Virtual (Chapter Twenty)
"But my, it has been a while," Prince said, making his way to the head of the conference table. He swiveled his chair toward the window (or what's left of it after the shock wave that Willow had caused), directly facing the building that Tim and the others had infiltrated. A strong breeze swirled around the room. "Not since that alliance against Dynastes. I see you all are doing well. I'm disappointed that Timothy isn't with you. Or those hunters he and Benjamin hung around with."
"Why?" asked Emily. "Is it because they're special, unlike us?"
"Well, for a human, Timothy truly lives up to the ideals of his country, giving fair treatment to all, no matter their race or gender," Prince said. "He has fought against both humans and non-humans, and saved both humans and non-humans without much discrimination. Which is more than what I can say about the general population he serves. Or humans in general. And I was interested to see how the hunters have been influenced by him and Benjamin."
"Humans are terrible," Roger said. "We get it. Benjamin used to talk about that kind of stuff all the time whenever he felt like talking at all. Is that all you came here to do?"
"Manners, boy," Prince said, giving Roger a venomous stare. "I was just answering the girl's question. As for what we are here for, I should think that was obvious."
Looking at Roger and how he talked to the elf, Daiki could tell that he harbored a lot of resentment against the elf. It made him curious about the history between them.
What Daiki did not know was that Prince had once worked with the PRF, the Paranormal Research Foundation, the organization that had kidnapped Roger, Willow, Hanako, and Benjamin, as well as captured Tim. Prince and his own organization recaptured them all after they managed to get away. But thanks to some cleverness from Tim and Benjamin, they were able to escape again. And then, by some twist of fate, they and Prince became part of an alliance to take down Dynastes and thwart his mad scheme to start a zombie apocalypse.
"You're here to rescue Benjamin," Willow realized.
Prince turned to face her and nodded.
"Indeed," he said. "For our goals of a peaceful reintegration of non-humans into the surface world to be realized, he is essential."
"Yeah, I'm not sure you've noticed, but Benjamin's not exactly the type of guy who'd make a good ambassador," said Roger. So many people in the room who got to know Benjamin from near and afar could barely contain the urge to voice their agreement.
"Ambassador is not the role he needs to play," Prince coolly replied. "And this is not about the immediate future. I highly doubt that even my grandchildren would live long enough to see our goals realized. But the fall of the dominoes must start somewhere. And that starting domino is Benjamin. But we're getting off track, and there is really no time to waste."
Roger opened his mouth to speak again, but then both girls stomped on his feet, hissing to him: "Shut up!"
"Hey, mind answering a question?" asked Mack.
"I've already answered several," Prince replied. "One more won't make a difference."
"How'd you hear about Benjamin Tao getting abducted?" Mack asked. "These kids here somehow got ties to the Shirogami Clan, whose backyard was where Tao and his friend were taken from. My own buddies have had their eyes on their abductor for a long time now, so wouldn't miss something like that. How do you fit into all this?"
"Please," Prince scoffed. "You honestly don't think that we would just let what would be the key to our dreams walk away unobserved, do you? We couldn't do anything back when the kidnapping happened, thanks to the Shirogami Clan on such high alert against non-human and other supernatural threats. But here, we can do what needs to be done. Though I am curious to know how Warndale's people were able to capture Benjamin right underneath the Shirogami Clan's noses. He is someone who they owe a great debt to for saving the next matriarch, after all."
"Something up?" asked Willow, noticing a thoughtful expression on Emily's face.
"Huh?" went Emily. "Uh . . . It's nothing. But never mind that now. You say you're going to save Benjamin. How are you planning to do that?"
"We were going to storm the place after gathering enough intel," Prince said. "But just as we were about to sneak some spies in, Timothy and those two hunters went in. And then, after seeing that mess downstairs, we've realized that this mission has become a tad more difficult."
"You knew what was going on in the streets but didn't come to help us?" Willow said, glaring accusingly at the elf prince.
"You saved yourselves faster than we could have sent someone down," Prince answered with a shrug. "It's quite impressive how you've managed to come so far. With a little bit of proper training in using your powers, I think you would be an incredible force against your enemies. Now, are there any more questions? I'd like for us to move on to how we're going to save Benjamin."
"We?" Emily repeated. "So, you're going to let us help you out?"
"Why not?" said Prince. "You've all proven yourselves useful. Quite recently, in fact. And I doubt that you'd quietly stand aside and let the grown-ups handle things."
"Actually, I'd like that very much, because as far as I can see, we're getting into things way over our heads one too many times," Roger confessed.
Roger was not surprised when everyone only gave him a passing glance before looking away.
"And given that one of you has the power to overcome dampeners, that'd make things a whole lot easier for us," Prince continued. "You've already helped us a bit when you exploded down below like a child with a tantrum."
"Can we not talk about that?" Willow asked, turning red in the face with embarrassment.
Prince smirked before continuing. "It caused a power outage and fried a lot of dampeners. At least according to some device someone invented to detect dampeners. We're running on a backup generator, in case you're wondering how the elevators work. By the way, how did you know that the elevators worked?"
"I noticed that the lights were still working by the elevator," Mack replied. "It seemed like a good chance."
Prince made an expression on his face like he was going "Oh."
"If a lot of dampeners are fried, then why don't you just go storm the place now, if that's the case?" Emily asked. "With all this firepower and superpowers, breaking Benjamin out should be a cinch."
Prince sighed. "I thought you were cleverer than that. Just because we have a lot of power, doesn't mean that the opposition doesn't. Given how limited the resources human intelligence has, I'm sure you don't know that Warndale, herself, is a non-human. She is, in fact, a gargoyle. And quite a powerful one at that."
