Hirito hobbled back down the corridor, the screaming echoing along the stone walls, accompanied by the sounds of the astral dragon that emerged from the temple. The roars assaulted more than his ears, as the noise seemed to echo on the astral plane, burrowing deep into Hirito’s soul. The deep, resonant voice of K-Bunny could be heard over the din, calling for John to come back and join her.
As Hirito limped past the unconscious form of Scar, a great pained scream from the dragon echoed through the cavern and fell silent, shaking the Japanese man to his very core.
A voice crackled over the commlink, “Mazula has the girl. Lava is rising. Time to leave.”
Hirito approached the intersection where the guardian dwarf-spirit had attacked the team. Before he reached the room, he stopped, hearing female voices speaking what he assumed to be German. After what sounded like a brief argument, he could make out several sets of footsteps echoing into the distance, leaving only a softly muttering female voice. Although Hirito couldn’t make out the words, the speaker’s anxiety was clear, and he made out the name, “Vesic”.
Cautiously creeping around the corner, the sniper gazed down at the blonde elf, Hälm, working furiously on Vesic’s limp body, a medkit attached to the demolitions expert. As the woman looked up, her eyes widened at the sight of Hirito and the sniper rifle pointed at her head. A look of comprehension crossed her face and she glanced back down at the dark-skinned elf.
“Sie törichte Frau, was hast du getan?”
Hälm looked back up at Hirito, her face a mixture of fear and resignation.
“You are supposed to be dead.”
Hirito continued to stare at the woman over the end of his rifle, unsure what to say. The silence stretched on uncomfortably until Hälm spoke again.
“Well, either shoot, or let me try to save her.”
The rifle didn’t waver in the slightest, but the sniper’s posture relaxed slightly.
“Go ahead. Save her. And then you both have some explaining to do.”
Hälm looked back down at the unconscious woman and shook her head.
“I’m not going to be much help to you, and she won’t be able to tell you anything for a while.”
The blonde elf returned to monitoring the medkit, working to stabilize the dark-skinned woman as she spoke.
“Zerstörer was tasked with monitoring Rodgrigo’s activities, after the Omega Red Five team found something ancient and dangerous. We didn’t know who had the information, or who might act on it, so they were all watched. When Nikeo made his first attempt at replicating the ritual, she was supposed to ensure your team was kept away from the site. To minimize the number of people aware of the temple and the ritual.”
“When she failed at her task, our…employer…demanded that she clean up the mess and ensure that anyone who knew the location of the temple was eliminated. Since her family is under his control, she had little choice.”
“As to why she left you alive…only she can answer that.”
The medkit lights began to glow orange, and Hälm sat back on her haunches, breathing a sigh of relief. Her head swung toward the tunnel entrance just as Hirito heard running footsteps and the distinctive whine of a combat drone.
“Stay out of sight”, hissed the elf. “The fewer people who know you’re still alive, the better it will be for Vesic.”
A Steel Lynx™ combat drone rolled into sight, the turret-mounted light machine gun tracking across the room. A young elven woman with bobbed blonde hair followed, breathing heavily from running.
“Was ist nehmen so lange?”, the girl asked. “Wird sie in ordnung sein?”
“Vesic soll leben”, answered Hälm, standing up. “Schnappen sie den anderen arm, und lasst uns hier raus.”
As the two women hauled Vesic’s limp form down the tunnel, covered by the drone, the blonde elf glanced back at Hirito’s hiding place, mouthing a final line:
“January 5th. Görlitzer Park. Noon.”