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177 Mysteries

 Day 6 - 8:40 PM - E3 Expressway, Parañaque, Metro Manila

The soldiers, the police and the volunteers were not even halfway on removing the vehicles that blocked the maintenance road when the infected started coming in large numbers. The infected came from the east side where the walls, buildings and trees were toppled and destroyed because of the fight between the two large monsters. It was also likely that these infected came here due to the loud sounds from the battle.

After establishing a defensive formation on the other side of the safety railings, the soldiers and police started to fight back. The remaining people on the other hand continued to work on removing the abandoned vehicles. Removing the vehicles was not easy due to some that had already crashed unto others and were left in hard to remove positions. Furthermore, they only have on dump truck to use for pulling out the stuck vehicles since the wheels of the others were torn with holes at the time the stone clad woman released her first barrage of stone projectiles.

Among the people helping in removing the vehicles and tending to the injured people were the members of Mark's group. What Mark said about incompetence earlier also impacted them heavily. They should not rely solely of their leader and should also improve themselves.

In the middle of their respective duties...

BOOOM!

A flash of bright light and the smoked light from flames could be seen more than a kilometer away from the southern part of the expressway. The loud sound of explosion followed afterwards. Those who saw Mark fiddle within the multi-cab and smelled the leaking gas before immediately remembered the scene. There could be no other source of that explosion aside from Mark.

Mei and Odelina felt nervous seeing that explosion. The two could only wish that Mark was fine.

Despite what everyone felt seeing that explosion, they continued their current work.

Several minutes after the explosion occurred, there was still no sign of Mark returning. Instead, they saw a car sized shadow moving along the expressway from the south which alarmed everyone. It was because the shadow did not look like a vehicle at all but a creature. Another defensive formation was made to defend against that incoming creature. When it finally got closer, they saw that it was a large sea turtle with bloody wounds and festered skin and scales.

An infected sea turtle!

The soldiers opened fire boring holes on the turtle's skin causing blood to splatter around. The shell on the other hand completely deflected the bullets that hit it. Furthermore, the turtle continued to charge towards telling everyone that their guns were insignificant.

"Shoot the eyes! Shoot the eyes!"

One of the soldiers bellowed causing everyone to aim at the eyes of the turtle. With the concentrated gunfire its eyes received, the eyes of the turtle bled profusely as the eyes were almost crushed. Deprived of its sight, the turtle slowed down for a second before charging once more. The shocked soldiers started to scatter as the large turtle trashed their defensive line.

The turtle trashed around even hitting some vehicles away as it could not see. One of the soldiers had his left leg hit by one of the smaller vehicles that was flung away.

Odelina and Keene joined the combat against the turtle. Odelina caught the head of the turtle and slammed it on the asphalt while Keene pierced its eyes with a half meter bone spike sticking out of his palm. Finally the turtle stopped moving.

It was then that they heard sounds coming from the northern side of the expressway and saw several pairs of lights approaching. Finally, the reinforcements from Bay City arrived.

***

As the situation was getting dangerous with the infected from the areas east of the expressway starting to come in larger numbers, the plan to remove the vehicles on the maintenance road was stopped. Everyone decided to abandon the vehicles here and the vehicles, specially the armored and military vehicles to be retrieved later. The most important thing now was to get everyone, especially the injured, to safety.

Seeing two of the people that led the reinforcements, Odelina was surprised. They were familiar since she met the two before. Angeline's brothers, Rafael and Gabriel. Apparently, the two came here to give them preferential treatment which became the source of envy for the other refugees but with how their group performed all this time, no one voiced their dissatisfaction.

While Odelina led their group on relocating their things unto the vehicles designated to them, something unexpected occurred.

A bright violet light started to shine from inside the vehicle and the light was too bright that it even shined through the heavily tinted windows.

"What is happening?"

Major Lopez asked Odelina but seeing the surprise not only on Odelina but also on the faces of the other members of the group, it seemed that they also had no idea.

No one was inside the vehicle since they were outside doing things and moving some of the items and none of them saw what happened. They only knew what could possibly be the source of the light. It was the crystals that Mark owned.

The curious soldiers cautiously closed in to investigate but then, the light reached its peak that it started to be painful to the eyes. At that moment, some sort of force field became visible covering the whole vehicle. If it was during the day, the force field could not be seen but since it was dark and only the moon from the sky illuminating almost everything, the force field became faintly visible.

One of the soldiers touched the force field and immediately pulled back his finger in pain. His finger was singed. There was no appearance of electricity but the soldier said that it felt like he was electrocuted.

Unexpectedly, a child walked past everyone closing in towards the vehicle.

"Iola!"

Mei hurriedly caught up to her in panic and pulled her into her embrace. She saw what happened to that soldier and it could be dangerous to approach the vehicle. When Mei looked at Iola's face however, she looked dazed and her eyes were glowing with two colors. Iola's left eye was glowing red while her right eye was glowing purple.

"Iola, wake up!"

Mei shook the little girl. The others also approached to check what was happening. When they all saw the little girl's glowing eyes, gasps could be heard around them.

