Chapter 16:

Lost In The Woods

The WTP Club

While Emily rushed down the corridor, she tried to recall where which rooms had exactly been to avoid getting to a dead end without a door.

She considered escaping down the ladder that also led to the roof. But in the next moment she realized that this would definitely take too much time. While being on the ladder, it would be an easy for Smoke to hit her with one of his arrows.

Meanwhile Emily had almost reached the stairs that led to the second floor. "Not good at all," she said to herself in her mind, knowing that she would be forced to find an exit somewhere on the first floor if she wanted to make it out unharmed. She noticed a door they hadn't entered during their tour and tried her luck.

Emily found herself in what used to be the men's restroom. "Ugh… that smells", she thought to herself in disgust. She ran straight up to the windows, which had luckily remained completely intact and could still be opened normally.

"Thank God", Emily said in relief climbing onto the window ledge and deftly hoisting herself out. She grasped the ledge with both hands and slowly began to feel her way down the wall with her feet.

At that moment the door to the restroom opened and Emily looked into two scowling faces.

Smoke quickly drew his bow and in the next moment an arrow was shot at her. 

Emily shrieked and reflexively let go of the ledge. What followed was a one-and-a-half-meter fall into the middle of a nettle bush.

That hurt terribly all over her body. But Emily knew she couldn't let that stop her. Guided by her instincts, she immediately freed herself and ran straight into the woods.

The rain began to tear down on Emily as she hurried through the thicket. She had no idea where she was even going. Were the attackers still on her heels? She did not know either. All she knew was that she had to keep running without turning back. Her entire whole body was hurting: her legs ached, her lungs burned, and her face itched terribly from the nettles.

"Va you might have been the strongest of us all", Emily gasped to motivate herself, nearly choking on her own spit, "But now I am overtaking you!"

Accompanied by the roar of wind, the hiss of thunder, and the glow of lightning, Emily slalomed, dodging one tree after another and advancing deeper into the forest.

Emily ran around aimlessly for what felt like an eternity. She had no idea how big the forest even was and simply hoped that she would eventually get back into inhabited territory at some point. The thicket seemed never-ending, however, and she noticed how she was continuously getting closer and closer to her limit. 

Then it happened: Emily’s legs finally gave up. She stumbled and fell knee-first onto the soaked forest floor. Paranoid, she looked around if Landini and Smoke were anywhere to be seen.

Fortunately for her, she was all by herself. Apparently, she had actually managed to shake off the attackers.

Emily felt herself getting sick and in the next moment she threw up. Disgusted, she rubbed her mouth.

Then slowly feelings of relief came up in her. She had done it! She had escaped! She had proven that she was strong! And she still had the chance to save everyone... But how?

She rummaged anxiously in her pockets. Unfortunately, she had left her phone in the clubroom; and Lenin had also stayed behind. What should she do now? Should she try to return so that she could notify the police? But what would she even tell them? 

Emily didn’t know what had happened to her friends after she had left the factory. And neither did she know the motives behind the attack of Landini and Smoke. Consequently, it would be hard for her to even prove the assault, while her friends most likely demanded help quickly.

Then Emily remembered the tracking device Va was carrying. If she got her hands on Lenin, she would at least be able to tell where Va could be found. As Va’s location was the only reference point that she had left, she had to make it back to the factory somehow.

With all her remaining strength she got on her feet again and tried to keep her balance. Her legs felt like pudding. Nevertheless, walking at a slow pace was still possible.

But where did she even have to go? Startled, she realized that she was completely lost. She didn't even know from which direction she had come from. 

Panic-stricken, she turned in circles, hoping to find some clue. Unfortunately, everything looked the same: coniferous trees as far as the eye could see. A forest path or anything similar that would have given orientation was nowhere to be seen. When running away she had simply switched off her brain completely and relied on her instincts only; this avenged itself now.

