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109 Gathering at the Gates

 Day 4 - 7:02 AM - Buhay na Tubig St., Buhay na Tubig, Imus, Cavite

Back during the time that the gang was being eliminated by Mark, a group of vehicles consisting of several police patrol cars, a passenger van and family car covered with thin vines were rushing towards Firenze. With the family car and the passenger van as the exception, the patrol cars had the policemen who had gone out from Firenze.

Every morning and dusk during these past days, it had been a routine for the policemen to go out and kill the infected that gathered outside the gates and if the number became large, they would lure them away. This was the reason why the private road outside Firenze was almost devoid of the infected. After luring away the infected, they would go some other places to gather supplies and find survivors while waiting for the horde to scatter.

This morning however, the number of infected outside the gates were several times larger than the past instances leaving them without much choice but to lure the horde away while slowly whittling their numbers. However, who knew that the sudden immergence of the large horde was actually a plot to lure them away from the settlement. After they arrived quite a distance into the main street, they were ambushed by armed men who they confirmed later as members of the gang syndicate that had settled on the opposite subdivision. They also learned that while they were being held by the gang members, the settlement was being attacked by another group making the atmosphere on their side even tenser.

With the horde they were luring away behind them and the ambush of the gang syndicate in front, the policemen were besieged in a dangerous situation. If not for Chief Mallari's instructions and prowess of the acting leader of the settlement, SP02 Agbayani, who was a Mutator, they would not have managed to persevere.

SP02 Agbayani, even though had lower rank in the police hierarchy, was chosen as their acting leader due to the fact that his existence was giving hope to the survivors of the settlement due to his superhuman ability he obtained after getting bitten by the infected. Furthermore, his personality was very liked by those people. He was the ideal person to do the job and was also active on that post he was given.

Every time that the policemen needed to go out, SP02 Abayani would always accompany the others to ensure their safety and to also secure the survivors they could find.

Chief Mallari however just came this time to see their routine and supervise their work. Who knew however that the chief coming with them this time was a blessing due to his experience in this field? If not for the police chief being here, they might have fallen immediately despite having SP02 Agbayani with them.

SP02 Agbayani's ability could be called as [Steel Skin]. It was to turn his skin into metal. Even though his transformation when he was using his ability was slow and always took quite a bit of time, it would make him impervious to the bites of the infected, the bullets of lower caliber firearms and cold weapons. However, higher caliber weapons and impact type attacks could still affect him as only his skin was affected by his ability and not his muscles and organs. Furthermore, his body would become heavier and his movements would become slower during the time he was transformed.

If chief Mallari was not there to guide them, SP02 Agbayani could only protect himself and not others leading to their deaths.

Still, they had been in a tight situation. Even if they did not immediately fell due to the chief, it was just a matter of time.

However, a miracle happened...

A strange looking family car covered with vines drove into the scene. The gang members also surrounded the family car and mocked the people inside for having such a tasteless and worthless car design. That was when their demise started. The green vines surrounding the vehicle moved and killed that gang members like ants. The vines whipped through the gang members and even pierced thought their bodies splattering blood and decimating the bodies of the gang members.

They, who had been besieged by those same people, could only gape at the situation with dumbstruck expressions. Furthermore, the same vehicle started to decimate the horde following behind them.

After that, a passenger van with survivors aboard arrived at the scene attracted by the sounds of guns. It looked like that the survivors were desperate and just gambled on the situation. Lucky for them, they arrived at the right time. If they arrived earlier, they might have joined an undesirable situation.

When the situation came to an end, the woman driving the vine covered family car asked them about Firenze. As they knew that the woman or maybe someone inside the family car might be similar to SP02 Agbayani, they gladly allowed the woman to go with them and hurry back at the settlement.

It now came into the current situation.

However, when they arrived back inside Firenze, with the exception of Chief Mallari and the men who came with him from the City Hall yesterday, the rest wore both relieved and shocked expressions after seeing the current happenings. If not for the fact that they could see the several dozen dead bodies, the injured and captured gang members, they would think that it was a lie.

To think that that large number of hoodlums was defeated by a single person and that very same person was that man who was intently watching a female infected eating in front of him. They did not know what to say about this.

***

Mark kept observing the changes in Janette's complexion while she was eating and to say, she now looked more or less human. If not for her white colored pupils and blank expression on her face, no one would think that she was an infected.

Mark knew that the policemen along with Chief Mallari and his men had returned but he had no notion to even look at them as he was more interested at the peculiar bloody scene in front of him.

Still, it looked like that it was destined for him to get disturbed.

"It's the kind uncle!"

A lively voice echoed in the surroundings as an eleven year old girl jumped out of the vine covered vehicle after she saw Mark. Everyone could not help but look at the girl who had green colored hair with pink flowers on her head. The girl ran towards Mark without minding the stares she was gathering.

Mark who heard the shout only sighed. He noticed the two familiar and unique fluctuations from the group that arrived so he knew that this girl and the person inside that huge tree at the City Hall had already arrived. He was even sure now that the tree was really a child due to how weak the fluctuations he was detecting. Nevertheless, he did not want to approach them nor expected that the girl would actually be the first one to move.

"Nee! Scary looking oji-san! I mean uncle!"

