The moment Dante felt his consciousness return to him, he found himself lying face down in water with sand beneath his feet. Realizing that he wasn’t dead yet, he struggled to his feet while gasping for air. He felt all the muscles in his body continuously spasm for a moment. Clearly, the experience from earlier brought him no small amount of terror. The moment his eyes opened, he noticed that his body was quickly reassembling. Even though it was still a shock to see this happen, it wasn’t as bad as seeing his body disintegrate. After dragging his body towards the shore, he fell to his knees breathing heavily. After a short moment of rest, he rose to his feet and surveyed his surroundings.
“Where am I, is this… Hell?” All around him he could see nothing but black sand and dead vegetation. The cliff, the rocks, even the water he just climbed out of was pitch black. The surroundings were so barren that even if a heavenly fire were to descend, it wouldn’t cause such a scene to appear. Thinking up to here, he looked towards the sky, only to see dark thunderclouds blotting out the sky. For as far as his eyes could see, there was nothing but dark thunderclouds twisting in the sky like massive pythons - wrapping around each other.
The sound of thunderclaps would constantly boom out and the dazzling streaks of lightning would flash even more so. If it weren’t for the constant flashes of lightning it would be almost impossible to see anything. As Dante continued to look questioningly at his surroundings, he realized that he was the only person on the coastline. There was not another soul in sight. Thinking back to his last moments at the Amphitheatre before he lost consciousness, he suddenly recalled Jenell's image. She was the only one who was worrying about his well-being after his body started disintegrating. Everyone else edged away from him almost on instinct. Seeing her make an attempt to help him without regard for her own safety, left Dante with a sense of warmth. That moment left a deep impression of her in his heart, it caused him to sigh to himself the more he thought about it. “I hope you’re alright”.
Even though Dante was still in a state of shock, he could still think rationally. His survival instincts kicked in and took control of his thoughts. “I need to find shelter; these storm clouds won’t hold up for much longer.” Dante looked around once more, checking to see if anyone else had appeared but sighed in disappointment. Turning his gaze towards the east, he started making his way along the shore. Along the way, he would look out for anything that would be useful to him.
Off in the distance atop a cliff, stood two dark figures watching Dante as he continued to walk along the shore. Both figures were dressed in black from head to toe and wore gas masks that covered their faces completely. The sound of their cloaks fluttering in the wind seemed to orchestrate the thunder and lightning. Occasionally their figures would be revealed under the brief flashes of lightning.
“How is that possible?” asked one of the two. From the sound of their voice, it seemed to be the voice of a young woman probably in her 20’s. Bewilderment clearly evident in her voice. “He just appeared out of nowhere.”
“I’m not sure either, but it seems we haven’t been discovered.” The next voice came from the second figure and it was the voice of a young man probably around the same age as the former. “We need to report this to Chieftain immediately. I’ll go make the report, you keep an eye on him.”
“Alright,” the young woman replied. After giving each other a nod, their bodies flickered and disappeared into the darkness.
Several miles off the western coast of America, was an island that came into being as a result of the war. After its discovery, it was immediately seized by America and was used as an outpost for the war. A year later, it was reassigned to N.A.S.A as a testing zone for their inventions and experiments.
At this time, the other candidates started materializing one by one, scattered across the island. When Jenell's body was finally restored, she almost couldn’t stop shivering as she gasped for air “I-I'm not dead?” Jenell was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t killed at that moment. Contrary to many of the other candidates, Jenell was surprisingly calm at this moment. She knelt down so as to catch her breath and stabilize her breathing. After a moment, she looked around and could see many of the candidates materializing. Jenell quickly scouted the area and started looking for Dante’s figure but was unsuccessful. He wasn’t in front of her like how he was earlier. As a matter of fact. He was nowhere to be seen. Jenell started walking around looking for Dante but couldn’t even find half his shadow. She continued to walk around aimlessly asking the other candidates if they saw him with a worry-stricken face. “Dante… where are you?”
After walking along the shore for a while, Dante came to a stop. In front of him was a dead-end. If he wished to proceed any further he would probably have to climb over the cliff or enter the black water and swim around to get to the other side. He didn’t trust the water from the very first time he laid eyes on it, so swimming was out of the question. “Who knows what might be inside of it”, he thought to himself. After looking around for a moment, a flash of lightning revealed a small passage that was hidden between two boulders which led deep into the cliff. "what's this?" After hesitating for a moment, Dante gritted his teeth and stepped forward. While walking earlier he realized that he still had on his Exo-Suit which brought him some comfort. He believed that he should be able to preserve his life should any life-threatening situation arise.
Once he made his way towards the passage, he paused at the entrance and inspected it a bit further. “This is…” To his surprise, the passage had a narrow path that led up a flight of stairs. It seemed to have been carved into the cliff several years ago. The flashes of lightning would reveal signs of degradation that only time would cause. “It seems this passage isn’t used often, if at all in the past couple of years. Ok, let’s see where this leads to”. Having made his decision, Dante started making his way up the narrow passage. The passage was even darker than outside, only the faint lingering glow from the lightning above would illuminate the passage for a brief moment. The further along he went, the darker it became and the less light was able to reach inside. It became so dark that even the enhanced vision provided by his Exo-Suit had difficulty picking up anything along the way. Dante had to run his hand along the wall to find his way and carefully place his steps as he made his way forward. Thankfully, the sizes of the steps were mostly consistent and didn’t make walking up the path difficult.
