They led me through a maze of white corridor with cherry blossom rice paper doors on either side. We eventuated to the bronze closed doors of that ghastly small glass room that moved. I suffered a few nauseous trips through the bronze-glass room, Jensen called an elevator, to reach the top tier of Hell's Labyrinth.
During the journey (when I was able to pay attention to something else other than my queasy stomach), I absorbed Wilfred's lecture on the elevator's purpose.
"It's a way to skip across the four tiers, move around quadrants," Wilfred explained.
He expanded on more details about Hell's Labyrinth.
The top tier was known as the Fourth Tier, which was the entrance and resting place for those who worked or visited the labyrinth.
Whereas the First Tier housed all the demons and criminals, existing on the lowest depths from the general population.
The Second Tier was the infirmary, and the Third Tier held the visiting and conjugal rooms.
Each tier was roughly segregated into four quadrants of North Wing, South Wing, East Wing and West Wing.
"All prisoners are declared with a full profile report, which we have access to at any time via our maplinks." Wilfred stoically finished off his lecture.
"No one on any level below the Fourth is undeclared. There're no surprises." Jensen added.
I gulped at the implications behind his words.
The elevator finally jerked to a complete rest. The glowing pattern of symbols, on one of the bronze doors, dulled and the doors opened.
I stepped out into a wonder I had only seen in Bulldog's secret books.
People. There were many people of all shapes and sizes milling about an enormous and spacious foyer on two levels that ran way up to a domed glass roof.
I squinted madly at the strength of the natural light that was beaming down from the roof, and all over the walls and floors of polished white marble enriched with silver and gold trims.
"Ey! Watch meh dug yah clumsy git!" cursed a gruff old man in a woolen Norfolk suit that had the appearance of many years.
I looked to my feet and bulked at the sight of a golden Shih Tzu panting heavily before me. Although to say it was a living dog was an understatement; its fur was wire bristles, and eyes orbs of black crystal that I assumed was obsidian stone. The panting noises it made came out with a bit of a grunt, and its joints screeched when it moved.
The old man and his fake dog hobbled away to go about their business.
I saw many fake animals moving about the foyer. The people walked or patted them as if they were real.
"Hey, those animals also animachines?" I whispered to Wilfred.
"Bots. They are called bots, like cat-bot, dog-bot and so on," he responded, walking ahead.
"Right." I sighed, still finding it hard to accept, but decided not to think more of it.
We passed through a set of polished redwood doors with carved borders of fine floral detail, and along a red-carpeted hall where elaborately detailed silver scones and crystal chandeliers threw soft light across the polished marble walls.
My heart raced at the sight of striking men in navy-blue or tanned uniforms (like Leinard's) or wearing striped, plaid or windowpane suits of dark gray or blue, polished spats and broad toe shoes.
The passing women were gorgeous with their stylish bobs peeking out of cloche hats—adorned with a side flower decoration—to frame their pretty painted faces and wearing loose-fitted dresses that flowed over the knees or to the ankles, and given shape by colored sashes or belts around their drop waist. Slim fingers were sheathed with dainty lace or silk white gloves. Strings of pearl necklaces appeared to be a common neck accessory. Everywhere they walked, their thin high heels stabbed the carpet.
"Haha! Look at your face, like a kid in a forbidden candy shop." Jensen laughed at the ogling expression my face carried every time a dolled-up woman strolled past.
I couldn't help it. I wasn't accustomed to seeing so many real-life women who were stylish to boot.
"Ugh, watch your hands you creep," said one of the dolled-up women who bumped my shoulder when she passed me.
"Oh, terribly sorry," I apologized with a bow.
The woman huffed and resumed her way down the hall, leaving a trace of a flowery scent behind. I was mesmerized by the way her bottom wiggled from side to side at her walk.
"Having fun there?" Jensen said lightly to draw my attention back to him.
I ignored the knights' smirks, shook the distractions out of my head and focused on following their lead.
The hall opened into another white marble foyer of a smaller kind. We entered the redwood doors directly opposite of where we had arrived.
I gasped at the enormous circular room I had stepped into. It was like an observatory minus the telescope.
The high domed roof was entirely made up of clear window panels so the azure sky was precisely visible.
Patterned borders, of silver and bronze, ran along the trims and architraves of the white marble walls. The borders were also drawn all over the moonstone floors, forming an intricately detailed crown cakra symbol.
At the center of the cakra symbol stood a silver pedestal, carved with images of twisting vine leaves.
I glanced to the domed roof and noticed the central pane, looming over the pedestal, was a stained image of the same cakra symbol.
"Fancy," I whispered.
"Isn't it just." Wilfred patted my shoulder.
He led me to a stone seating booth situated on the east side of the room, where the others were waiting for us.
"Finally decided to show." Ryoko huffed with her arms crossed. Her eyes ran up and down my body with a weird frown.
"Going to a fox-bot hunt, are we?" she blurted carelessly.
"Bwhahaha! I said that too." Jensen laughed.
"Knock it off." Leinard silenced the room.
He gestured for me to sit next to him on a cushioned bench.
"Welcome to the theater." Trix approached me with a flourished bow.
"Tacky Captain showing off again," Jensen mumbled into Wilfred's ear.
"You say something Sergeant-soon-to-be-demoted-if-he-doesn't-shut-his-trap," Trix said with creepy smile.
Jensen brushed off his comment feigning nonplus.
"Okay, let's get started." Leinard kicked things off.
I was asked to place the important object in the pedestal's dish, and caused a bit of an outcry when the seated knights caught sight of Small Cap still snuggling the marble in his sleep.
"Eek, sorry about that," I apologized as I carefully pried his legs off the surface, and caught the marble when it dropped free.
"There you go Friend," I said, gently placing him in the pouch. I smiled when he stirred about to a new comfortable position.
I ceremoniously placed the marble to the dish and hurried to my seat.
Saku was called to stand before the pedestal.
The room fell to an anticipated quiet.
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