Emily blinked once. "What?"
"She and her betrothed used to be one of us, but they were rejected over their, shall we say, extreme approach to things," Prince said. "Even groups dedicated to revenge against humans in tasteless fashions thought they were too much. The reason they joined the PRF was probably because that didn't sit well with them."
"Wait, didn't you work with the PRF, too?" Roger asked.
"Yes, but unlike us, they worked for the PRF's benefit, rather than the benefit of the non-humans," said Prince. "The only reason we associated ourselves with that lot was because there was something in their possession that we needed."
"That dragon DNA," Willow said. "Or whatever it was that was used to turn Ben in to a dragon."
"Are you sure it was the dragon DNA, and not Benjamin, himself?" Emily asked.
She noticed then how Prince went rigid.
"You know, I find this whole thing strange," she continued. "It's been on lucky coincidence after another. First MI-Zero shows up wanting to team up with us because that'd help them with dealing with Warndale. Then you guys just happened to conveniently show up also wanting to take down Warndale."
"What can I say?" Prince said. "She's just that dangerous."
"And yet, I sense that both of you have your eyes on Benjamin," Emily continued.
"Well, Benjamin is a child genius with martial arts training and the powers of a dragon," Prince said. "Someone like that could either be a great threat or a powerful weapon. Who wouldn't be interested in something like that?"
"To me, it feels like we're all just being moved around like pawn pieces," said Emily. "Only an idiot wouldn't be able to see what happens next, if we manage to save Benjamin. I know what he's like. He hasn't changed much in the five years we were apart. All he wants is to be left alone to live in peace and avoid all this supernatural mess as much as possible. As long as he's left alone, he'll leave whatever villains are out there alone. But if someone starts messing with him and the people he cares for, he won't hesitate to bite back. And he always remembers his debts. He'll owe you if you help out. That's what you're counting on, isn't it?"
Prince looked like he was going to say something, but Emily cut him off.
"I know what you're going to say. This operation has been going on for months, right? Maybe even years. How else would you have been able to have such free reign in a building like this? But Tim's already told me all about oracles, and what they're capable of. That's why Phoenix was after Daiki's little sister, after all."
"Look," Prince began, but Emily cut him off again.
"You don't have to say anything," Emily said. "Now that I've said what I had to say, I can concentrate better now on the task at hand. We don't have time for any more of this anyway. The longer we dillydally, the longer Benjamin and Hanako remain in danger. Just get me a computer so I can do my thing."
Everyone stared blankly at her, each dumbfounded by different reasons. Emily scowled at them in a Ben-like way.
"Now, please," she snapped, breaking them from their stupor.
"Oh, how I can never tire of you lot," he said. "For humans, you and Benjamin are the most interesting individuals I have ever met. Apart from Yang, are there any others like you?"
"Not that I'd know," Emily said with a shrug.
"Hey," Prince called out to behind him. "Get her a computer. We've got some w-!"
Prince was suddenly yanked sideways from his chair by an invisible force. A second later, at around the center of the chair, a small hole appeared. Once he was on his feet, Prince went over to his chair and saw the hole. Around him, other chairs lifted from the ground and then flew out the window while the conference table was tilted onto its side and hovered toward the edge of the room before dropping on to the floor. Several of the chairs outside struck against the other building, but a few were blown away by fireballs, becoming blooming flowers of inferno heat in the air.
"We're under attack!" the troll realized.
"Everyone down!" Mack shouted. He dropped to the floor, pulling Emily with him. The other non-humans did the same, some pulling out their guns. Mack mimicked them, but then realized to his chagrin that he didn't have one.
Prince turned around, spotted Willow who was crouching next to Roger, and then said to her: "Thanks for the save."
Willow didn't answer. She was shielded by Roger, clapping her hands over her ears and clamping her eyes shut as fireballs and bullets streaked into the conference room. Cries of pain and shouts could be heard outside. Chances were she didn't even hear him.
It had been Willow who noticed the small bead of red light appearing on Prince. It didn't take a genius to know what that red light was and she immediately acted.
A goblin burst in, shouting: "Sir! We're under a-AURGH!"
A flash of light came from the goblin's chest and he fell down. A hole could be seen through the middle of his back. A pool of blood began to form beneath him.
Emily had been looking up directly at him when it happened. She saw the flash of light, that oh-so-familiar flash of light, and she watched the goblin's lifeless form fall. Her eyes remained trained on his blank expression, his lifeless eyes eternally staring. Past experiences flashed in her mind. It became too much, and she screamed.
Daiki also saw the goblin. It was the first time he had seen someone die in real life. Seeing a real fresh corpse, he retched. Just what in the world did he get himself into?
"Hey there," went a sleazy, casual voice. Stepping over the deceased goblin was a man in a black hoodie. Beneath the hood, his chin was exposed revealing he had a goatee. His chin hair looked bleached. "Sorry 'bout the mess. I'm a bit of a klutz right now after getting banged up pretty bad."
Around him, globes of water appeared in the air. They lit like camera flashes and bathed the conference room in intense heat.
- Virtual (Chapter Nineteen)
Willow and Co. find themselves surrounded.
- Virtual (Chapter Twenty-One)
Now back to Ben and Hanako.
Find out how Ben and Co.'s first encounter with Prince went in:
- Paranormal (A Ben and Co. Novel Book 1) by Victor Kwok
A group of teens (a pro magician, a spy, a psychic, a daughter's assassin, and someone normal) must escape the grasp of an organization bent on using psychic powers for their own gains.