Hell Gates


Well, welcome back all of you to another chapter!

I apologize for the wait, had some issues to solve with real life. Writing an original work also takes a fair bit of time, since you need to plan your work carefully to make it interesting, and there is no plot to fall back on – differently from fanfiction, where even if you have new and interesting takes, there is still the original plot to help guide and steer the story.

Still, none of you came here to hear me complain about it!

Take you time, thanks for reading this, and please support the work with a comment and the original artist ( 14) with a sub on his insta.

RyujinMaou out!

Chapter 02: [Safe zone?]

Noah had entered the city a few hours before the sun went down. After the inspection and the signing in process was completed, he was given a few instructions to follow.

It showed that the security was reinforced, which raised a bunch of questions for him. The Latino was still fuming when he remembered the loss of his shelter, but it was no use crying over spilled milk. The best option right now would be working a few jobs and acquire useful information about the surrounding area.

His shelter might not have been the only one attacked and if the safe zone was this worried with security measures, then these attacks may be more frequent. For now, his options were finding a roof over his head to rest.

The young adult carefully walked inside the safe zone, aware of the side looks that he was attracting. One of the bad things about being a newcomer to places like this was the fact that he was an unknown; no reputation to fall back on and no one to vouch for him meant that he was free game for anyone courageous enough.

Even in safe zones with relatively stable conditions, policing was mostly reserved to the truly needed areas or for those that could afford it. The apocalypse may have come, but humans would still do their usual stick until the end of time. Not that Noah was judging, as he was selfish on his own right.

Nonetheless, it still left him with a security problem. For now, his slung rifle and visible blades dissuaded anyone from being funny, but it was only a matter of time until someone tested him.

As things stood, he remained free to explore the safe zone on his terms. He observed that Tallahassee was fairly well organized, though the flow of people was greater than what he expected. Maybe the safe zone was taking in more people from its surroundings as permanent residents, as he remembered the conversation back on the office with the guards.

It helped him blend in, just another face in the crowd after all.

It took a few hours, but Noah situated himself enough in the city to identify a few key points and not be completely lost. The guard posts were easy enough to identify, the building used as a prefecture also not being hard to spot; yet, the point that more interested the explorer was the shanty town.

Quite surprising, huh?

His legs carried him towards the neon-lit and dirty district, the smell of stale sweat and cheap alcohol somewhat nostalgic to him. Nothing like the favela to uplift your spirits, he joked internally. There surely were more "appropriate places" to visit, but you would be surprised with how well you could hide in places like this. It also sent the message to anyone observing him that he wasn't that different from the common drifter out there.

Entering one of the haphazardly-put-together buildings, Noah headed straight towards the counter manned by an older man.

"Some clean water for now, boss." Noah grunted his request, sitting on one of the available stools and sliding his backpack off, placing it on his lap. His weapons were easily accessible, just in case.

The older black man on the other side of the counter raised a brow. "You got anything to pay or just an'ther driftah looking to score?" Thickly accented and rough, the man questioned Noah.

The young adult released a quick sigh. He quickly dug into the pockets of his bag, fishing for something. He pulled out a pair of military gloves, the items in good enough condition that they should be worth quite a bit. "This good enough for you?"

The tender smiled, showing quite a few mishappen golden tooth replacements. "Good! Great even." Soon enough Noah found a glass bottle filled with water placed in front of him. It was even chilled. The man leaned a bit on the counter. "If you want to, there are a few other things you can buy, ey?" He laid the notion in thick, his brow pointing to another corner of the bar.

There were a few girls talking with a few men, their clothing revealing the type of "work" they did.

Noah shook his head, taking his time to examine the contents of his newly acquired bottle. "No mames, just info on a place to remain for a while. I'm looking for work too."

The black bartender loudly laughed. "So you were a driftah alright! City's been floodin' with you folk ever since Bishop's crew began raiding the area." He commented, though he had to attend to another customer, leaving Noah by himself for a few moments.

