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241 Contact, Alanas Background and Finally Hearing the Voices He Longed to Hear

 Day 36 - 2:30 PM - Laboratory, Port of Real Settlement, Barangay Ungos, Real, Quezon

Seeing an acquaintance for the first time after the outbreak started, Alana was in glee. Ignoring the confused reactions of Joash and Tyson, she pulled her chair away from Karlene's bed and sat beside the table Mark was using as he ate his lunch. She started asking about things but she was also careful not to ask overly personal things. Although she knew Mark and the latter also knew her, they were not really that close. Still, their relation was more than just acquaintances either due to several reasons.

Although Mark did not really want to talk too much, he could not ignore Alana and answered her questions patiently as long as he could answer the question without issues.

***

Back when Mark was still in college, the otaku industry in the Philippines was still in its infancy. Otaku and cosplay conventions were rarely happened with an interval of several months. The best thing about this was that the conventions were only filled with true Otakus. People who had passion for this culture and some of them expressed themselves through cosplaying.

In terms of essence, role playing, quality and creativity, cosplayers back then could be called "genuine".

After years however, the culture flourished and conventions happened almost every month. More and more people attended the events that it became too crowded. Yes, it flourished. However, the culture also deteriorated in terms of its soul.

Among all the people attending the events, even less than a quarter were true Otakus at heart. The majority were those that came for different reasons. Posers, weaboos and even perverts started attending conventions. Weaboos were still acceptable but the attitude of most of them was a turn off. They behaved and treated themselves as true Otakus even in front of the true veterans.

There was also the deterioration among the new cosplayers. The essence of cosplaying was gone. There was no role playing and it was as if they just wore costumes to empress others. In a sense, fast food mascots were better than them in his regard. Not to mention the circumstances where several cosplayers stepped to stardom and appeared on television and other media, a lot of aspirators flocked in conventions to try their luck and raise their fame through social media.

Many of the true Otakus and veteran cosplayers stopped coming to conventions due to these reasons and only participated in the events if there was something special going on.

Fortunately, there were still those that kept the essence of cosplaying from the new cosplayers and a certain girl was among them. Her cosplaying was top notch. Not only her hand made costume was high quality and her weapon props being functional but she could carry herself well while wearing her costume. She also acted well in portraying the character she was cosplaying.

Strangely however, she only wore costumes of characters wearing masks and never showed her face. It made her stand out from the others that gathered fame by showing their faces. Not to mention that even though she had a social media page, she still never showed her face. All the people that saw her cosplays only knew her by the name Mizuki but never knew her real identity.

Unknown to everyone, aside from the clothes, the weapons she had were made by Mark.

It all started when Mark decided to become a shut in after the kidnapping incident with Mei. Without work to do and as he waited for the replies on the online applications he made, Mark decided to create a few things to pass the boring days when he was not watching anime, reading novels and manga and not playing video games. Since his father had power tools left at home, he only procured the materials cheaply from a junk shop.

Since Mark was a rather creative person and inspired by being an Otaku, his work ended up better than he thought. Who knows what had gotten into his mind but he took pictures of the functional weapon he made using metal pipes, rubber sheets and metal scraps and posted it in a Otaku group online that he was a member of. He was mostly a lurker in that group and rarely posted so the other members were also not that familiar with him. Fortunately, his creation gained a positive feedback.

Unexpectedly, he received a personal message and it was from Mizuki who asked if he could make her a prop for her next cosplay and she would pay for it. Who knew that Mizuki was also a lurker in that group he was in. Since Mark had no work and needed money, he accepted it. After a month, he met Mizuki in a mall to hand over the weapon prop and she was wearing a baseball cap, a pair of sunglasses and a face mask. Mark was not surprised with it as Mizuki was a known cosplayer for not showing her face.

Mizuki was very satisfied with Mark's work and even gave more than the amount they agreed on. After that, she became a constant client for Mark's work and they would meet every two months for the commission. Other requests for the prop work came from other cosplayers and apparently, Mizuki referred Mark to them for his props.

In a sense, Mizuki was a lifesaver. Even after Mark landed on his online freelance work, the work was unstable and such, Mark needed to scrape by and save as much as possible. What Mizuki did gave him enough earnings to manage his monthly bills. Although their transactions stopped about a year before due to Mizuki being busy, she would still contact from time to time asking for commissions for her friends.

Who would expect that the masked cosplayer, Mizuki, was actually the popular actress, Alana Garces? She really hid herself very well. No wonder why Mizuki was very good at acting in character. Still, her passion for cosplaying was real for sure. If she revealed that she was a cosplayer, Alana would have gained more popularity in both fields for sure but she never did.

