A/N: Thank you so much #AroundTheWorld  for the invite!

Chapter 22 ♚ Buckle Up, It's Gonna Be A Bumpy Ride.

Wearing my long silky nightgown and a pair of cotton bunny slippers, I walk outside the balcony. The cold breeze coming from the sea greeted me as I take a step forward towards the railings. It's already passed midnight, and I still haven't slept a wink. Probably because of the time zone difference between the two countries. We arrived in Manila just a few hours ago and checked-in in a hotel right after we landed the Philippine soil.

When I finally reached the railings, I got startled when I noticed someone sitting on the bench. It took me seconds to realize that it was Axel sitting on it. I was about to ask him what he's doing here, but stop when I heard his faint snore. I lean forward just to confirm my suspicion and saw his eyes are close. He's sleeping!

His coat is sitting on the table with his phone and laptop at the side of his bench. I wanted to wake him up because he might catch a cold but got distracted by his defenceless appearance. He looks so...so unlike Axel. He looks tired. It's so rare for me to see him like this. He always wears his cold and intimidating aura. It's like he's saying 'don't get close to me, I'll eat you alive' vibe. I know that sounds weird, but I'm only observing him. That's only an opinion coming from a friend.

'Oh wait, are we even friends?' I ask myself.

'Ask him.' My subconscious suggests.

Yeah right. I can already foresee his answer. He'll surely deny it and will tell me that he's only doing the other side of the bargain.

I sighed at the thought.

Looking at his face, I saw a glint of familiarity in my head but at the same time I can't reminisce anything. It's like there's a cloud in my brain that can't seem to go away. I started feeling something like this after our mission inside Mr. Alastair's mansion. Everything that had occurred in that place is starts going back in my head little by little. I can remember that I met Mr. Alastair in a room full of guards and talked to him about something but the things we've talked about remains a mystery to me. No matter how much I pry with my brain, I can't remember.

I retract myself from leaning forward. I don't want to wake this guy up and caught me staring at his face. That'll be embarrassing! 'I should probably bring some blanket for him.' I told myself. Suddenly, a hand grips my wrist, preventing me from turning around and leave. It startled me big time since I was not expecting Axel to be awake. He looks like he's' in a deep slumber earlier. "Didn't you know it's rude to stare at people when they're sleeping?" He asked still holding my wrist.

Caught redhandedly!

"I-" I started. "I'm not staring at you," I denied. He loosens his grip on my wrist and let go. "and you're not sleeping, you're awake," I told him. "I was until you came," He said and got up from his previous semi-lying position. There was a comfortable silence followed. My gaze shifts to the night sky by the horizon. It was still dark. The only thing that light it up is the lone moon and a few visible stars.

"Why are you still up?" He suddenly asked breaking the silence. "I can't sleep, I got used to Paris time zone," I told him honestly. He didn't say anything afterward. I just watch him as he turn on his laptop and starts typing codes in it. The black screen background flashed green and white codes in a very fast manner. Just looking at it makes me dizzy. How can he understand this stuff?

"By the way," I started, "you told me you found the next ring. Where is it?" I can't help but ask. I was waiting for him to answer my question, but the only thing I heard coming from him is the tapping sound coming from his keyboard. 'I guess he's not going to answer like he usually does.' I told myself. I was about to turn around and leave but stop when I heard him said, "It's in a volcano," Before I can even ask something, he said, "You should go inside and rest. You need all the energy you can save in the morning," He told me making my forehead crease in wonder. "What do you mean?"

A few hours later...

"You've got to be kidding me," I said abhorred by the 4x4 vehicle in front of me. Just a few hours ago, I was just enjoying the breeze coming from the ocean, but now the scorching hot of the sun plus the humid air is all over the place. Good thing I'm  wearing a loose t-shirt and pair of rubber shoes. "What are we doing here?" I asked Axel, totally puzzled.

Moments later, two men welcomed us. They look identical. Judging by their appearances, they look like locals. They both have the same brown skin, black hair and brown eyes. They are well-built and doesn't look older than 30. "Greetings Mr. and Mrs. Montblanc. I am Berto," He pause and introduce his companion, "and this is my twin Benny," He said. My forehead creased by his unusual greeting. 'Who's he calling Mrs. Montblanc?' I asked myself in confusion.

Axel starts having a conversation with them using a language I couldn't understand. I must've missed it when my tutor gave me the list of language I must learn. "Masusunod po," I heard Benny told Axel before hopping inside the vehicle.

"Let's go, we still got a long way to go before we reach the crater," Berto said before following Benny inside the vehicle.

I look at Axel strangely, "Who's he calling Mrs. Montblanc?" I asked Axel sharply. "And what crater he's talking about?"

"You misheard them, don't think too much. We're going on top of the mountain. My sources say that the current owner of the red stone is staying at the top of the volcano," He said and offered me his hand. "Shall we?" I reluctantly take his hand and entered the vehicle.

"Which volcano we're climbing?" I can't help but ask. I want to know at least where we're heading. I saw Berto smiled on the driver's seat. "Buckle up coz we're climbing Mt. Pinatubo," He said and steps onto the accelerator.

♚End of Chapter 22♚

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