The young adult poured himself a drink and enjoyed the chilled water. So that's how it is, bandits huh?

He almost poured himself a second glass, but a slight tug on his firearm had Noah almost turning around in a snap, his right hand ready to sling his Kukri on the offending party. Yet, much to his surprise, there was no one trying to steal his gun. His eye scanned his weapon, aware that there was nothing wrapped on it and increasing his caution. Another sweeping gaze on the bar revealed a group looking at him, though once he locked his gaze, their eyes swapped targets.

"Putos won't even look me in the eyes." He murmured to himself, fixing his seating and waiting until the bartender returned.

The man didn't take long. "So, you were saying that you needed a place to stay, eh? You looking for a long stay or just a couple of nights? I got some rooms available, if you got good stuff to trade for."

Noah took a bit to answer, wondering how much he wanted to reveal. It would be better to have a semi-reliable source of info in town, and considering his status so far as a newcomer, a bar owner/tender was as good as anyone. Besides, if the man was the one "selling" the girls' services, then he also be hearing some good info, even if by gossip through then.

No matter how tight lipped a man may be, combining booze and women was bound to loosen their lips, even it was some "inconsequential" info.

He was careful with his words, avoiding any promises. "I'm staying for a while, but I do enjoy a good drink. Might be coming around more often if you got good stuff."

The bartender's smile shifted into a pervy thing. "Got ya, you are one of those with refined taste, hah! Local gut-rot ain't suited for ya, then. We can do some business for sure."

Noah was about to speak when once again he felt the strange tug, causing him to look over his right shoulder, his eye narrowed into an annoyed scowl.

leave for now…

A voice whispered by his ear, causing shivers to run down his spine for a moment. The feeling was gone almost as soon as it came, but Noah wasn't one to ignore his instincts. He grabbed his water bottle and poured its contents into his own canteen, leaving the glass bottle behind.

"I gotta go for now." Noah roughly spoke, standing from his place.

The bartender's smile diminished, the man frowning at the Latino. He took a peek behind Noah, then turned to meet his gaze. "You mess with anyone before coming here?"

Noah was sure that nothing of the sort had happened, but he wasn't going to remain to ascertain that, so he merely shrugged. Not confirming, neither denying anything.

The bartender grumbled to himself a bit. "Suit youself then, boy. The places closer to the admin buildin' are the safest, so if you want some stable shelter then as long as you don't mind the prices, there is the best. If you tight and don't got much to spare, then the Black Cat is your best bet. Ask anyone around, they you point ya to it."

Noah nodded in gratitude. "Gracias."

The black bartender spouted something in a foreign language, though if Noah was to guess it should be some sort of swearing. "Get going and don't bring me trouble here, aye?"

He didn't bother replying, merely heading out from the bar. Sunlight had been fading away since early, blanketing the entire city in orange tones. It was a pretty enough sight, even in this supernatural wasteland.

The young adult asked some people around for the recommended inn, receiving some directions. It was still around the shanty town, though it was nearing the edge of the place, making it quite quiet; the stale smell of alcohol still tainted the air, but Noah had survived worse situations, a bit of stink was nothing compared to fighting the infected out in the wastes.

He approached the shabby building, aware of a few gazes directed at him. He gripped his gun a bit tighter, finger itching to remain on the trigger ready for action. Seeing that he wasn't intimidated, the few gazes that were directed at him soon dispersed, allowing the Latino to reach the building undisturbed. Opening the entrance door, Noah found himself inside the Black Cat.

As far as he could see, it wasn't luxury housing, but it was at least habitable. There was an improvised reception and barricade on the stairs that led upwards, most likely to bar anyone from just wandering and squatting in the corridors. He headed to the "counter", seeing the woman sitting behind it.

She had darker skin when compared to him. A length of cloth covered her hair, the woman busy with a length of thread and needle, trying her best to fix a worn-out shirt. As he reached the counter, the woman barely spared him more than a glance.

"Standard fee is applied, don't bother trying to barter." She spoke in a disinterested voice, pointing to the thug manning the barricade. "My friend over there is more than happy to hear any arguments if you have any."

