Chapter 23:

The Benefits Of Icebathing

The WTP Club

As the group walked back to Sikh and Wark, they deliberated what to do next. Sousui strongly advocated leaving the basement as soon as possible and going directly to the police.

Va, however, insisted on storming the lab prior to that. She could not rule out the possibility that Keiichi had already started the project during the fights and felt determined to stop the awakening. Sousui ultimately agreed, and so the WTP squad, once having picked up Sikh and Wark, headed toward the lab. 

To Va's relief, the lab was completely empty when they arrived, and the anime dolls were still floating motionlessly in the liquid. She exhaled a sigh of relief and began to calm down a bit.

Glenn and Sousui inspected the room awed, and Sikh commented "It is look like a base from a super villian."

Beat, meanwhile, watched Waisie in her capsule and felt an inner emptiness. However, when Wark put his hands on his shoulder and told him that he was proud of him, he decided to stop second-guessing his decisions. Wark had proven to be a true friend to him, even without being programmed to be one. He could trust him.

For safety precautions, Glenn decided to take a look outside after a minute. He wanted to make sure they weren’t suddenly attacked from behind. When glancing down the hallway he noticed the steel door that led to the gaming room. Cautiously he strode toward it and opened it curiously. In the next moment, his jaw dropped.

"So to it sum up, ice bathing not only puts you in balance with nature, but also purifies your soul!" PlatinumOne babbled, having stripped down to his underwear to show off all his muscular glory. He then struck a few poses while eying his new disciples critically.

The Trusted Alliance members had stood up from their seats, pushed the tables aside and had started sparring with each other at PlatinumOne’s command.

Glenn needed a moment to process this absurd scene. He had prepared himself for many things, but not to find his idol, of all people, behind that door.

PlatinumOne had noticed the newcomer and walked up to him. "Are you Glenn?"

Glenn thought he was dreaming. How did PlatinumOne know his name? He felt like a 13-year-old girl who had just run into her crush. Nervously, he nodded, still unsure if he wasn't dreaming after all.

"Then I guess you're the friend Emily told me about. Glad to see you're doing well! Impressive muscles!" PlatinumOne praised, patting Glenn on the shoulder appreciatively.

Then he turned his attention back to his disciples.

Glenn felt as if he was about to swoon with happiness. His idol not only knew his name, but praised him for his muscles? He was floating on cloud nine. It wasn't until the next moment that he realized PlatinumOne had mentioned Emily’s name. 

"Emily?" Glenn reassured himself "Do you know her? Where is she?"

PlatinumOne told him that it was Emily who had led him to this beta hideout. Then he handed Glenn a piece of paper with a phone number on it. "Emily got herself another phone before she brought me here. She meant that I should call her if I was in trouble." He laughed in a grumpy voice and added "If I'm in trouble, I just call my muscles for help."

In the meantime, the other WTP members had come after Glenn and were now watching the spectacle bewilderedly.

The Trusted Alliance guys were a little confused as to where the spectators had suddenly appeared from. At the same time, however, they felt spurred on from having an audience.

"Does anyone know where they dumped our phones?" Glenn asked his friends.

Beat nodded, ran into the meeting room, and returned with a bag that contained their phones and Lenin.

Va shrieked joyfully when she noticed her robot friend and hugged him tightly.

Glenn thanked Beat as he handed him his phone, but then eyed him a little skeptically. "How did you even know where they were?" 

Beat, who still hadn't confessed his betrayal to the clique, expressed his typical strange laugh.

Glenn rolled his eyes but didn't question Beat's nervousness any further. Beat, after all, acted weird most of the time.

He dialed the number PlatinumOne had given him and was indeed connected to Emily right away. Glenn put Emily on speaker and the whole WTP group greeted her loudly.

"Ohhh guys! I'm so glad to hear you are safe and sound! I was so worried about you!" Emily exclaimed with relief "Where are you now?"

"In Landini's gaming room", Glenn explained and continued euphorically "We broke out and taught both Landini and Smoke a lesson. You should have seen us! We haven't caught Keiichi yet though. That loser is still hiding."

"And I even know where", Emily promptly replied, drawing the group's attention to her. She told her friends that Keiichi had left the house about 20 minutes ago and was now on his way to the southern exit of the town. She explained that she hadn’t managed to figure out what exactly he was heading for, but would keep the group updated. 

