Friday, June 6, 2014

Chapter 12: Behind the Curtains

"What the heck", Havok cursed. "What is wrong with this world?", he continued as he punched a pole.

"Geez... Don't sweat it", I said to him as I walked away.

"What do you mean by don't sweat it?!", he said as he grabbed my hood and yanked me towards him. "We're trapped in this world with no way out! All you're gonna say is 'don't sweat it'?"

"It just means that we have to do our best to beat this world, right X?", Oxide said as he walked towards us. Havok and I stared at Oxide as he smiled accompanied by his sister behind him.

It wasn't really what I meant, but rather than causing another fight with Havok, I nodded at Oxide's statement. Havok let me go after I nodded.

Havok faced his fellow guild members and told them, "We are going to take down the first floor gate! Prepare yourselves! We assemble at our guild house tomorrow at 0900 (9 a.m.)!". He got a loud shout as a reply.

"All right! Dismissed!", Havok shouted at them again. After that, all his guild members went their separate ways to prepare for their battle tomorrow.

"Right... Now what to do?", Oxide said while stretching his arms.

"I guess I'm going back to my restaurant", Val said.

"I'm gonna stop by for dinner. Mind saving a grilled wild meat sandwich for me?", I asked.

"Hahaha. Sure", she said and smiled. After that she bows and left me and Oxide.

"Right!", Oxide surprised me as he yank him and rested his arm on my shoulders. "Now that she's not here, let's do something together", he said with a huge grin.

"Umm... Could it be that you're-"

"I am normal damn it!", Oxide said at he smacked my head.

"You're the one who grinned in that way... Geez", I said as I rubbed the back of my head.

"One day you're gonna thank me for doing that", he laughed as he messed up my hair. "By the way, you haven't had the time to get to my supplier right? We can go there now"

"Isn't the workshop going to be empty?", I asked as we started walking at the marketplace.

"Don't worry about it. I don't get much customers at this time anyway.", he replied. "By the way, where's that golem friend of yours?"

"Barrios? Probably managing his guild. Why?"

"Tell him to meet up at Ridgeview at dinner", he said.

"Why?", I asked.

"No reason. Just do it", he replied.

"Fine", I said. I opened up my friend list and dialed Barrios' contact.

"X? What's up?", I heard Barrios' voice.

"Can you meet up at Ridgeview at dinner?", I asked.

"Why? You're paying?"

"I'd go broke if I pay for your food every time idiot", I replied to him. Meanwhile, Oxide was chuckling next to me. I gave him a 'stay out of this' expression. He got it but kept chuckling anyways.

"Hmm... That sounds like a good thing for me to keep doing", Barrios said through the call.

"I'd make a sushi out of you in that case", I replied to Barrios.

"Woah... Don't say those things with a calm tone. That's creepy", Barrios replied. I sighed after hearing that.

"Anyways, Oxide told me to invite you over. Maybe he's paying", I told Barrios.

"Alright! I'm in!", Barrios happily said over the call, in contrast of Oxide yelling 'I am not!' which sounded like a background voice to me.

"Geez... I did not say he will. Beg him to pay your food by yourself.", I told Barrios. Oxide already went into his supplier's place as I loitered in front of the place.

"Dang it... But if it's Oxide who invites, I guess he has something in mind. I'll be there anyway", he replied.

"Okay. See ya", I said. After he replied his farewell, I hung up.

"You done?", Oxide asked as he walked out of his supplier's place.

"Yeah", I replied.

"It's still to early to go to Ridgeview. Mind accompanying me for a while?", he asked.

"I'm accompanying you from just now... And you're asking me this now?", I asked him.

"Good! Follow me", he said as he signaled me with his fingers to follow him. I didn't say a word and followed him quietly.

Oxide walked to a place I've never been before. He also told me to keep a low profile while I followed him. We went towards the west end of the floor map. Oxide stopped about 100 meters away from the edge of the map.

"You see that big door?", Oxide asked me as he pointed towards a giant door. The door was a double door about 4 meters tall.

"What about it?", I asked.

"This is the gate to the next floor", Oxide answered.

