It's been three days since I last saw Ceo.
The mission was supposed to be simple -- dash in, destroy the Dead Knight, the source of the virus that was changing people into zombies, and then dash out -- but somewhere along the way, things had gotten out of control.
And now I was stuck with no way out.
We should have prepared better, but how was I to know that we would get separated? That wasn’t on the agenda! Now, on top of our original containment mission, I also had to find Ceo. Just where in the world has he disappeared off to?
I refused to believe that the zombies had gotten to him. I know I always joke around that out of all of us, Ceo is the most likely to drop dead and then climb back up as a zombie to finish his work, but that doesn’t mean I actually want it to happen! Who would do my paperwork in that case? I doubt zombified Ceo would listen to me!
Damn that stingy Pope. He didn’t nearly give me enough money for this mission.
Beyond my sight, something stirred.
That had to be dragging feet.
I quickly crouched behind a pillar for cover, gun held tightly in my hands. I’d never been a good shot, unlike my teacher who’s known to be the strongest Agent Sun in history, but cut me some slack, okay? It’s not like I purposely miss my shots! If I could, I’d like to shoot bullseye each time too, considering that these bullets, once charged, are what we’d discovered to be the most effective against zombies.
Sometimes, I kind of wished that receiving my teacher's codename meant that I'd have also received his ridiculous skills with a gun. Why hadn't I managed to absorb any of his skill? It's a miracle he didn't shoot me and kill me off right from the start with how frustrated he always got over my dismal skills.
The noise was louder now. So close.
Even I couldn’t miss at this range!
Whirling out from behind the pillar, I charged my bullet and took my shot.
The bullet buried itself three pillars over, leaving a splotch of gold as my energy dispersed. That was... what I had been planning on doing from the start! What, you don’t believe me? Come on, it’s not like I blast my targets away without taking a look at them first!
Considering that my target looked like a person and not a zombie, I was glad my aim was terrible- I mean, not so good.
A wry smile greeted me. “Grisia, you’re as bad a shot as ever.”
I started. That voice...
In the dark, it took me a moment to place him, his features much more angular than I remembered. I strained my eyes; the crumbling walls only let in a sliver of moonlight.
“Roland?” I questioned when he slowly came under the moonlight.
It has to have been at least ten years...but that’s Roland, no doubt about it.
I hadn’t seen him ever since he disappeared from L.I.G.H.T. right after my teacher chose me as his successor. At the time, everyone thought Roland would be the one to get chosen -- his skills with a gun were deadly -- but for some reason, my teacher hadn’t chosen him. I’d wondered for years why I had been chosen instead. What did I have going for me other than my appearance? It was true that all Agent Suns in the past have had blond hair and blue eyes -- I could even be considered a double for my teacher -- but surely Roland’s skill outweighed even that? He could have dyed his hair like what Ceo did!
In any case, Roland was right before me at the moment.
Swallowing, I lowered my gun. “Where have you been all this time?” Why did you disappear from L.I.G.H.T.? I thought we agreed that we would take on the world together! We did think that you would become Sun instead of me, but...I... I wasn’t trying to betray you... I never thought I’d get chosen...
Still, I could not bring myself to say I would relinquish my position. Not then. Not now. I’d really wanted to become Sun. It was the dream of all little boys, and it had been my dream too, to stand amongst eleven others as their leader and brother. Now more than ever. I’d found myself a family, having never known one before this.
Even though I had asked only a single question, Roland seemed to understand what I really wanted to ask. “Grisia... I merely had to leave. I had to find a place to belong.”
Like me, Roland had been an orphan. I’d found my place, but Roland... It was my fault after all.
“What happened to your leg?” I asked, even though what I really wanted to do was yell at him for leaving, to scream out loud my years and years worth of apologies.
He looked down. His pants were slightly torn, the blue fibers fraying. “Ah, this? I got nicked by a stray bullet. It hasn’t healed yet.”
Frowning, I went over to his side. “Here, let me heal that-”
Roland put up a hand to stop me. “No, it’s okay, Grisia, save your energy.”
“What-” I started. Even though I wasn’t all that great with a gun, I was at least versed in energy manipulation. I could help stimulate his regeneration!
“We’re surrounded,” Roland said, eyes flicking to the side and then back again.
And so we were. The zombies were everywhere, glowing eyes staring at us.
“This way,” Roland said, limping towards an archway that led to a corridor. “Hurry, Grisia!”
I tore my eyes away from the glowing eyes and hurried after Roland. Don’t ask me how a man with a limp can move so quickly!