It seemed that the girl snapped from her daze and looked at Mei.

"They wanted to go to Papa... Papa needs them..."

Iola spoke with a sleepy voice. There was no need for those in the know to guess what the little girl was talking about when they look at the vehicle and see that bright purple light.

'Did something happen to Gege?'

Mei's mind was in turmoil.

BUUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

A loud buzzing sound was heard which made the soldiers aim their guns at the sky.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"

Captain Dela Rosa stopped the soldiers.

Soon, a large red colored beetle landed next to Mei and Odelina carrying Mark's bag. Everyone's expressions sunk. However, Mei did not lose hope. With what Iola just said, it was likely that her Gege was still alive.

Fein then nudged Mei with his horn calling her attention and pointed at the pocket of the backpack. Inside the pocket was a notebook. The notebook was the one Mark always used. Mei took out the notebook flipped on it looking for something. There, she found it on the latest page.

Mark's message was written on that page. The message was short and it seemed that he was having a hard control on writing it since the lines were inconsistent compared to his other writings but the message had a solid meaning.

"Wait for me. I think, I'll be late but I'll return. I promise. Take care of yourselves. Also take care of my things. I can't live without those."

Mei felt sad but she smiled.

'Like usual, Gege worries about unnecessary things.'

She turned to Iola who was still in her embrace. The light on the little girl's eyes had grown stronger.

"Iola, Gege needs the crystals right?"

Iola absentmindedly nodded.

"Let's go together."

Mei held the little girl's right hand and they walked together into the force field.

Abbygale also wanted to follow but Mei stopped her. She had a feeling that she and Iola could enter but not others.

It was dangerous and the soldiers tried to stop the two but with Odelina's help, the two managed to ignore the obstructions.

When the two entered the force field, a scene unexpected to everyone unfolded. Iola was not affected by the force field and entered safely. On the other hand, Mei was different. It was as if the energy within the force field was avoiding her body. There was even an allowance around her skin that the light avoided to touch.

The two entered the vehicle and went out carrying a jar emitting light. Inside the jar was an otherworldly scene. Despite the light being painful to the eyes, none of them were able to stop staring at the scene seemed to come out of a fantasy story. A double terminated crystal suspended in the air inside the jar and several more marble sized crystals floating while circling around the larger crystal in a horizontal orbit. Some of the marble sized crystals even had different colored orbs inside.

"What is that?"

One of the soldiers around muttered but no one could answer his question.

Iola held the jar with both hands. Mei could not hold the jar for some reason and it could be seen that some of her pale smooth fingers were singed.

ROAAAA!!! GRROOOOO!!!

The infected started to go berserk as they charged towards their direction. The soldiers on the defensive line started to call for assistance.

CRASH!

The jar exploded causing Iola's arms and face to bleed due to the glass fragments that hit her but she did not react to it. She did not feel any pain. In front of her, the crystals were suspended in the air.

"Go."

Iola whispered.

The crystals protected by the force field started to rise up in the air under everyone's watch. The light from the crystal lit up the whole area once more before it started flying to the south. Along with the leaving crystal, the attacks of the infected weakened.

The scene looked like something that came out of a movie and everyone was attracted to it. They watched the glowing crystals fly away until the crystals were out of sight.

The light on Iola's eyes flickered and started to dim. The moment the light vanished, the little girl's dazed eyes closed and she started to fall backwards. Mei who was behind Iola hurriedly caught her and lifted her up. Holding the unconscious girl in her embrace, Mei called Abbygale and they made their way towards the vehicle they were supposed to ride on ignoring the inquisitive stares of the people around.

Before Mei entered the new vehicle, she turned her head towards the direction the crystals flew.

'We'll be waiting. Please, come back safely.'

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It was pitch black...

Mark did not know if he had already opened his eyes or not... He could not see anything around him. Strange enough, he could see his arms, his hands, his clothes. Despite the darkness, he could see his body as he sat on the ground.

'What is happening?'

Mark thought as he tried to remember what happened.

He was infected and his strength was escaping his body. He felt pain as if his blood vessels were swelling and his heart was pounding too loud that he could hear it in his ears. His head felt like it was being split into two and his flesh felt like it was being seared over strong fire.

Then, a bright purple light blinded his eyes and he felt a searing pain in his right arm before everything turned into darkness...

Plop... Plop...

While he was thinking deeply, he heard sounds behind him... it sounded like steps on the puddle of water.

Mark turned his head towards the sound and saw a young man, probably about twenty years old walking towards him. He could be younger or older around that. What caught his attention was not the man's handsome but cute face that was similar to Korean stars but his bright golden hair that seemed to glow through the darkness.

The young man smiled with a refreshing friendly smile and stretched his arms wide as if he was pointing at the whole place surrounding them. He then spoke.

"It would be the first time for us to meet like this. Let me introduce myself. I'm Freodelius Arishtalia. You can also call me Freed as usual. Welcome to your subconscious world."

***

End of Volume III