Glenn instructed her to be careful and stay among people. Having come this far, they didn’t want Emily to expose herself to an unnecessary risk. Emily, however, sounded confident and assured the group that she would watch out for herself.

The goal of the WTP Club suddenly seemed within reach. Not only had they succeeded in capturing all of Keiichi's allies, they had also managed to corner Keiichi himself.

After ending the call, Sousui and Glenn insisted on finally being told what exactly Keiichi had planned. They wanted to understand the whole picture, in order to decide what to do next.

Beat, whose nervousness was slowly subsiding again, began to bring the two up to speed with the help of Wark. They made it sound like Beat had been captured too but had managed to escape to refrain from mentioning his betrayal.

When they finished talking, Sousui commented "Somehow Keiichi, Landini, and Smoke shot themselves in the foot by kidnapping us. After all, they hadn’t really done anything illegal up to this point, right? I guess greed and paranoia leads one to do crazy things."

Somewhat surprised, Va inquired "How aren’t their mad experiments illegal?"

"I mean, it's not like he was experimenting with actual life, so I doubt Keiichi broke any laws."

"I'm not sure Keiichi even realized that", Glenn added, rolling his eyes "If what Beat and Wark say is true, he must think of the dolls as real human beings. Why else would he care about offering them a good life? He really seems to be such a weird person."

Va listened intently and suddenly seemed irritated.

Noticing Va’s look, Wark took the floor "Maybe there is something about the whole project that we don’t know yet. Maybe Keiichi actually pursued some kind of world domination plans. For my part, I won’t dare to doubt any of Va's suspicions anymore." He gave Va a smile and hoped that it would cheer her up.

Indeed, Va seemed a little more optimistic again. "I’m sure that we will find enough evidence that backs up my assumption. Keiichi will definitely go to prison forever!"

Then she remarked that she had forgotten something in one of the secret basement rooms and excused herself. Behind her, she closed the steel door; the group, however, paid no attention to that. 

During Va's absence, Glenn took the opportunity to get answers from his role model to all the questions that he had been dying to ask for a long time.

PlatinumOne was pleased to have such a loyal fan, responded to everything in detail and promised to keep in touch with him.

Meanwhile, the others pondered what exactly the group should best tell the police. Sousui also contemplated whether it would be wise to free Smoke and Landini prior to calling the police, not wanting them to look like criminals themselves.

About 15 minutes after Va had left, Glenn noticed that she had already been gone for a surprisingly long time. He decided to go after her to make sure everything was all right. 

Cautiously, Glenn went back into the hallway behind the steel door. He headed straight for the lab and immediately realized that something was wrong. The whole floor of the lab was soaked in water and broken cables and plates floated in the midst of the liquid. Irritated, Glenn looked up and saw that someone had smashed the entire technology into pieces.

Was Va responsible for this? Hadn't she just said that she was optimistic that they would find proof for Keiichi’s world domination plans? Why would she destroy all potential evidence?

Glenn ran back out of the lab and down the corridor. What had Va been thinking again? Suddenly, he perceived a disgusting smell. He paused and began to look around agitatedly, trying to figure out where the stench was coming from.

As he inspected the walls, he noticed red stains that he quickly identified as traces of blood. Glenn held his breath and got himself ready to fight. What could have possibly happened here during the past minutes? Just a moment ago, he had believed that the nightmare was finally over. As he was about to carefully sneak forward, his entire body suddenly froze.

In front of him on the floor, a completely dismembered body had revealed itself. A severed head, which Glenn immediately identified as Landini's, lay slightly off to the side. Glenn expressed a frightened whimper and felt his entire body shaking anxiously.

Dead? Landini was dead? Just like that? He had felt so much hatred for him over the past day, and yet he would have never wanted him to actually die.

As if in a trance, he started running again only to discover a few seconds later that Smoke had met the same fate as Landini.

Glenn no longer understood anything. Had Va possibly killed them? That couldn’t be...

Glenn’s phone suddenly started to ring. He answered the call. Emily was at the other end of the line

"Glenn, Keiichi has entered a lodge close to a forest and Va is waiting inside. What is going on?"