All around us, zombies closed in. I shot crazily into the fray. With so many zombies around us, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a good shot. My bullets were bound to hit something! I shot, blasting off limbs here and there, guts splattering the ground. The zombies practically sizzled, smoke rising whenever I hit them. There was something in our energy, something akin to holiness, that caused this reaction in the undead.
It was almost like old times with Roland leading the way, but the zombies just wouldn’t stop coming.
This won’t do.
I tweaked the energy behind me to form a barrier, something I’d learned from watching Georgo (he’d probably bust a blood vessel if he knew I’d learned his signature technique). Right after that, the zombies smacked directly into the barrier, pounding at the barrier but finding no way through. My barrier glowed golden behind me, courtesy of my handiwork. Each of us produced a distinct color when we manipulated energy. Our bullets left behind residues of our energy too. Mine was obviously golden. Ceo’s was blue.
“Nifty,” Roland commented.
I nodded in agreement, the dull pounding of the zombies behind us growing fainter as we made our way through the ruins. Roland led me through meandering hallways and countless doors. When we neared what had to be the entrance, now our exit, we slowed down.
“I can’t believe so many have been turned into zombies here... Where did they all come from?” I wondered out loud.
I’d been investigating these ruins with Ceo. We’d come across a zombie here and there but had never seen so many all in one place. The place Roland and I had left behind had to be where the Dead Knight was after all. The source. I had to go back. Even though the exit was right in front of me, I had to go back.
“Where are you going?” Roland asked.
“I have to go back,” I said. “The Dead Knight must have been back there. My comrade Ceo is still in here somewhere too.”
Roland looked at me, his brown clothes bathed by the moonlight that shone in from the exit. His expression brought me back all the way to our training days when he had looked at me with that same expression countless times. Worry. Resignation. After Roland’s disappearance, Lesus had taken over, but before Lesus, it had always been Roland. “That place was infested with zombies. Going back isn’t a good idea. Look, the exit is just over there.”
“It’s my duty, Roland. I am Sun after all,” I said, already turning to head back. “You don’t have to follow me.”
“You are Sun, that’s true...” Roland murmured. “Which means-”
I smiled widely, the smile stretching across my face. That was right. I was Sun. I’d always wanted to be Sun. What was currently plastered across my face was one of my fakest smiles ever -- I’d always hated smiling even though my teacher had instructed me that smiling was the best mask for hiding my emotions. Now, the smile came unbidden, but I felt not an ounce of mirth.
I whirled around and shot Roland, my bullet actually flying true.
His shoulder smoked and glowed golden, screaming for all to see that I had shot him. Well, only I was around to see his smoking shoulder, but that was plenty.
He wasn’t human. Like I had thought.
Pain overtaken by surprise, Roland looked up. You knew? his eyes seemed to ask.
“Where is Ceo?” I pressed. “Where. Is. He?”
“How...?” he gasped, gripping his shoulder. “When...?”
I flicked my eyes down, indicating Roland’s leg injury. He had been shot by a bullet. Ceo’s bullet. Roland’s clothes weren’t even blue -- the moonlight clearly illuminated the rest of his clothes and showed me that. Only the fibers around the tear where the bullet had grazed him were blue. Residue from Ceo’s energy signature.
“He’s fine,” Roland said.
“But? I hear a but coming.” I kept my gun trained on Roland. My aim wasn’t great, but I could damn well blast him with enough energy that even if my aim was super off, it wouldn’t matter.
“He’s been turned,” Roland grinned, dark energy gathering around him. “My comrade now.”
“You!” I growled. My hand shook, but I didn’t shoot. “Stop this. Stop lying.”
Don't. This isn't you.
“What? I’m not...”
“You’re just trying to get me to shoot you. You’re the Dead Knight, aren’t you? No, you’re even more evolved than that. At least a Death Knight. How many people have you turned?”
“Countless. Shoot me.”
“Grisia, please, only you can do it... I thought I could... a place to belong... I thought I could do this... from the inside... but I can't hold on anymore...”
As he spoke, the dark energy around him swirled, condensing into wings. His eyes blazed.
Roland, oh Roland. You only ever wanted a place to belong. How long have you been here? How could I have failed you so much?
Dead Knights didn’t retain their lucidity, but once evolved into a Death Knight, Roland must have regained his consciousness. But now, he was losing it again. It was simply too much dark energy.
He'd wanted me to get away. I'd have gone, but Ceo...
I pulled the trigger.
Three hours later, I finally found Ceo.
He was fine.