"Our Bakugans are exhausted. I don't think they can carry us. If we want to get to the Embassy, we better start walking!" Linus Claude said.
"I don't fancy walking. I'm kind of weary. Let's take a detour!" Ren didn't fancy seeing a doctor either. It felt like sheer waste of time! So that Ren had learned he was all on his own with his problems he should better start solving them already! With this on his mind, Ren would rather prefer a longer detour through a lab but he knew that was something Linus wouldn't approve. "Luckily, this apartment has an inbuilt portal. Gill used it to get directly to the Castle. From there, the Embassy is right across the street."
Linus gave Ren a worried glance. Either it was caused by the attack Ren had suffered or the withdrawal reaction was to blame but the young Gundalian looked pretty pale; so the Neathian nodded and followed him over the ruins of furniture to an ordinary looking closet that in no way reminded a dimensional gate.
"Are you sure it works?" Linus asked as they stepped into the supposed transporter.
"I'm not. I never used this particular machine before." Ren was frank.
For several seconds, it felt like it will never work but then it suddenly did making Ren transportation sick. Or, was it because of the darkness and close air of their destination?
"I believe it worked as a one-way entry only." Ren reluctantly specified.
"In that case, I better liked it when it didn't work!" Linus stated. "This place isn't inviting!"
Ren lit up his BakuMeter display to shed around some tiny light: "Where else could Gill's transported take us, right? These are the personal quarters of our defeated Emperor."
The residence had been forsaken but Ren could recognize some details, like, door handles. The room was bare; wallpaper had come off and mildew ruled everywhere but the surroundings still caused stir inside. Too many years this had been the den of the beast that his followers entered filled with awe! It might well be the reason why this part of the Castle was in so miserable state; despite that Barodius's stuff was moved, there persisted some kind of superstitious fear to utilize his former home. It was easier to leave it like this, locked up and forgotten. Ren sighed nervously. He could feel no draught and he couldn't even tell if he had been to this particular spot before. There was a choice of doors but Ren doubted it was any good news. They might lose an eternity before escaping this labyrinth where, and Ren's throat went dry – where the worst nightmares of Ren's past were dwelling!
"Which way now?" Linus looked at him with hope. "I must admit I'm glad that you have your memories back. I don't fancy getting lost here!"
Ren took a deep breath and forced himself to move and inspect the room. Linus was right; he had to focus. He had to use those damned nightmares to find a way out!
"I'm not sure. Wait!" He stopped, staring at the ceiling. The specific pattern felt somehow familiar! He might have actually been here once, long ago. This realization made him squirm: 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 arc 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 arc. He dubbed it the Entrance. It was not a fantasy about the darkness that he would leave behind. It was all about the new world he was 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 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 arc 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 forward to shout into the darkness: "Protector of the Dark Bakugan! You're forgiven. Come and serve your Emperor!"
"It's you!" Linehalt said to 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, chuckling. 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 demanding but 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. Watch 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!"
Next, Ren only remembered the pain from an injection before everything blurred.
"Ren?" Linus's worried voice brought him back to the empty room. "Are you all right? You are awfully pale. You look like you might collapse any moment!"
"I'm fine." Ren retorted, reeling. What nonsense! Did Linus think Ren was about to faint like a girl? "It's only memories. Now I know which way we have to go… We have to go…" Ren failed to finish the sentence: the recollection that Ren believed he had just grasped wasn't there anymore! There was a mix of marred faces, hands, and interior decoration bits as he had captured it during the nightmarish journey. Ren groaned and spoke out loud: "I was given some medicine before they put me on the stretchers but I wasn't out; not all the time. I'm guessing they knew little about my stamina and the necessary dosage that first time. It's not easy to recall but luckily I am a bit unwell today. So I can exactly feel how it felt then." Ren stared at the ceiling trying to seize the dizziness, nausea, and pain of the past until the painted pattern jumped from the place and moved – and went round and then – dissolved.
"Wake up, Ren!" Next thing, it was Linus shaking him. "Why did you? You shouldn't do this!"
"I've got it!" Ren murmured. How only did it happen that he was on his back down on the floor? "I've got it. It's that door! It's the way to Kazarina's old lab!"
"All right then." Linus sighed. "So it must mean that we're going the opposite direction, are we not?"
"We are not." Ren shook his head. "Barodius took me here because he had a plan. He wanted to use me as a weapon. I was little. I didn't understand. Today, I have learned some and I won't repeat the same mistake! I will find out what Barodius's true plan was and what role he planned for me. He needed research to make his plans. He's gone but the laboratory is still here. Whatever he was planning, the evidence is in Kazarina's lab and this is where exactly we are going!"
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