“Champ, you still alive?” I slapped the man’s face.
He didn’t respond, still not moving. I’m just going to leave you there for a bit. I headed towards the entrance and noticed broken arrows scattered across the ground. I proceeded outside with caution. The sound of wheels squeaking against pavement grew closer. I built a large ice wall in front of me, embedding a hidden portal, and lined the base of it with blades. A motorcycle, its bright headlights striking my face, headed straight for me. I shielded my eyes and they slammed into the wall hard. My portal activated, transporting the mysterious person into the restaurant. I constructed a portal and arrived at their location. They wore a riding helmet which obscured their face.
“Come on, really?” the motorcyclist stood up, rubbing their knee in pain.
Champ finally awoke, clutching his head, and noticed the newcomer. He stared at me in confusion and I shook my head. I froze the motorcyclist’s legs before approaching him.
“Damn, that was rough,” the motorcyclist commented, raising both his hands in the air.
“Who are you?” I held my sword tip against his neck, flickers of flames appearing on my blade.
“Whoa, calm down! I don’t mean any harm. I’m chasing someone down myself. Whoever made this place connected it to a part of the Crossroads I was traveling in. Your friends are in danger,” he replied.
“How do you know about the Crossroads?” Champ sat in a nearby chair, rubbing his head.
“I’m from there. Listen, if you let me go, I can help you out. My ride’s messed up so I can’t exactly go anywhere,” the man answered.
I freed him from the ice but maintained a wary eye on him. The man wore a leather trench coat and matching pants. His left shoulder patch contained a familiar insignia, reminding me of the Special Investigations Unit. The man’s shoe soles contained sharp spikes which were quite threatening.
“You’re suspicions, I get it, but your friends are in danger. You gotta trust me on this. I’m telling the truth,” he pleaded.
I glanced over at Champ, who shrugged his shoulders. It was my decision to make then. He appeared sincere enough, but appearances were deceptive. For now, I would accept his assistance. However, I already thought of a contingency plan in case he betrayed us.
“Fine, we’ll work together for now. Lead the way,” I agreed.
“I should introduce myself. Name’s Rev. What about you?” he adjusted his helmet, still not taking it off.
Champ and I introduced ourselves before we all headed outside. Rev pulled up his sleeve, revealing a digital watch. He tapped the display and then a portal appeared in front of us. His watch resembled the ones in Za’ard. Did he have a connection to Lyra? There were so many mysteries about him but there wasn’t time to waste.
We arrived at a wide street full of blinding lights. Digital billboards and tall buildings surrounded us in all directions. I shielded my eyes, blinded by everything. Advertisements were plastered everywhere, digitally displayed on screens and on large posters hanging from shop walls.
“What is all this?” Champ stumbled around, clipping on sunglasses to his eye wear.
“The largest entertainment and shopping district in the Crossroads. Place is huge, over three hundred shops specializing in anything you can think of. Not to mention all the casinos and clubs too,” Rev explained.
There were throngs of people, most of them carrying multiple shopping bags. Their ages ranged, from young children with parents to elderly groups of people. I thought they might gawk at Rev because of his helmet, but no one even glanced in his direction. We walked for a few blocks, arriving at a glitzy casino. A colorful LED sign hung above it, lighting up a three dimensional rotating dice. Were Ichaival and Jen really taken to a place like this?
“This is where they took your friend,” Rev said, heading inside.
“Hey, I don’t know about this, Tomo,” Champ whispered to me.
“Me neither but let’s keep going for now. He seems to know the area pretty well,” I agreed, following the motorcyclist.
Employees, all dressed in formal wear, bowed when we entered. One of them handed us a flyer, pointing at the slot machines lining the walls. Rev pulled out a card from his pocket, showing it to the employee. His eyes widened and he quickly led us over to a suite. Bowing once more, the man unlocked the door for us before departing.
“What was that all about?” Champ glanced around the room.
“I’m a VIP member here, mainly as a cover for when I’m investigating things. This casino is a distribution warehouse for smuggling. There’s an entire underground area beneath this place dedicated to it,” Rev revealed, pushing the couch aside.
There were two red velvet couches, each in opposite corners of the room. A large television screen hung on the wall. There was a menu containing a wide selection of games displayed on it. A large table was in the center, full of food and drinks. This was just a fancier karaoke room with more amenities catered to a club or casino audience.
“How do we get in?” Champ helped Rev move the couch.
“Right here,” Rev answered, revealing a secret passageway entrance.
“We go in, just like that?” I stared at him with skepticism.
“I promise it’s safe,” Rev assured me.
“You go first then,” I decided, shoving him in before entering myself.
Rev nodded, pulling the door open and slid downward. I entered as well and softened my landing with Shan’s gravitational powers. The motorcyclist was already engaged in combat, fighting several armed men. One pulled out a gun but Rev disarmed him right away. He gained possession of the firearm and fired multiple shots at his opponent’s stomach. Someone sneaked up behind Rev, but he swung his elbow back, striking their face. One of Rev’s opponents finally noticed me. Damn, I was hoping to not get involved. They reached for their gun. Champ appeared next to me and tapped his glasses. All of their firearms turned into scrap metal. With their guns neutralized, Rev knocked out all his opponents without any trouble. I glared at Rev, who shook his head in innocence. I contemplated smacking Rev’s head but restrained myself. Pulling Champ aside, I held a private discussion with the rookie hero about our next move.