"I count 11 guards.", I told him.

"Look again, X.", he said as he pointed out all the enemies hiding in the bushes and trees. "There are about 30 plus of them out there"

"And that's not counting reinforcements that might come later", I added.

"Right. Havok's forces won't get past this without any casualties tomorrow", he said.

"How does this have any connection with him?", I asked.

"He's still a living being. So are all his followers. You heard it yourself, if you die in this game, you die for real.", he answered.

"How do you even know that? Do you simply take what Kiyoshi Hayate said? You don't even know if it's true or not.", I said.

"Then why don't you finish off your health bar here now? You're not even sure if dying here is for real.", he said.

"Either way, you really will die if you die in-game", Oxide continued before I could say anything back. "If not, I wouldn't be here"

"What do you mean?"

"If this is not a real death game, I wouldn't be here right now", he said. I went speechless immediately.

"Don't tell this to anyone. Not even my sister", he continued. I could see his seriousness in his eyes, and I nodded in response.

"Alright... I'm hungry, let's go back", he said with his trademark grin on his face.

It took us quite a while going back to Ridgeview Crest. We didn't rush going back to the city. Oxide opted to take a longer route and kept on talking pointlessly along the way. I knew he was trying to make me forget what he said seriously back then. I wish I could.

"Yo!", Oxide said as he entered Ridgeview Crest.

"Welcome back!', his sister replied and Barrios waved at Oxide and I.

"I'm going to start preparing dinner", Val said and went into her kitchen.

Oxide gave me a light push towards the kitchen. "Go help her", he whispered. "There's something I need to talk to Barrios in private". I obeyed Oxide's order and went to the kitchen.

"Hey", I said to Val as I entered the kitchen.

"X? What are you doing here?", Val asked me.

"I was told to help you by your brother", I replied. "So what can I do?"

"I don't really need any help though... I might if this is the real world, but this is the simplified version of the real world remember", she replied as she kept on preparing dinner.

"I see... I guess I'm gonna hang around here for a while. He needs to talk to Barrios alone", I replied.

"Suspicous isn't it?", Val said in a teasing tone.

"I know right", I said agreeing to her. "Still, if it's something he wants to speak in private, I guess it can't be helped"

"You respect him a lot, don't you?", Val asked.

"Yeah. Sorry about this, but I kinda view him as a bigger brother", I replied.

"He gets that a lot", Val said as she giggled. "He's the kind of person who looks out for everyone". I nodded in agreement.

"Anyway I'm done. You can help me bring some right?", she asked. I nodded and took two plates out to the counter Barrios and Oxide was sitting on. They looked like talking seriously for a second, but tried to hide it.

 "What are you guys talking about?", I asked as I served their food in front of them.

"Nothing important", Barrios replied as he took a bite of his sandwich. Oxide nodded in agreement and ate his sandwich. I looked at them skeptically, but they ignored it.

"Here X", Val said behind me and gave me my plate. I said thanks and took the plate from her.

"Thanks for the food", Barrios suddenly said.

"That was quick", Val said.

"I'm kinda in a rush", Barrios said as he smiled. I knew that smile was to cover something up, but I decided not to look into the matter, since it's probably from what Oxide said to him.

"I'll be going back for today", Barrios said as he left.

"Okay. Take care", Val said.

"You're really in for a free dinner, aren't you?", I commented on Barrios.

"Maybe", he said as he went out of the restaurant.

"Now then", Oxide said in a serious tone. "We're going to help Havok tomorrow"

"What?! Why should we?!", I disagreed.

"Because people's life are at stake here", Val said. "Right bro?", she confirmed with her brother. Oxide nodded for an answer.

"As much as you despise him, there's a bigger picture to look at", Oxide said. I sighed at him.

"You're not the only one who despise him, X. All four of us do", he continued. Val nodded in agreement.

"I get your point. So what do you want to do?", I asked.

"We're going to help his assault on the gate", he said.

"He'll disagree, won't he bro?", Val asked about his brother's plans.

"We don't need him to agree or disagree", Oxide said. "We're doing it from behind the curtains"