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I stared down at the corpse, frowning. I might have had a hand in the death of Beak Nose, but I didn’t actually claim that kill. In the end, the one who did the killing attack was Mage Buddy. But I was one hundred percent responsible for this Mage’s death.

I should be upset that I killed a human. It was something I swore I’d never do. But I felt nothing. Technically, I should have captured him alive and turned him over to the police. Let the officials take control and get as much information as they could. But it didn’t happen like that. In the end, it was me or him — and I wasn’t going to lie down and die.

As the pool of blood around Mage Buddy grew bigger, the strongest emotion I felt was disappointment that I couldn’t get any more information from him. I never got the name of who hired him to kill me. Or found out what they were doing in the cult. No matter how long I stared at him, he wasn’t going to open his eyes and clearly tell me.

I turned and looked at the female cultist still unconscious on the ground. Man, I must have hit her hard for her to be out this long. Well, hopefully, it was nothing a Healer couldn’t fix. Hopefully she was a talker. I walked over to her and pulled out the rope from my Items Bag. I wasn’t a pro at tying people up, but after wrapping her in ten feet of nylon rope with multiple twists and knots, in theory, she wasn’t going to go anywhere until the authorities got here.

I just didn’t plan on being here when that happened.

I turned and walked towards the stairway that led back to Eden. Technically, since I was in Garden City, I could easily spend the night with my family. But then I’d have to explain to the front gate officer in the morning how I got out of Eden without approval when I tried to get back in.

Just before I took the first step down the stairs, I paused, my foot hanging in the air. Slowly, I turned around and walked to the middle of the gym where the drugged fog still pooled the most. I took out a water bottle and poured the contents out onto the ground. There were still a few drops left inside, so I waved my hand over the opening. The drops evaporated into mist and I guided the mist out of the bottle.

I mentally reached out to all of the remaining mist that I could and condensed it into a thick cloud. I scowled, feeling the particles of something impure inside — the drug. It was different from my Poison Fog. This foreign stuff felt coarse and clunky, like backwash floaters, obviously not natural in the water vapor. Still I guided the drugged fog into the empty water bottle and ‘packed’ it in there as much as I could. It wouldn’t all fit in the bottle so, after twisting the cap tightly on the bottle and storing it in my Items Bag, I guided the rest of the fog to behind the stage area where it couldn’t affect anyone — at least not anyone alive.

I hurried down the stairs, through the long hallway, and back up to the small building on the other side. The man and Huntress that were here when I first entered were gone. For all I knew, the Huntress was one of the lightning Mages. I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the stairway after I exited it earlier. I wasn’t worried. It was better that they were gone right now.

I pulled out the cellphone that I took earlier and fiddled with it until I accessed the emergency setting. I took a deep breath. Think panicked thoughts. I’m a pathetic, scared useless girl. I repeated the thought over and over in my head, trying to drill the idea down. Then I dialed 991 — the Hunter’s three digit emergency number.

“991, what’s your emergency?” a woman said over the microphone.

I took a couple breaths, trying to make my voice airy and panicked. “I need help. I don’t know what’s going on. They’re just, falling over, everywhere.” Was that good enough? I’d never been good at acting.

“What’s your name and where are you?” the woman asked.

I completely ignored her request for my name. “I don’t know exactly where I am. I don’t think I’m in Eden anymore. My friend brought me to a building.” Quickly, I spit out the address. “Then we walked down some stairs and came out in this building in Garden City.” That will freak the authorities out, real fast. I took a break to hyperventilate a little more before rushing in, completely cutting the woman off. “Then this guy in white started talking about weird stuff and there was this fog. Then everyone started to pass out. I don’t know what’s wrong, there’s hundreds of them. I feel so dizzy and sick. Please hurry.”

“Okay, miss, what was —”

I gasped like I was looking at a monster and moved the phone away from my face. “Wait! Who are you? Don’t touch me!” I screamed and rubbed the speaker on the only part of my pants that wasn’t covered in paint or battle grime. Without waiting, I hit ‘end call’ and shut the phone off.

“That should freak them out good enough,” I whispered and put the phone back in my Items Bag. Then I cast Stealth. It wasn’t completely effective because of the paint, but hopefully the night’s darkness was enough to hide me. I exited the building, taking care to lock the door behind me. It would be nicer to leave it unlocked for the authorities, but I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible.

I could already feel the presence of dozens of high leveled Hunters closing in on the area. Without waiting, I activated Feather Step and sprinted away as fast as I could.

*****

“Did you hear about the cult bust last night?” a middle aged Huntress gossiped to her friend as they walked in full arm towards the Gate. “hose crazies actually burrowed a tunnel into Garden City.” She tsked with disdain. “It makes all the regulations we do to keep humans safe pointless, don’t you think?”

