establishment. It wasn’t even a third of the time humans lived in space before D-day, but events spiraled quicker than any time in history.
The city changed dramatically too. It was a nameless city only referred to as the first combined settlement of humans. Now the government named it Parousia. I laughed at it when I first heard the news. It was a word never fit for a city’s name; it will never be fit for such a hypocritical place like that either.
Still, I understood why they would name a mere city by such cumbersome name. Everyone dreams of places they really want to live. And everyone wants to live in the places they dream of. Part of the reason why I named my society Eden.
“You ready?” I asked Scarlet. She nodded. We covered our heads with our hoods and stepped closer to the gate. The gate was open during the day so that people can wander around freely. Still, there were always guards on the lookout. And I doubted anybody had forgotten the day when there were two blackouts along with a group of Crusaders implementing an exodus from the city.
As we walked closer, I felt the awkward feeling you get when it seems like someone’s staring at you. I couldn’t see the behavior of the guards at the top of the barricade but it was extremely uncomfortable.
“Wait,” said one of the soldiers as we just entered the gate. He blocked us when his rifle. He cocked his head so he could see our faces. “I don’t remember any hooded people exiting the city this morning…”
“Are you going to let us in? I have an errand to run,” I said indifferently. The guard looked at me, narrowing its eyes. “We’re not some Hunters, here. Just let us in.”
The guard sneered and lowered his rifle. He had the others open the gate.
We entered the city which was much larger than I had remembered. I saw more houses, larger marketplaces, taller buildings and leisurely areas. Hell, they designed a square in the middle of the city, also made as a park for people to slack off.
Those patrolling were not all riflemen. There were Raven units, dressed up in full armor. They were armed with a sword and a handgun by their side. Considering the huge number of Ravens and some Crusaders still left, the Dominion seemed to have found a source of material to make new swords.
“Where are we headed?” Scarlet finally asked. I was going in circles for nearly half an hour when she asked. “Are you waiting for someone?”
“Sorry,” I said. I looked around from the square. Cafés were full of people and restaurants had families eating lunch. But there were no sign of the one I was waiting for. The one I needed to gain information. I sighed when I failed to locate the person.
“Is it him?”
“…” I took one last look around. “Yes. He –“
“Isn’t that him?” she pointed at the middle of the park, a mid-aged man. He was looking as if he was resting under the warmth of the sun, sitting on the bench all by himself. I smirked at his look.
I walked to him, sat just side to him. Scarlet took a seat beside me as well. The man, however, behaved as we were invisible.
“You have some balls to come back here,” he said. He took out a cigarette. “Or, should I just thank you for not killing your way in here?”
“I heard you’re the main director again,” I said. He lit a fire and started puffing out grey smoke. “Five years is a short time. Isn’t it Han?”
“I’m surprised you didn’t know. The world is speeding its way forward. Look around you. I didn’t expect anyone holding a sword unless they are Crusaders or some lunatic,” he said. “When we just landed here, making a newborn society, we treated the soldiers old-fashioned, out-of-date. Now, we’re in their position.”
“How many of them?”
“Now that’s classified,” Han chuckled like an old man. “But the Crusaders… we’re down to 150. We haven’t had recruits for almost four years. Still, the good news is that about fifty of them are veterans. They’ve been through at least two lair raids.”
“At least you have about the same number as us,” I sneered.
“You’re joking, Leon. Our Crusaders lack in every way than yours.
“We’re not Crusaders anymore,” I snapped. His eyeballs turned at me. He threw the cigarette on the ground and killed the fire.
“I don’t think you’ve come here for a chat with me,” he said. “What the hell do you want?”
“Have you seen any developing lair in our direction?” I asked.
“No. Truth be told, I haven’t seen a lair in ages. Now I’m not talking about the Crusaders, I mean the Ravens as well. It seems like this region and part of yours are wiped out,” said Han. “Why?”
“We’ve seen an abnormally large group of Hunter scout this morning.”
“They’re not robots who just count the exact number of their scout. They’re creatures that have brain. Variation should be expected,” the director said bluntly.
“Have you ever seen ten Hunters and a commanding unit leading a scout, blindly in the woods?”
“Then you should know we have a problem. I want to know what you know so far,” I demanded.
“I can’t do that, Leon.”
“When was you’re last raid?”
“Scarlet, I believe your boyfriend needs some sleep,” Han said stretching out his neck.
“Just tell us. I’m sure none of us want any business with each other besides this,” she said calmly. Han sighed.
“The last raid was seven months ago. Hell… that lair was a hellhole. We fought five days straight; every one of us couldn’t sleep for over two hours during that time,” said Han gritting his teeth. “We had a truck full of Ravens killed and thirty good Crusaders dead before we had the lair to the ground. I felt like Hornet’s Nest all over again.”
“I think not.”
“Believe me. There were two Controllers. One, we called the Defiler. The other, we named it Tank. Of course, they didn’t have much basic units or commanding units. But every one of them were much stronger,” said Han. I froze. Two Controllers? “Unfortunately, the Ravens screwed up at the last bit and let one of the Controllers flee.”