After a moment Dante could hear the claps of thunder more clearly the further along he went and could faintly see light reflecting off the ground in the distance. “It seems there’s an opening up ahead,” he thought to himself as he continued to slowly make his way forward. After taking a few more steps, Dante heard a low rumbling sound that caused the passage to tremble. Debris started falling from up above and the rumbling sound got more intense as time progressed.
Dante’s face fell as he realized what was happening, “It’s an earthquake! Shit! I gotta get outta here!” Dante threw all caution to the wind and put all his strength into his right leg to propel himself forward, trusting that the Exo-Suit would give him the boost he needed. But before he could kick off, the floor collapsed below his feet.
“Aaah!” Dante screamed on top of his lungs, horrified at his predicament. He found himself freefalling down a dark massive cavern, its depth unknown. While in freefall, his arms were flailing about trying to grab hold of anything that could stop him from falling. “Shit! Shit! I can’t die like this!” He knew the limitations of the Exo-Suit and was certain that if there was nothing below to break his fall, he would certainly die. After falling for more than 10 seconds Dante’s eyes became bloodshot. “How fucking deep is this hole!?” Even the echo from his scream earlier still had yet to fade away. His frantic expression was surprisingly replaced by anger. Fortunately, the ceiling didn’t collapse after the floor gave way so there no immediate danger of being crushed to death by rocks. He continued to look around, flailing about, hoping to grab hold of something. Just as he was preparing to guide his body towards one side he suddenly heard a loud splash below him. “There’s water below!” He finally found a thread of hope in his moment of despair. The only concern he had was how deep the water was. He immediately positioned his body to meet the water and closed his eyes. It would be a painful experience considering the height of the fall, but the pain was better than death. After holding his breath for a brief moment, he felt his body come in contact with some hot liquid and was completely submerged.
* Splash! *
The down-force from the fall sent Dante several feet under and was swept away by the current. He was stunned under the surface for a brief moment but very quickly got his bearings together and made his way to the surface.
After Dante’s head broke the surface of the water he gasped for air and took the deepest breath he ever had in his life. His face was red from the burning heat and the air was extremely hot. After managing to crack his eyes open, all he could see was white steam all around. It seemed he fell into a massive natural hot spring.
Dante felt a tremor run through him as he heard the shrill cry of a woman nearby.
Surprised, he turned his head around to see who it was, maybe it was someone he knew. When he did, what he saw was the silhouette of young woman's naked body within arm’s reach from where he resurfaced. Even though the young woman’s body was submerged in the mist, Dante could still faintly see the outline of her body. She was dazzling to behold. Dante’s eyes went wide with shock “This…” before he could finish his sentence, he saw the young woman emit a flash of blue light and then his vision went black, he was knocked unconscious.
After an unknown period of time, Dante finally woke with a groan and found himself laying faced down once more, but this time his hands and feet were bound behind his back. The moment he woke up, he heard someone’s voice: “Who are you, and how the hell did you get here you pervert?”
The voice brought Dante back to his senses. Opening his eyes, he tried looking around and became stunned because he saw a light. “Light? What, wait, where am I?” As he looked around, he realized that he was still within the cavern. Along the walls and ceiling were glowing blue algae which illuminated the entire cavern.
“I asked you a question! Who are you and how did you get here?”
Hearing the question Dante raised his head and looked towards the source of the voice. A few feet away from him, sat a woman dressed in blue tribal clothing. The clothes she wore weren’t the graceful kind you’d normally see women wear but instead looked like something a warrior would wear. Her facial features were completely hidden behind a pure white mask. She seemed young from the sound of her voice probably in her late teens or early 20’s.
Feeling the throbbing pain in his head, Dante couldn’t help but wince as he struggled to sit up. “You could’ve been a bit gentler you know” he complained while adjusting his posture. “If she tries to do anything again, I’ll break out of these restraints and return the favor,” he thought to himself while hiding the killing intent in his eyes. He wasn’t the type of person who would be forgiving when placed in a hostile situation, he showed absolutely no mercy to his enemies, be they male or female. Those three years he had to survive in the war taught him many things, the most important was; to always seize the initiative! That way you could survive any situation and live to see another day. Unfortunately, this time around. He lost the initiative to his captor and ended up getting knocked unconscious and bound like a prisoner.
Noticing that his captor didn’t reply to his earlier comment he sat upright then continued: “You know, customarily you should state your name before you ask another for their own. Clearly, you lack people skills and the subtleness women normally possess.”
Dante’s snide remark seemed to have aroused the young woman’s ire. Her voice dark, she replied. “I won’t ask you a third time…” As she spoke, her hands started emitting a cold blue light. Dante’s eyes went wide when he saw this happen “What trick is this?” Remembering what happened earlier his eyes narrowed as he looked closer at her hand. “Wait… that’s the blue light from earlier” As he looked at the blue light around her hands an intense sensation of deadly crisis rose up within him. Just as he was about to break his restraints, a dark figure blurred into existence between the two. The sudden appearance of this figure in front of him without sound or warning made Dante almost jump out of his skin.
“Whoa! What the f… who are you!?” Dante asked, with eyes wide open.
The dark figure replied coolly while looking down at Dante: “Customarily you should state your name before you ask another for their own.”