Whatever this place was, Cyrus knew it was larger than he had expected. Santos had led his down numerous hallways; each wall adorned with the same color doors. No windows anywhere. Even though the two had passed countless people who were dressed similarly like Santos (weapons with them, too), it was eerily quiet.
They took their fourth right turn when Cy finally mustered up the valor to ask what this whole ordeal was about.
“So,” his quiet and fragile voice began, “what exactly is this place?”
Santos gave the boy his smirk that seemed to be becoming his trademark. “Heh, thought you’d never ask, kid. This is the Acrux Headquarters,” he responded, looking up at the ceiling that was decorated with radiant lights that would make you blind if you looked at them long enough. “Acrux is a secret organization that I’m part of. Chiyuu—that pink-haired chick from before—is, too. Ya dig so far?”
Cyrus raised an eyebrow at first, wondering how something as cheesy as a secret organization actually existed. But then he remembered the sword at Santos’s waist and the cold, lethal attitude that Chiyuu had given the both of them only minutes before. These people, even at first glance, didn’t seem to be messing around, no matter how weird and playful Santos was. So, to avoid any trouble by not believing what he was being told, Cyrus nodded his head yes.
“I think so,” he replied, looking at the ground as they walked.
Santos lowered his head a bit, now staring forward. His smirk was missing and was being replaced by a frown. “…And I know you’ve heard of the Alpha 23.”
Cy shuddered, the memories of the red-haired man with the sword coming back to haunt him. “Y-yeah,” he stuttered, being fiercely gripped by fear and uncertainty. What if Santos is working with those guys? He doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, a lot like what I’ve seen from those gang members from before...
Santos closed his eyes, his expression obviously giving off an annoyed attitude. Maybe he could read Cyrus’s mind? “We’ve been tryin’ to get rid of those bastards since they first came to this city. It’s embarrassing, really. We can’t even get a few rats outta our own town.”
That reminded Cyrus about another question. “Speaking of which…where are we exactly? The Headquarters, I mean.”
His friend raised an eyebrow at him as they made a left turn in the structure that seemed to span miles. “Why do you think you haven’t seen any windows? This entire building was built underneath the city. Y’know, for safety reasons and all that crap. We have our own town down here.”
Cyrus stayed silent for a second, perplexed. Okay, so he was basically in an underground city full of people who had unknown goals. Most of them had weapons out in the open with them. And to top it all off, he was probably with the most immature one of them all. Finally, he spoke again after thinking. “Santos…what exactly does Acrux do?”
The blonde-haired boy stopped, moving his neck in a circular motion towards Cyrus. “Good God, you ask too many freaking questions. This is starting to be a pain,” he said to himself. He scratched the back of his head and narrowed his eyes back at him. “Nessmond’s been a dark city for as long as people have remembered. You’ve seen it at night, with your own eyes. Shoplifting. Burglary. Arson. The whole damn nine-yards. And you know the cops aren’t doing anything. Hell, most of ‘em are in the criminal business, themselves. Basically…the people in this building and the town around it are the only sane ones left.”
Cy put his hands in his pockets. “If that’s the case, why did you bring me here?”
Santos pointed ahead of them. It was a door at the end of the hallway. It looked like any other old entrance in the building. But something seemed different about it, something unique. The mysterious glow and gloom it was giving off made it a little obvious.
“Because we want you to join us.”
Cyrus was surprised by his friend’s reply. “Wh-wha?...”
The swordsman crossed his arms, looking irritated again as he closed his eyes. “Oh, c’mon, Cyrus, use your head. You were saved from getting cleaved up by the Alpha 23 by yours truly. I went through all the trouble to bring you here myself. Not to mention getting a scolding-session from Chiyu. And to top it all off, I’ve been telling you everything there is to know about us. I wouldn’t just do all this for some shy city punk like you outta my own free will. I don’t like getting my hands dirty.”
“Well, if you put it that way…”
Santos opened his eyes and put both hands to his side. “…Look, Cy, Bud. You wanna get all the answers? Do what I say, alright? No one else. ‘Cause if there’s one thing you can’t trust, its words. Now, c’mon,” he ordered, beginning to trudge his way to the door at the end of the corridor.
Cyrus didn’t move. He still had one last question. And this was the one he had wanted to ask the most.
“So how do I know if I can trust you?” he asked softly, his fragile pupils gazing at the swordsman.
Santos stopped dead in his tracks. His neck slowly turned to the left, and then his upper-torso copied. As his body made a sluggish but smooth 180°, Cyrus at first thought that the boy had reached his temper limit. Maybe it was because of the stern face he was wearing. But Cy’s assumption broke when he saw the boy’s eyes. Santos’s entire body looked like it hadn’t hand its morning cup of coffee right at that moment. Except for the eyes. Those dark pupils showed something a bit more—endurance, wildness, and hope.
“Because I’m all you have.”