“Which one?” I asked. Han looked at me as if he knew what I was thinking. “Can you describe the Controller that fled?”
“It was the Defiler. He had a long pole-like weapon. It literally ‘dived’ through weapons. Our people say it’s something like solidified acid, but I think that’s ridiculous because it doesn’t explain how that thing holds it in the first place. Other than that, it looked like any other Controller,” he said. He spat. “Our blacksmith had to work three days straight to restore the number of our weapon.”
I glanced at Scarlet nervously. She was trying to look normal but I sensed the slight anxiety in her.
“So that was the last one?”
“Yes. After that, we’ve only seen small groups of Hunters strolling in the woods. Probably those that survived the raid,” he said. “Maybe the group that strolled into your woods was not scouting, but just wandering to survive.”
“…” Nothing. Risking my time to come here was good for nothing in the end. The godforsaken place was the last city I wanted to come. “Well… you haven’t been much of a help. But I guess I have to thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he smirked in a way that disturbed me very much.
I stood up and took Scarlet by the arm and started reversing the direction toward the gate. For a moment, I hesitated whether I should talk more about the Controller that fled; where it went, and how that thing ended up at another lair.
“Leon… let’s just leave. We don’t need to cause a fuss,” she whispered in my ears. Apparently, she knew what was disturbing me.
“She’s right. You don’t belong here. Not anymore,” Han said from behind. I glared back at him and he simply took out another cigarette and started smoking his second.
Scarlet pushed me forward to leave the city. As reluctant as I was to leave, for I wasn’t quite satisfied with what I learned, something seemed like telling me I had more business to do – it was indeed ironic.
President of Earth Dominion stood up from his chair. He went over to the main director of the Crusaders and gave him a cup of whiskey. The room was so quiet that the pouring of the whiskey sounded so noisy. After that, the president went back to his chair without a word. The main director also found a seat on the sofa and made himself comfortable. He took a sip of the whiskey and lowered the cup on the glass table in front.
“You don’t like it?” Jerrod asked.
“No, I like the drink,” Han said quickly. He took the glass cup again and this time, he drank the whole cup. “I just don’t like the person who just gave me a drink.”
“It matters very much, I realize,” shrugged the president. He raised the bottle of whiskey. “Want some more?”
“No.” Jerrod lowered the bottle on his desk, almost looking soar.
“Truth be told, Han, I called you up here because I expected something from you,” said Jerrod. “It seems like no one is around me these days ever since Vincent died.”
“I thought you hated him?”
“I did and I will always do,” spat the president. “At least he pretended to help me. Nowadays, nobody really treats me like a president; more like a… puppet. What really sucks is that the puppeteer is this godforsaken world. I just can’t get rid the strings attached to my body.”
“Real poetic,” said Han, bored.
“The moment that mad scientist died, I was happy because I didn’t have to be in someone’s grasp. But…”
“Look, Jerrod. I don’t have time to listen to your whining. Just get to the point,” Han snapped. He looked at the president right in the eyes. “Look at you. Nobody treats you like a president because you don’t act like one; hell, you don’t even look like one. If someone from the outside world sees you, they’ll see you as some drunkard who always sits inside his room, drinking and complaining about the world.”
“What I want to say is that when Vincent Greg died –“
“I don’t give a shit about what you say about his death!” yelled Han. Jerrod froze. “Look at you Jerrod. Look at us. We’re both out-of-date. The Ravens are everything. The Ravens are all the people care about. They’re strong. They’re capable. They’re protectors. It doesn’t matter how well we fought in the past, how well you did in the past. The people only care about the present. And right now, we’re nothing. So quit whining because it won’t make any difference.”
“…” the president dropped his head in disappointment. “I noticed you met Leon today.”
Han tried not to look surprised. Jerrod sneered.
“I wonder how he’s living. How he’s leading his community,” he said, almost murmuring to himself. “Eden. By the name of it, anyone would long to go there, even myself. And… by the rising population of people leaving the city, I think he’s doing a fine job making a real ‘Eden’.”
“The population crossed the 500 line a few months ago,” Han said, regaining his tranquility. “Still he has lots ahead of him.”
“What did he say?”
“About lairs and Hunters,” Han said. He went back to fidgeting his cup. “He seemed to know about the Defiler.”
“The Controller with itchy feet,” Jerrod chuckled lifelessly.
“He encountered a group of Hunters incorporating a commanding unit. The group was only eleven units in total,” said Han. “He came here, in five years, to find some answers for that.”
“Well, you can say he had his reasons,” said Jerrod.
“I’m afraid I can’t say that. I can’t say he just ran off just because Michelle died in the hospital. It’s not like someone killed her,” said Han growling. “Things could have gone very different that night.”
Jerrod said nothing to that. How will Han react if he hears the whole story? How will Leon react?
“Any luck?” Lucas asked as we stepped out of the helicopter at Eden.