“You don’t trust him, right?” Champ took off his glasses, wiping them with his sleeve.
“Yeah, no s***. Did you not see what just happened?” I watched Rev sneak farther up ahead.
“He knows his way around the place though. And he did take them all out, so he’s not part of whoever is guarding the place. Maybe just keep an eye on him and see where he leads us?” Champ suggested, placing his glasses back on.
“We don’t have much of a choice. Let’s go before we lost sight of him,” I agreed.
Rev led us down through five stairways and pointed at a metal door. I placed my hand on the doorknob, turning it. I saw a flickering light inside and a chair in the center. Severed pieces of rope were near the chair legs.
“Rev, what’s going on?” my patience with him was slipping.
“They probably took them further underground,” Rev said.
Rev went around the room, tapping his foot on the floor. He finally stopped and stomped downward with force. A handle popped up. He yanked it, revealing a hidden passageway.
“Rev, at least you have some credibility left. You’re going down first again,” I said, pushing him down.
“Hey, wait… aaaaaaah!” Rev shrieked as he tumbled down the stairs.
Descending the steps, I noticed the walls lined with strips of LED lights. At the bottom, Rev adjusted his helmet, which contained noticeable dents and scratches. I should feel sympathy for him but I really didn’t care about his feelings at this point. Recusing Ichaival and Jen were a higher priority.
“Shh,” Rev warned, crouching down when we entered the next room.
The three of us hid behind a stack of crates and boxes near the entrance. We raised our heads with caution. Four men, wearing combat vests, carried large wooden boxes labeled with “DANGER”.
“I’ll handle this,” Rev decided.
Before he left, the man slipped me a piece of paper, and then gave a two finger salute. You don’t have to make it that dramatic! Once the men turned their backs towards us, Rev made his move. While he fought the guards, Champ and I inched closer to the door they walked out of. We dashed in and saw a long hallway containing a plethora of doors. This sucked! There was suddenly a loud thump, coming from the middle of the hallway.
“Hey, look,” Champ said, pointing at an open door.
I peeked inside and saw a tipped chair. Burn marks surrounded it, along with broken chains. I recognized it as Jen’s handiwork. If they were safe, there was no reason for us to stick around anymore.
“Champ, Jen rescued him. Let’s go!” we jogged out.
Returning back to the room full of boxes and crates, I saw unconscious guards everywhere. Jen, holding arrows in her hand, conversed with Rev. Ichaival, still knocked out, was near them.
“Thank you for helping us out. I appreciate it,” Jen said, bowing.
“It was nothing. Hey, your friends are safe! We didn’t even have to chase after them,” Rev remarked, waving at us.
“Good job, Jen. How’s Ichaival doing?” I lifted him up with Champ’s assistance.
“He should wake up soon. They really caught us by surprise!” Jen answered, pointing at the bruise on her forehead.
“What exactly happened? Champ and I noticed an artificial dimension was forming but then you guys were already gone,” I asked for details.
“Some people in weird masks suddenly appeared. We couldn’t fight them off and they knocked us out. When I woke up, I was stuck here. Luckily, I escaped and managed to find Darryl,” Jen explained.
“See, I had nothing to do with it! You believe me, right?” Rev pointed at her.
“Yeah, for now. About your motorcycle, I’ll find some way to reimburse you for it,” I decided.
“Thank you. Here’s my contact information,” Rev agreed, handing me a business card.
Wait, the Special Investigations Unit? Rev was a senior detective for them. I stared at him, shaking my head.
“You could have told us you were part of the SIU,” I accused.
“Oh, I didn’t think that mattered. Besides, we couldn’t waste time talking. How do you know about us?” Rev rubbed his helmet.
“We all know Tess, the Gatekeeper. We’re all heroes,” I revealed.
“Oh, you guys. I thought your faces looked familiar. The boss did mention sparring with a woman a couple of days ago. That must be you?” Rev realized.
“That’s me. It would have made things a lot easier if you just told us who you were in the first place. Whatever, I do appreciate your help even thought it seems like Ichaival and Jen didn’t need it,” I confirmed.
“My bad. Hey, don’t worry about the motorcycle! If you’re Tess’ friends, I rather not have you compensate me. She’s a scary woman, you know? See you guys around,” Rev decided, giving a two finger salute above his helmet before leaving.
All four of us returned to the restaurant. Everything was back to normal. Champ took Yuka home, leaving me to deal with Felicity. Jen assured me she would take care of Ichaival and left too.
“Felicity, Felicity!” I shook her.
Felicity’s head shot up, confusion on her face. She stared at Ichaival’s seat, panicking when he wasn’t there. I explained the circumstances to Felicity. She took Jen saving Ichaival pretty well. The woman nodded with a sad look and decided we should go after eating. I wasn’t sure if Felicity really was okay, but I would take her word for it. It would not end well if I pressed her too much.