I found my head turning towards the woman as I focused on her conversation. I was openly eavesdropping, but because of my Stealth, they couldn’t see me.

Her friend gasped and covered her mouth with her gloved hand. “Is that true? What are they thinking?” They passed the raised planter boxes around Gate Square and walked into the open area, their boots clicking on the concrete.

“No good, that’s for sure. Those people will say anything to cause panic, if you ask me,” the first woman nodded righteously.

Her friend bobbed her head in agreement. “Yes. So they finally caught them?”

The first woman shook her head. “Only a couple of them. But the ringleader is still out there …” Their voices trailed off as they moved out of my hearing range.

They weren’t the only ones talking about the cult raid last night. I’ve heard quite a few things the people were saying, some of it was true, some of it not. But there was one thing that was consistent — Epson was still at large. And they were still trying to figure out what was in the drug. Which is why I was here.

From my spot under a tree, I looked up at Eden’s hospital. The glass that surrounded the building reflected back the picture of Gate Square and the buildings around it. The green foliage was bright in the late summer heat. But I wasn’t here to gawk over architecture.

I walked up the few steps to the entry and stopped just outside the sliding glass doors. I waited a beat, and the doors slid open as a Hunter exited the building. I took the chance to duck into the hospital. Silently and carefully, I slipped down the hall that led to where the doctors’ offices were.

Several people, mostly nurses in scrubs, passed me in the hall, but I didn’t run into a problem. Only one of them turned, as if they could somewhat sense me. In the end, they walked away looking confused. After a couple twists and turns, I stopped outside a thick wooden door. The brass nameplate to the right of the door read Healer Jonovan Matthews.

I bent over and pointed to the ground right by his door. A small brown cardboard box appeared there, the top taped together with a label that said, ‘To Jonovan.’ That was going to cause some panic when he saw it. Hell, they might even call in the bomb squad. They were doomed to be disappointed though.

Inside was the cellphone that I took last night and the bottle full of drugged fog. By now, the fog had liquified, but the drug agents were still in there. There was also a printed note that read:

Look at the video taken last night at 11:24 PM. It might give some insight on the cultists. The leader calls himself Epson or Dr. E. He’s a C ranked Melee Hunter, but isn’t well trained. Then I went on to describe him as detailed as I could before I moved to the next subject. The bottle contains some of the drug in the fog that was used on the crowd. The main part of it is derived from the Cyan-Agaric that’s found in the Josu Rainforest.

I turned and left.

That was everything that I knew about the cultists and a lot of good information. If they couldn’t locate Epson from that, it was on their heads. I didn’t doubt that they had a way to open up the cellphone and look through the photos and videos. I mean, they could in the movies. So they should be able to in real life … right? Push comes to shove, they hunt down the girl the phone belonged to and make her open the phone. I’m sure they had a list of people involved in last night, so they just needed to ask around.

As for the drug, I knew they had the technology to break it down. Even if it was ‘watered down’ by the fog, they should be able to get the general gist of its makeup. And hopefully come up with a recovery method for the people who were still affected by it.

As I walked out, I took a deep breath of the fresh air. No matter what happened now, it was all on the authorities' heads. I just wanted to wash my hands of the whole thing. I didn’t have any more time to spend on a bunch of thieving whackos. I still needed to find an antidote for Sleepers, figure out how to find my way to a parasitic planet to destroy it before it ate Earth, and hopefully find Kesstel in the process. But to do all that, I needed to get stronger. A lot stronger.

My eyes narrowed in determination, and I walked towards the Gate.

*****

A week later, everyone and their dog was talking about how the leader of the cultist group was finally caught. And he wasn’t just a crazy anti-governmentalist, he was also stealing from the people who went to listen to him. It was a horrible thing for him to do, but it also served those saps right for going in the first place.

Another bit of news that quickly gained momentum was how the Cyan-Agaric in Josu Rainforest was now a controlled substance. It would be part of the morning cleanup crew’s job now. After the crew that killed the worst of the monsters before the public entered the Gate, they would search the rainforest for the mushroom. They were either supposed to destroy the Cyan-Agaric or carefully collect it for further Association research.

None of that had much impact on me. They never did put me together with the person who crashed the cultist meeting or handed over information.

As for myself, I was too busy grinding levels. Still, I couldn’t resist going to the Josu Rainforest every morning. And every morning, I’d leave disappointed

And alone.

*****

 

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A note from MichelleRReid

End of the Rainforest arc! Tada! I hope that you enjoyed it. Maybe some of your questions were answered, maybe you ended up with more questions than answers. We’ll see what happens next! Hang onto your butts, it’s going to be a wild ride!

PS, you can ask me anything about the story that needs clarifying. If I can answer it without giving anything away, I will.

Oh, and say hi to Editor C!


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About the author

MichelleRReid

Bio: I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.

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