The place was still within the boundaries.
It was an intersection ahead. The body frame of the traffic lights there was quite big since it was not only regulating the intersection, but also the underpass beneath it. There, on top was Leo Jones laughing. When Sofony regained clarity of her mind, looking back to the crazy attacker who just suddenly popped out of nowhere, the first thing that she wondered was not how he appeared here.
'Am I his next target?'
Panting so hard and audibly, she roamed her eyes around to check how many people were in the surroundings and if her driver was still alive. Not long after, her gaze flickered back to the person now jumping down to the road.
Aside from getting some bruises and cuts on her skin, she was fairly safe and did not get caught in the fire and explosion. Her driver was alive, only his forehead and right arm were bathed in crimson, bleeding due to some long cuts and gashes there.
It was not the case with the people nearby her car though.
Since it was the main road connecting two cities, the traffic was quite heavy therefore not few were caught unguarded by the bomb, ending up either heavily wounded or dead.
Some got lucky and managed to escape from their vehicles, but all of them were now either sporting shocked faces or crying out of trauma.
Right now, even though she was looking warily at Leo Jones, in the corner of her eyes, the sight of a man covered in blood begging for help did not escape her notice. He was toiling hard to inch his body out of the burning window of a truck that had tumbled sideways beyond the railings.
She was sure that this poor man was not the only one trapped within their transports, crying for devils or angels to save them.
All these casualties... was caused by the short teenager strutting towards her direction. His laugh was like that of a demon. His innocent looking face reminded her of a devil who always wore the guise of innocence or temptation only to take everything his victim has.
Steeling her heart, she immediately had the system brought her back to optimum condition, letting it reduce her now substantial points by a few hundred.
<System: How about a shield? The 10,000 points barrier might be a bit trashy. But at least, it won't let anything outside get into it.>
'Stop with your cr*p! I don't know how he managed to get on top of the traffic light post, but it proved that he has some means to appear somewhere at will, at least I'm sure he'd be fast enough to reach me before I manage to press the button. What will be the point then?'
<System: You don't plan to put up a fight then? Hehe, what stupidity candy did you eat again?>
'...I'll probe first. And hope for the best.'
What she wanted to believe in were her instincts which no longer screamed of danger at her. Must have been the lack of killing intent this time.
She was gritting her teeth without gazing away from Leo, afraid to miss even a millisecond of action from him.
On the other hand, the kid stopped laughing and innocently tilted his head at Sofony when he was only about three meters away from her. The people nearby them acted as though they couldn't see them and she was speculating it was due to an illusion of wide-area mass hypnosis.
"You won't activate a shield?"
The boy must have been confused about why she was only looking at him and no longer doing anything. In his memories, the girl was a crybaby. He was expecting her to react at least as strongly as Clarissa since she knew what he was capable of.
A couple of seconds passed before Sofony answered, "I thought you're after Clarissa..." She didn't have to say more for the boy to realize the unsaid words... the phrase he'd always been hearing from those he had chosen for his mission or task, 'Why are you targeting me?'
A laugh escaped out of his lips. Pressing his red cap down which slightly quivered due to the wind, he said, "Oh. Right! I am. Hahaha! I'm glad you remember. By the way, it's not really my intention to throw a grenade at you. It came out as a habit. You know. Habits never die!"
The girl remained staring at him, her body then shaking a bit out of anger.
So the bombing this time was a normal greeting? His hands just slipped? Unintentionally?
Sofony really felt that she should level up fast or else, one day, she'd just find herself killed 'accidentally' by this higher-level host! She definitely couldn't let that happen! Must gain more protective measures!
He coughed and added, "Anyways, I'm just here to help deliver you to your main non-host supporter. Hahaha. Just saying! At least, I did not really manage to kill you, so don't be too angry at me!"
Actions just happened faster than words. Before the trembling Sofony could let out a sound of protest or demand an explanation, the person had already vanished out of her sight.
"What?" she exclaimed dumbfounded. This already occurred before but only did she manage to think of it more thoroughly. Where the heck did Leo go and how did he vanish? Was that the famed teleportation only seen in movies and sci-fi, magical themed comics?
She was not given any more second to react as she just found herself feeling dizzy, forced to shut her eyes to somehow mitigate the uncomfortable feeling that lasted for some time. However, when she opened them, she was already in a completely different place, attested by the sudden appearance of a familiar scenery around her...
High-rise buildings, busy roads, flyovers, colorful and flashing billboards.
In the middle of it all should be the Golden Residences.
But for a reason she didn't know, it suddenly became unrecognizable to her...
Around 5:34 pm, Ever Victorious.
Gio had already dealt with all the troubles Fred Mendez had caused him, using Conrad's name as a shield to everyone not content with everything he had decided. Those not still resigned to his resolution received his deadly glares, his assistant George silently writing down the name of the stupid people to his blacklist, the one which would be then forwarded to the head of the Albarez family.
This means that not only Gio's group of companies would be ending their ties with these people, but the whole of Albarez Corporation.
Right now, the problems the two unpredictable hosts brought him were already enough. He didn't want any other anymore, therefore, those businessmen who didn't want to back down, thinking this was their chance to step all over him or milk him out of some favor or benefits, he just nipped their ambitions in the bud by terminating all relationships the Albarez had with them.