The girl yelled as she approached since Mark did not even look at her even after she called for him.

Because of that shout, Mark could not help but turn his head and glance at her.

"Stop shouting you Dryad Chibi!"

Mark said while looking.

"I'm not a chibi!"

The little girl bellowed back before freezing as she realized that the scary uncle seemed to understand her father's mother language, Japanese. When she subconsciously blurted 'Oji-san' earlier, it was because their family spent their vacations at Japan causing her mixed vocabulary at unexpected times. That was why she immediately corrected herself. She did not expect that the scary uncle could actually understand her.

When she arrived in front of Mark, she stopped and stared at him from head to toe without fear. Mark on the other hand only glanced at her before turning his head back to Janette as he was waiting if there would be more changes on her physique or her sprouting consciousness.

The girl who was ignored pouted and looked at what the scary uncle was watching. As she was focused at the scary uncle, she did not notice the bloody scene in front of her. Now that she saw it...

"Ugu-! Scary uncle, why are you watching something disgusting?"

She covered her mouth but she did not look away. Rather she even looked interested. Then, she saw Janette.

"Eh? Uncle, why are you feeding this zombie? Is she your pet?"

She started circling around Janette in curiosity.

"Uwaaa... Amazing, she's not attacking me."

"You know, I'll make her attack you if you keep on doing that."

Mark felt dizzy with her circling around.

"Gege, this girl is?"

Mei who was standing behind Mark could not stop herself from asking. Mark glanced at her.

"Well, I don't really know her. I only know that she was related to that huge tree at the City Hall."

Then, Mark looked at the middle-aged woman who was approaching while carrying a four year old boy on her arms. The little boy also had green hair but his hair had a darker tint compared to his older sister. Another noticeable thing about the little boy was the small part of his skin under his jaw and the back of his hands had tree bark like texture and color.

Upon arriving, the woman tried not to look at the gruesome seen of Janette eating the brain of the dead man in front of her as she called unto the girl.

"Stop doing that Emika. You're disturbing everyone."

"Hai~!

The green haired girl answered and skipped towards her mother.

The woman then looked at Mark.

"I heard from my children that you helped us. That bag of food left at the convenience store was also from you right? Thank you very much."

The woman vowed sincerely towards Mark.

"You don't have to worry about it. It's just on a whim if you asked me. If I'm correct, that boy is that huge tree right?"

"Apparently, yes. This is my youngest child, Mikio. I'm Rosamie, their mother. This mischievous girl here is Emika."

"Sakurano Emika desu~!"

Emika suddenly interjected by introducing herself in front of Mark even blocking her mother from his sight. Of course, she got pulled away and was scolded.

"Sorry for that, my daughter is really naughty. Also, my children said that you helped Mikio turn back to human. I really can't thank you enough for that."

"Well, no need for formalities. You can say that your son is a friend of mine."

Mark then faced Mikio.

"Right?"

The little boy hurriedly nodded while smiling widely.

What Mark and Rosamie did was a simple exchange of gratitude and other things but to others who knew of the circumstances at the City Hall, they were all stunned. They looked at the little boy and they could not help but feel shocked that this little boy was that huge tree back then. Furthermore, didn't that tree wither during the time the City Hall collapsed?

Likewise, they could not ignore one thing that Rosamie said. It was about Mark turning her son, Mikio, back into human.

Just how many mysteries did this man have with him?

The people who had lesser shock however were the people who watched Mark subdue that huge dog. If he could turn the dog back to something more 'normal' looking, it was possible that he could also do that to people with the same circumstances.

"Nee, nee~, uncle, you haven't introduced yourself yet."

Emika pestered Mark and pulled his sleeves several times.

"Alright... Just stop will you. It's Mark, just call me Mark."

"Heee? Why is it so short? Never mind, I'll just call you Mark-Ojichan th- Ahhh!"

Emika's ear was pulled by her mother.

Mark sighed with a bitter smile. This girl might be a little annoying but Mark could not hate her either. It was because he found this girl attracting. Not her looks but her mindset and the reigning emotion in her subconscious. It was actually, 'Happiness'.

Negative emotions get absorbed by Mark and he gets exhausted because of it. On the contrary, he found positive emotions quite attracting and they somehow give him positive energy.

With this girl's inherent positive emotion, it would be hard for Mark to hate her.

At this moment that Emika was complaining to her mother, Mark turned his head back towards Janette. It seemed that she was already done eating and was now licking the blood off her palms. Glancing behind him, Mark spoke.

"Mei'er, can you get me the hand sanitizer and the water spray from the vehicle. Ah, also some tissue. We need to clean Janette before bringing her back inside the car"

"Alright."

Mei who was still having her time digesting the information she just heard snapped out of her thoughts and hurriedly replied before making her way towards the vehicle.

Everyone was still immersed at the peculiar happenings in front of them. About Janette's existence, about the mysteries around Mark, the truth about that huge tree back in the City Hall and also about the Emika's appearance. It was quite a huge amount of information for the people's tired minds to digest.

The mysterious Mark in question however was waiting for the items he needed so they could clean Janette's face and hands.

"Mark?"

It was then that he heard a familiar male voice from behind making him turn back in surprise. Seeing who spoke to him, he could not help but feel a bit elated. There was no way he would not recognize this person.