Noah shook his head. "Got recommended this place. I'm staying for a while." He opened his bag and tossed one of the remaining battery packs he had.

Once the item hit the table, the woman stopped her work and put the clothing aside. "Well, aren't you loaded…" Her voice lost the annoyed edge it had, though he wasn't sure if that was good or bad. She was quick to swipe the batteries and hide them inside the pocket of her apron. "Three days. You don't bring trouble, and there won't be no trouble. Just remember, once your time is up, you either cough up more or pony up and get out."

"That's okay." He nodded, leaning on the counter, and giving the place another quick look. Once he was satisfied, Noah whispered to the woman. "You know any work?" He was discreet with his movement, slowly reaching his right hand over to grab the woman's.

She glanced at the contact with a raised brow, but then smirked at him. "Aren't you a smart fella?" She pulled her hands back, placing them at her hips as she mused some idea for a while. "At the moment most jobs have been filled up, but since Bishop's crew began harassing nearby settlements, a bunch of drifters began to fill the city. Soon the Marshall will probably announce some jobs for your bunch."

Noah mentally noted the information. Collecting and sorting through information was quite tedious, but a rather vital and required part of any investigation. The clues he had so far now pointed to him waiting around the city, though it could also be merely the people around trying to milk him for his gear. Nonetheless, he needed a place to rest his head for the day.

The woman turned around and grabbed a key from a drawer hidden from his view. "Here, don't lose it or you are paying for it too." She carelessly tossed the item towards him, Noah's hand rapidly snatching it midair. The woman made an impressed face, crossing her arms as she looked at him. "Color me surprised, you actually caught it."

He grunted.

The woman released a snarky scoff. "Hah, don't be too tense, it spoils the mood." She then whistled to the thug occupying the barrier. Once she got his attention, she raised three fingers up from her left hand. "Let him up and show his room."

The thug made a motion with his head, Noah following along as they climbed the stairs up until the second floor. The walls had paint peeling off and some corners were dirty, but the place wasn't all that bad. Some doors open, revealing people loitering or sleeping atop dirty mattresses or even cardboard. Not that Noah felt pity, the sight was something common these days and honestly a sign that things were at least quiet for the time being.

His room was numbered 40, the corridor leading to it one of the less messy he had seen. The thug left as soon as Noah noticed his habitation, considering his job complete. Not that he wanted the man hovering around, but he was honestly expecting some hazing or at least one cliché warning from the thug to avoid messing around with the woman tending the reception.

Unlocking the door and entering the barebones room, Noah was quick to enter and lock it behind him.

Much like the building itself, it was clear that the bare minimum was at least met. There was a bed for him, a desk and chair, and even a half-intact wardrobe to store some clothing. The room wasn't sparking clean, but he was expecting moldy furniture and one or two holes in the walls.

The young adult dropped his bag near the desk, sitting on the edge of the bed. All the exhaustion of the day seemed to hit him at once, Noah feeling almost as if the weight of the world had been set atop his shoulders. He tiredly sighed, running his hands over his face – in special over his left eye.

"What is going on?" He muttered the question to himself, wondering the reasons behind his sudden lack of energy. It had happened a few times before, though none this taxing upon him. It started with the goosebumps, then his senses would become hyper-aware of his surroundings. That had saved him from a few bad encounters with infected and some raiders, though he figured it was merely stress.

He had mostly forgotten about it due to being mostly safe in his previous safehouse, with only the occasional visit to the wasteland to trade. Now that he was out of his comfort zone again, it started once more.

Noah himself hadn't seen that many supernatural events happen, but once or twice he had witnessed things that could seldom be explained by science. Some of the more religious folk he had met during his travels spoke about seeing more, though he mostly brushed the talks aside as mere ramblings. Most of the time they would be, but there was always that chance of things being more than what he could see.

Still, he was tired and would be thinking about that tomorrow, today the plan was to rest. Tomorrow he could worry about all the rest.