"I'm in command, I know where we are." Ren said as calm as he could. "These are personal quarters of our defeated Emperor. "The residence has been forsaken for a while but I remember little things, like door handles." Like his fear staring at a door handle back then, Ren took a deep breath. Good that Linus didn't show any nervousness. Where else could Gill's transporter take them, really? The Neathian didn't know what Ren did: it was a one-way entry and Ren could feel no draught. They could be trapped and locked up there.
Ren lifted his BakuMeter to shed around the tiny light from the display. This was no funny place to stay for long. The room was bare; wallpaper had come off and mildew ruled everywhere. No wonder that for somebody like Ren the surroundings caused a stir inside. Too many years this had been the den of the beast that he entered filled with awe! Obviously this part of the Castle was in so miserable state because Ren wasn't the only one who shared the feeling. Despite that Barodius's stuff was moved, there persisted some kind of superstitious fear to utilize his former home.
Where to next? Ren had a choice of doors but it was the first time he had used this particular entry and he had little idea about directions. He knew that there was a maze of public and private chambers. He had to be careful. The Gundalian stopped and tried to focus on the tiniest draught he could catch but there was only Linus's breath. The Neathian wanted to say something but Ren hushed him with a gesture while looking up at the ceiling. It had a specific pattern that reminded something to Ren. He closed his eyes to focus and then looked at the pattern again. Right, he had seen it before! This realization made him writhe inside: he was taken this way once, long ago. He was about twelve in Human years then; he was medicated and put on the stretchers. It was the very day when Barodius had rocked the isolation of young Ren's life like remote thunder.
"What is it, Linehalt? Is it an earthquake?" Ren was playing with his Bakugan in one of the cathedral-like caves of the Underground when they heard it.
"No, it comes from above." Linehalt took a minute to listen.
"It's the Entrance! Somebody's breaking through the door!" Ren jumped on the shoulder of the equally excited Bakugan to take a flight towards the noise. The Entrance was not the narrow path that baby Ren stepped down to enter his vast underground prison; it was a mythic monument that Ren and Linehalt discovered later, a large carved arch that enclosed a blind brick wall on top of a broad stairway that led up and up again for about a mile. After Ren had realized that Grandpa was not going to return and take Ren home, all his dreams and fantasies were about the mysterious arch. He dubbed it the Entrance. It was not a fantasy about the darkness that he would leave behind. It was about the new world to step in! He kept telling himself and Linehalt how that wall would disappear one day and they would enter a better, lighter place to stay there forever.
That day had come. He couldn't believe that his dreams were coming true! The bricks crumbled under the force applied from outside and trembling beams of light broke in.
Ren's first instinct was to rush forward and shout for help; only awe, disbelief, and strange shyness held him back. A creature of darkness, Linehalt had his doubts, too:
"We don't belong to their world. Shouldn't we hide and wait?"
Agitated, they waited in the shadow of the cliff. They watched how the Entrance arch was freed to let a strange procession inside. It was headed by a grey-and-purple haired Gundalian in regal outfits. With him there was a red-dressed lieutenant, the entourage of torch-bearing soldiers, and a giant dragon-like Darkus Bakugan. It was the first time that Ren saw Barodius, Gill, and Dharak; but it was something else that Ren was fascinated by:
"They have light, Linehalt! They have light!" Ren repeated like hypnotized as torches were lit on every step the procession took on its way down.
Finally, the visitors reached the ground and stopped.
"What now? No one's here!" Gill laughed nervously.
Barodius threw a glance at his Bakugan.
"He is around." Dharak snorted like a hound dog. "A Darkus Bakugan is here and he has a partner. They're watching us."
"I'm not sure if my Pyrus Bakugan can fight so deep underground. We might be unable to outnumber them. Shall we retreat?" The news had made Gill insecure.
"Nonsense!" The Emperor snapped and stepped ahead to shout into the darkness: "Protector of the Dark Bakugan! You're forgiven. Come forward and serve your Emperor!"
"It's you!" Linehalt told Ren quietly. "He talks about you. You're Protector of the Dark Bakugan! You have to decide. What will you do?"
"Protector of the Dark Bakugan! Do you hear me?" Barodius repeated again, louder.
"Oh, why only am I waiting?" Ren whispered and dashed to the man that he thought was his savior. "Yes, yes, yes! I want to serve my Emperor!"
To most of his bafflement, the monarch and his followers burst out laughing.
"What, he's a little boy!" Gill exclaimed. "Are you Protector of the Dark Bakugan? Is there no one else?"
"It's only me here." Ren responded, bewildered.
"And you – you want to be my servant?" Barodius asked with a chuckle. Ren should know that he had met a wicked one. Those piercing eyes and disdainful grin brought a clear message but Ren misinterpreted that. He thought that his Emperor was strict, not evil. He was mistaking so much! So he got what served him right.
"Do you think you are worth it? I doubt very much. See this!"The Emperor raised both hands and snapped the fingers, calling a flash of thunderbolt out of thin air that fell striking on both Gundalian kid and his Bakugan.
Ren had no idea about the danger imposed by lightning. Neither had he had experience of paralyzing pain: for a short moment, Ren thought he was dying. With a corner of his eye, Ren saw Linehalt falling down and shrinking into a ball. Then, the next wave of pain followed when his own body hit the ground.
"He's weak!" Gill laughed. That was how Ren felt: weak, powerless, and clueless about what had just happened. He was unable to escape or make a move. He could only think about the worst – about what he then thought was the worst:
"No, please no, don't leave me here!" He moaned. "I will grow up. I will become strong! Please, give me a chance!"
Barodius bent over to give him a cold inspecting sight: "Tell me one word. Why should I?"
"I will serve my Emperor." Ren whispered. "I will be loyal."
"Will you?" The Emperor straightened with a strange grin. Then, he turned away and barked a short order: "Take them to the lab!"
Ren was given an injection before they put him on the stretchers; however, they knew little about Ren's stamina and the necessary dosage that first time. He wasn't out; he just fell into a mix of dizziness, nausea, and pain. He could still recall the marred pictures of faces and hands, fragments of walls, doors, and ceilings while he was moved. The images he believed were lost in the depth of his consciousness in fact had just waited for the hour to bring him down. So much time later, the recollection seemed even brighter that when it was actually experienced.
Ren got his breath back.
"It's all right. Now, I know where to go." He pushed the door his senses had steered him to.
About this chapter:
Reference to anime: see ch.1 for main theme; BBB S3 E10 (Story about Ren's past) Themes: Main theme; Past and previous experience of Ren theme. Statement: Cannon statement Ren worked for Barodius because he wanted to exit darkness vs F2N statement he did because he wanted to enter a better world. Characters: (featured) Ren Krawler, Linus Claude, Linehalt, Barodius, Gill, Dharak; (referred) Ren's Grandfather