Suddenly, she was torn out of her thoughts by a bright glow, and only a few milliseconds later, she heard the crack of thunder. The storm had to be directly above her. She remembered that it was recommended to stay away from forests during storms to avoid being killed by falling trees and branches. But what exactly to do when already being in the middle of the forest, Emily didn't know. 

She started jogging as fast as she could in her condition, hoping to come across something that would offer her protection. Having come this far, she couldn't let a storm take her out. Her friends were counting on her. She had to save them.

After about half an hour she spotted a cave. Fume and light were coming out of it; apparently, someone had started a campfire inside. 

Emily stopped and eyed the entrance cautiously. Should she take a look inside? She couldn't rule out the possibility that Keiichi’s people were waiting for her inside, but exposing herself further to the danger of the storm didn't seem to be an option either. Besides, she was completely soaked and freezing, which made the warmed cave seem very inviting at that moment. In the end she decided to approach the entrance and peek inside. 

Covered by the shades of the trees, Emily approached. Her gaze was focussed on the opening in the hillside. Nothing suspicious caught her eye, yet she grew a tiny bit more nervous with each step.

Arriving next to the entrance, she paused briefly and took a deep breath. Then she slowly ventured a step inside.

Suddenly, she realized that her foot was touching something, a thread or something similar. The next moment, a net shot down on her from the ceiling, wrapped around her, and pressed her to the floor.

"Shit!" she cursed as she realized what had happened. Hoping to be able to free herself again, she began frantically kicking up and down. After all her efforts, there was no way she could let herself get caught now. She gathered all her remaining strength, tugged at the ropes and even made use of her teeth. But nothing helped, she was trapped.

A shadow approached her. Emilys held her breath and prayed that neither Keiichi nor Smoke nor Landini would appear.

"What a surprise!", a deep voice said "What's a young, pretty girl like you doing so deep in the forest?" 

Emily immediately realized that the voice did not belong to any of the three people mentioned and tried to calm herself down a bit. Then she lifted her head and caught sight of a true colossus walking toward her. Emily's eyes widened. At least 2 meters tall and with the physique of a gorilla was the man who slowly bent down to her to take the net from her. He then held out his gigantic paws to help Emily up.

"My name is Erik", the man said as the wind blew through his long, platinum-colored hair.


In the basement Glenn and Sousui slowly came to consciousness. They went through a similar process of waking up as Bane and ultimately realized that they were locked up in basement compartments.

Suddenly, the sound of a whistling melody was heard that Sousui remembered from some kind of music contest.

"Isn't that the Epic Sax Guy song?", he asked drowsily.

"Ding, ding, correct answer!” Bane praised.

Hearing that voice made Glenn snap wide awake within a split second. "You son of a bitch, where's Va?" he yelled out of the blue.

"A few hours ago, she was where you are", Bane replied in a bored voice.

Glenn had been put into the cell from which Smoke had freed Va before. Sousui was trapped on the other side of the hallway.

“Cut the crap!” Glenn roared, trying to pull the bars apart to get through to Bane's compartment "Where's Va!!? What happened to her?"

For a second, Bane considered letting Glenn and Sousui in on his realization about Va, but then decided against it. So he shrugged and started whistling again.

"You bastard, as soon as I get out of here, you will regret this!", Glenn shouted again "I should have beaten the crap out of you back at the river." He uttered a loud, hateful scream.

"Glenn calm down!" Sousui ordered harshly "We don't know what's going to happen next. You'll want to save up your energy."

"But we are only in this situation because of this psychopath right here”, Glenn justified himself loudly.

"And yet he seems to be on our side", Sousui argued "Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have been locked up like us, would he?"

Glenn dropped to the floor from exasperation and whispered a few times in a shaky voice "Va..., Va..."

"Wow, wow, has someone fallen in love? How pathetic", Bane laughed provocatively.

"I'm going to kill you!" Glenn roared again, and Sousui gave up trying to appeal to him.

"Will you be quiet already!" Smoke shouted indignantly, striding toward the three of them "This is unbearable!"