***

"I really want to watch anime right now but I left my copies at home and I lost my laptop when we escaped. I tried finding even pirated copies before but I really can't find any in this place."

Alana said with drooping shoulders. Mark did not reply to this however. If she knew that Mark managed to secure a lot of anime series before the internet went down, she would surely pester him.

While Alana talked to Mark one-sidedly, a knock was heard from the door and it slowly opened. There was a female soldier outside and she was looking at Mark. She entered and saluted at Mark with respect. For sure, she saw what happened at the battlefield before. Mark also remembered her. She was Master Sergeant Meia Delina, one of General Faustino's guards.

"Sir Mark, the transceiver is ready. The other side is also informed and you can contact them anytime. General is still commanding our forces at the wall so he sent me to escort you to the headquarters."

Mark turned to Alana.

"You heard her. I have to go."

"Yeah. You're going to return here right?"

At that question, Mark glanced at Karlene before he replied.

"I guess so."

After returning the [BloodChildren] in their containers and putting them inside the bag, Mark picked up the cage and followed the Master Sergeant out of the room.

When Mark was finally gone, Joash could not maintain his silence anymore.

"Alana, you really know that guy?"

"Of course I do! He's really someone amazing!"

Joash and Tyson were taken aback from Alana's enthusiasm that they had not witnessed before.

"Look at this!"

Alana rummaged in her bag once more and took out a pistol shaped item but it also looked like a card holder. It was a weapon of a certain rider that was travelling around different worlds. The one in Alana's hand looked no different from the real one. She then pulled the handle and a part of the card holder sprung up and extended. The gun turned into a sword.

After waving the sword, Alana turned it into a gun once more and aimed at the wall.

PANG!

A plastic pellet hit the wall and rolled on the floor.

"He made this!"

***

Mark went out of the laboratory and entered the Humvee prepared to bring him to the headquarters which was on the other side of the port nearer to the entrance of the military section of the settlement.

Normally, Mark would feel nothing but now, he was somehow troubled. He was also slightly nervous. It was a feeling he felt for the first time in a very long time. Before, he did not really think of anything but now that the opportunity to contact Mei and his daughters, he did not know what to say to them.

Looking outside the window, Mark sighed. In this case, he would just speak like normal and respond to their questions.

Arriving at the headquarters, he was brought into a private room. It seemed to be an office used in meetings. This time however, the transceiver directly in contact with the Bay City was set up on a table. It was one of Mark's requests which were granted by the general. Mark did not really like to talk on phones as much as possible and he looked awkward due to that. It would not be good if he was seen like that by other people.

After Meia taught him how to operate the transceiver, she excused herself and went out of the room.

"My Lord, you're nervous?"

Amihan suddenly asked and Mark did not deny it.

"A little."

"Then it means you really care for them! It will be fine!"

Amihan smiled and assured Mark. Somehow, that lightened his feelings a bit.

He wore the headset on the table and picked up the mouthpiece. Finally, he turned on the connection.

"Hello? Anyone there?"

What an awkward greeting. Mark also knew but it could not be helped. He expected that there would be soldiers on the other side. Unexpectedly, what he heard was a gentle soothing voice of someone on the verge of crying.

"Gege?"

There was only one girl who would call him like this. Unknowingly, Mark relaxed and he let out a gentle smile that even Amihan was surprised to see.

"Mei'er."

"Gege, it's really you right?"

Mei's voice was a little shaky.

"Is there any other me around?"

The other side went silent. Mark also did not speak. He could hear faint sobbing on his ears but he just patiently waited.

"Master?"

It was Odelina's voice this time.

"Odel, is Mei'er fine?"

"Master, thank god you're safe. We are really worried. The young miss is fine but she crying right now, so, she can't speak. Please don't worry. She is just happy and relieved."

Odelina's voice was also a bit shaky, however, her state was much better than Mei and she was still able to hold herself back.

"I want to talk to Papa. Aunt Odel, let me!"

Mark could hear a childish voice trying to interrupt Odelina.

"Uhm, Master, here is Gale."

"Papa, hello?!"

As usual, her voice was rather calm although there was a tint of emotions this time.

"Gale, how are you, your Mama and your sister?"

"Papa! We're good! Uhm... We're Okay! Papa, when are you coming back? We really miss you..."

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Who knows where that click exactly came from, but Mark was sure that it was inside him.

'We really miss you.'

It was a sentence that no one had ever said to Mark before. The little girl's innocent feelings clicked something inside Mark and his body shivered.

Amihan stared wide eyed at her Lord as he forced his reply.

"I miss all of you too."

Water drops fell on the floor of the meeting room. It seemed like the roof of the headquarters was leaking.