These people would hear about it later, but once they do, Gio was sure that they'd bang their heads to the nearest wall they would find, out of regret. When the time for him to receive their begging comes, he would make sure to show them his most perfect poker face.
Since even in the middle of his cleanup, Gio had still stationed people at the city toll gate to watch out for Sofony's return, he immediately received news of what happened there. His heart tightened after hearing that a terrorist attack befell that place. Thinking it could possibly be not a mere coincidence since Sofony had just texted him of that place as her current location, he stood up from his seat and left for his car.
The blockade in the network and media was only preventing everyone outside Alina to get any news from their city hence Sofony's message for him went through, consequently letting him know that she could possibly be at that blown up area.
He knew there was just no way Fred would let his daughter die, but he just couldn't shake off the anxiousness from his mind.
This was the reason why he did not hesitate to leave his alarmed and puzzled employees behind to check out that location. With a violent step on the accelerator, he almost made his car fly just to get to her side.
In the height of tension, just when his eyes were about to turn red from all the worry and hate bubbling within his chest, the only thing he had brought with him from the office, his phone, vibrated. Without decreasing his speed as he drove along the road, using one hand he steered the wheel, the other reached out to the phone he carelessly left on the edge of the dashboard. He tapped on the icon, accepting the call.
"What is it?" he coldly asked as he hit the loudspeaker button. "Say it quick."
The one from the other line, the head of his information team, Old Gil, reported with a trace of skepticism in his voice.
"Sir, one of our men in charge of monitoring the condo said he saw someone looking exactly similar to Miss Sofony in front of it..."
Despite being a bit shaken, he didn't stop the car.
"What?" he barked out, a frown automatically showing on his already dark face. "Then what about the one at the border?"
Old Gil knew his boss was angry for the two consecutive yet contradicting reports his team had just delivered. Thus he hastily explained, "I'm sorry, Sir. We are still checking what happened. Maybe our team just mistook the person at the tollgate for her. Please give us a few more minutes to triple-check the two individuals. Also, we will confirm if the condo is---"
Black eyes reminiscent of a pool of negative emotions stared at the phone crushed into mixed of large and small bits. He tossed away the now garbage phone then focused again on his driving. But, this time, after momentarily stopping and U-Turning to another direction, he accelerated past through tens of intersection without care to how many traffic violations he had incurred along the way.
By this time, the night was already blanketing the world with its gentle darkness, seemingly telling everyone that it would be time to get a well-deserved soon. While there were people sighing out of relief that work hours were finally over, there were few individuals experiencing the polar opposite of that.
Right now, even with his rather normal luxury car, Gio's current driving would put many sports car racers to shame. A drive which should normally take more than twenty minutes was shortened into 7 minutes by him, his vehicle then half-heartedly parked at the side of the road a little more than ten meters away from the entrance of the condo building.
When he exited the driver's seat, his eyes had long popped out of their sockets, bulging from great surprise and shock. His mouth slightly opened as his lips moved in an attempt to say something. However, as if words were being aloof to him this time, he didn't manage to utter anything, leaving him only staring blankly at the direction of the Golden Residences.
Smokes. Remnants of a big fire. Three big firefighter trucks. People crying and screaming everywhere.
Within nine hours that he was not here, the whole condo suddenly turned into a greatly burnt building still emitting black smokes and toxic fumes. Nearby, people were all around, some panicking and yelling, the others helping the firefighters put out the remaining fire.
"They didn't even leave this place alone..." he resentfully muttered not long after, anger and gloom written all over his face.
Gio hurriedly moved away from his car, taking huge and urgent steps towards the person he saw was kneeling on the sidewalk, appearing disheveled and at a lost. Only her long glossy black hair that flowed seamlessly on her back was visible to him, but he suspected that the figure was blankly staring in front, crying soundlessly, with crystal-like teardrops dripping on the red pathways.
'She must be heartbroken that our home is reduced into ashes.'
The mere thought of that brought him endless heartache. His strides quickened and his mouth opened up to call out her name.
The beautiful feminine figure did not turn around. He blamed the loud noises surrounding them. He then shouted her name again, this time louder, hoping it would elicit his expected response. His eyes were so focused on her that he didn't notice that despite him loudly shouting in a place so crowded by all sorts of people, no one turned their heads to him or even give him a sideway glance.
Still no response.
She remained kneeling there, the lack of reaction just rubbed him the wrong way. But now that he was closer, he could also see that some individuals were actually with her and they were surrounding someone lying motionlessly on the red patterned ground, probably heavily wounded. He saw Sofony's body shaking so badly.
One of the female firefighters checking on her stood up, roaring something to the walkie-talkie in her right hand.
With knitted brows, he crossed the remaining distance between them while calling her name for the third time.
That was when he noticed that something was odd.
She still didn't reply.
He was only three meters away from her and was even about to lift his hand which he would use to tap on her trembling shoulders when he suddenly found himself stopping in place.
He tried to take one more step but ended up being stopped, again. His ebony colored pupils shrunk, realizing that between him and her actually stood an unseen something erected to prevent her from hearing him, and him from going near her. Aside from this, he had already a glimpse of who the person she was crying for was.
An invisible, unsurpassable wall...
And a face so familiar that he couldn't believe he was seeing there plastered on somebody looking so dead on the cold hard ground.
The moment the thought dawned to his mind, his reddening eyes shone with anger and heavy profanities automatically flowed out of his trembling lips.