"I'll kill you too", Glenn whispered hatefully as he caught sight of the pretty boy who had ambushed him.

Smoke ignored the comment and said in a calm tone "I will now explain everything you need to know: You all will stay in these cells at least until our project is up and running. We don't know exactly what you know, but you clearly know too much. We can't risk you interfering with the project. But don't worry, we'll bring you food and water regularly, so no one perishes. We're not primitive axe murderers after all." He gave Bane another disdainful look, which made Bane smirk.

Then Smoke continued "We'll also be picking you up from time to time for bathroom breaks. But you'll get your arms and legs tied up in your cells beforehand. So don’t even think about giving us a hard time. Have you understood everything, any questions?"

"Where are Va, Wark, and Emily?" Sousui asked, inspecting Smoke critically. Sousui deliberately did not ask about Sikh, since there was a good chance that their enemies had not figured out that he was cooperating with them. He hoped Glenn was aware of this as well and would not mention Sikh.

"That doesn’t need to concern you", Smoke replied dryly "Any other questions?"

"When are you going to face me in a fair fight?" Glenn asked grudgingly, clenching his hands into fists. 

Smoke stepped to Glenn's cell so he could look deep into his eyes. Then he said "Even in a 'fair' fight, you wouldn't stand a chance against me."

Glenn snorted wildly and tried to reach through the bars for Smoke's keys. But Smoke was quicker and backed away in time.

"Since there don't seem to be any more 'serious' questions, I'll leave you alone again now", he said before walking out again "I hope the time here makes you realize that you shouldn’t stick your nose in other people's business."

While Bane continued to whistle happily and Glenn focused all his capacities on calming himself, Sousui began to ponder. The clearer he got in his head again, the more questions bothered him. Where exactly were they? Why didn't Smoke want tell them what had happened to their friends? And how had Smoke and Landini even found out about their headquarter in the woods.

He eyed Bane intently. Bane was calm, altough he must have been aware of his hopeless situation. Was Bane really so difficult to upset or was Bane perhaps confident everything would turn out in his favor. If the latter was the case, what exactly gave Bane this confidence? Did Bane know something that he hadn’t figured out yet? "Concentrate! Concentrate!", Sousui instructed himself, feeling like a detective facing his most difficult case yet.

He tried to go through everything chronologically: Sikh and Va must have arrived at the gaming room at about the same time. About 20 minutes later, Landini and Smoke had shown up at the factory grounds to capture them. As a consequence, it seemed very plausible that either Va, Sikh, or even both of them had blurted out who their accomplices were right at the start of the clan’s training.

Sousui was sure that neither Va nor Sikh would backstab them for no reason. So something must have happened that forced them to reveal the names and whereabouts of their allies. Sousui thought of Wark's suspicion, which he had hardly dared to put into words, and which had made Glenn furious. Had Va threatened some assaultive act, at worst rape, in the gaming room? Or had Sikh perhaps revealed all the information out of panic at what was about to happen to Va?

Sousui took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. He remembered the audio recordings Sikh had made day after day. The Trusted Alliance guys did indeed seem odd and misogynistic. Despite all this, none had ever expressed affinities for rape or other sexual crimes. 

Keiichi, Smoke, and Landini couldn't have assumed that their gaming friends would go straight to molesting Va just because they were given the opportunity. On the audio recordings one member had even stated that he would shower his girlfriend – if he had one – with love and threat her with an incredible amount of respect. There was a good chance that Keiichi, Smoke and Landini would have made themselves a lot of enemies in their own ranks if they had presented Va for everyone to just ‘take’. By inference, Va could not have faced acute danger in the gaming room and, consequently, there couldn’t have been any reason for her or Sikh to betray the group.

Somehow, none of this made sense. Sousui sighed strained. He must have overlooked something. What could the missing piece potentially be?


"Beat!" Confused, Wark rubbed his eyes and slowly got up. "Beat what are you doing here?"