“Yes and no,” I said. “Is everyone here?”
“They all came back a couple of minutes ago.”
“Good, I want everyone at the headquarter in ten minutes,” I ordered. Lucas nodded and went away.
At the headquarter, all first 20 along with Lucas sat on a large round table. Everyone was member of the Council. Except Lucas, everyone was the most skilled living fighter this planet has ever known. They were all present during the Exodus. They helped build the society, defend it and fortify it. For that, I taught them my techniques – how to use them as effective as possible without the use of innate ‘ability’ which I alone possessed.
When I sat down in the middle, everyone else followed.
“Before we begin… let’s hear what we have so far,” I said.
“There was a group of eleven Hunters during the exam at A-1 this morning. Ten were basic units and the last one was a purple one. Two initiatives were killed during the clean-up,” reported Mia. “Fortunately none escaped.”
“The area around Eden is perfectly wiped out of Hunters except for one part,” Numen announced. “About fifteen kilometers north, there’s a huge group of Hunters. We couldn’t approach very closely to see whether it was a developing lair site. But most likely it is.”
“Any chance of not being a lair site?”
“I’ve never seen such a large group around a developing site but I don’t believe there’s any more reason than that,” he said.
“How many did you count?” I asked.
“I’m sure that it was over 150 Hunters,” he replied. The Council started murmuring with each other. “But they were very stationary when we found them. It was like they were ordered to not move. For now they’re not really a threat but I believe this might become a problem in the near future.”
“So… any good ideas how to get rid of this threat as quick as possible?” I asked the others.
“Fight them off?” Kale suggested.
“No that’s ridiculous. There really might just be 150 of them, but there might be 300 of them too. We should wait for now,” said Tyson.
“Waiting is not an option. If those things know we’re here, they might decide to attack us,” Yura interrupted.
“I say offense is the best defense for now!” Neal claimed.
“Offense against a group of enemy without intelligence? I’d say the opposite is the right answer for now,” Raul refuted.
And everyone started shouting out what they think about the problem. The Council had reliable people but it seemed like a group of even the most trustworthy people can spoil them.
“This isn’t going anywhere,” Lucas said quietly from my side. I knew that but it didn’t mean the problem had a straight answer either. Finally, I banged the table hard with the hilt of my sword three times. Everyone went quiet and sat back in their seats.
“Attacking is not an option because numbers matter little now because at least the twenty of us can kill basic units until we die of exhaustion. What matters are the Controllers and the commanding units,” I said. I paused, wondered whether I should just say it. “I visited Parousia just now.”
Some of them stood up from their chairs and was about the shout out something. I guess it was more shocking to them than I expected. I raised my hands and had them seated again.
“The Earth Dominion hasn’t seen a lair or a developing one for months. The last one they saw had two Controllers,” I said. “One of them, they called it Tank and I believe the Ravens did their job with that one.”
“The other one?” Kale asked.
“The other one escaped. They called it the Defiler…” I said scanning through the Slayers in front of me. “And this one, we are very familiar with it.”
“Well, we haven’t seen Controllers or lairs in months too…”
“This one is the same one that fled from the last raid we implemented before the Exodus,” I said. There were questions of how I knew. “It had the same weapon – the one that melted through swords.”
“Well, what about it?” Mia asked. All eyes shot at her but she didn’t look hesitative. “I don’t get why how it connects with what we were saying.”
“A-1 is the first block of area a few clicks up north of Eden. The group of Hunters was found there this morning. And we have a Controller on the run that had survived for almost five years and even co-existed with another group of Hunters,” I said. “We always believed, since lairs had separate leaders, they were practically in conflict with other lairs like humans when we were divided into countries in the past. But that is now proved wrong.”
“Hunters, especially Controllers can now join in group with one another to form another larger group of Hunters. That doesn’t mean lairs can’t join together either,” I said. I scanned again through the faces of the twenty members. I figured they were getting the point. “If you’re getting what I’m saying right now, I think there might be some kind of a link the three events that happened: a random commanding unit at A-1, the large group of Hunters up at North, and a Controller with experience of joining another group, on the run.”
Jerrod was feeling low ever since Han visited. He wondered whether he was regretting calling Han into his room for advice. Advice… mockery and criticism was all.
The president wandered around his room drinking a new bottle of wine, this time. He whistled some songs and he sang to the melody. He guessed the guards outside his room might think he’s gone mad but it didn’t matter so much to him now. I lost that respect long ago. Part of why he felt horrible after Han’s talk was because almost every bit of it was true.
Then Jerrod stopped in the middle of the room like he was enlightened to something. He took a drink from his bottle and walked straight forward, towards the wall behind his desk. He was drunk and the president knew that but that didn’t matter much either.
With his left hand, he pushed the palm against the wall. And then suddenly, the hand pushed into a sort of a lever. The wall turned and exposed an open corridor that led to the darkness in the distance. Jerrod chuckled like an insane man.
“Time to see an old friend…”