Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
General Content Rating: 18+
Story Content Warnings: Heavy Swearing, Blood and Gore, Death, Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Exorsexism, Child Abuse, Underage Shenanigans (Drinking, Smoking, etc.), Suicide
Current Chapter Content Warnings: Heavy Swearing
Viewer Discretion is Advised
Aden and Brian eventually reached the end of the stairs; entering another room. It was much larger and more spacious than the previous one.
To the right of him, Brian noticed another flight of stairs leading back up, and concluded that it must connect to the right staircase they ignored earlier.
At the center of the room there was a large, beautifully designed fountain. Diantha was leaning against the basin that held all the water together.
She trailed her fingers through the water; admiring the designs on the marble. As Brian and Aden walked towards her; she heard their footsteps and looked up to see them. “About time you caught up! We were waiting for you!” She exclaimed as she sat down on the basin. “…This place is…beautiful. It almost makes me not want to leave!” Brian glared at Diantha’s comment. A sheepish smile formed on her face. “…Almost.”
Aden stared at the fountain in awe, and let go of Brian’s sleeve; rushing towards the basin and poking the water with caution. He jerked his hand away in shock at the biting cold that greeted him. “Esta helando...” He muttered to himself.
Diantha giggled. “It’s pretty cold. Give it some time and you’ll be able to twirl your hand in there no problem-”
“Diantha we don’t have time for this. Where’s Noriko? We need to get out of here.” Brian did think the fountain looked pretty cool, but they don’t need distractions right now, they need to get help.
Diantha glared subtly at Brian; but none the less didn’t argue. “Noriko’s studying the four statues to the right. She was just…entranced by it…if that’s the right word.” She pointed to the right of her. "I tried to get her attention by calling for her but she didn't hear me. I was actually going to go over there before you two caught up but I…kind of don't want to. Could you do it for me Brian?" Diantha begged, her eyes briefly glancing to the side; eyeing what she feared. "I don't…like how the statues make me feel."
Brian followed Diantha’s finger; beholding, as Diantha had said, four large statues. Each statue had an altar in front of them; presenting various shiny objects. Noriko herself was in front of the rightmost one.
"...Alright, but you owe me one." Brian sighed out. Diantha clasped her hands together, and thanked Brian with a smile and a light bow.
He cautiously strode towards the short-statured girl. Studying her face; she appeared dazed as she stared at the statues.
The four statues were all androgynous-appearing beings with no mouths, and a large gem on some part of their body. They didn't wear any clothes; just jewelry.
Interestingly enough, the gems on their forehead, hands, or naval were shaped and colored similar to the symbols on that curtain they passed through.
As for the style of the statues; they weren’t detailed in the slightest. They were almost minimalistic in a way; however, for some reason, they conveyed a sense of overwhelming depth. It was freaking him out, how it almost seemed to draw him in.
After a few moments, Brian coughed to gain Noriko’s attention. The sudden noise snapped Noriko out of her trance and she squeaked; completely startled. It was the first time Brian had seen an expression that wasn’t overwhelmingly blank on the girl’s face.
Noriko composed herself when she saw it was only Brian who had alerted her. She bowed to him. “Ah, I’m sorry for running off and leaving you and Aden behind.”
Brian was confused by Noriko’s unnecessary apology. “Don’t feel sorry for something so small. You didn’t do anything wrong.” He glanced up towards the stature she was staring at so intently. “Geez, these things are psyching me out. What drew you to them?”
Noriko shrugged at his question. “…It…it’s rather strange…I feel some sort of connection with that statue.” She whispered.
“What do you mean?” Brian raised an eyebrow at the odd answer.
Noriko raised her hand towards her forehead, the same spot where a purple gem was embedded on the statue. “I…I don’t know.” She said, parting her straight bangs.
“…What the fuck?” Brian gasped.
Noriko disapproved Brian’s choice of words. “I’m sorry?”
Brian pointed at her forehead, his mouth agape with shock and confusion. Noriko gently poked her forehead, and widened her eyes when she felt not the warmth and softness that was skin, but something cold and hard that she could outline with her fingers; it was square in shape.
Something was embedded in her forehead.
Noriko breathed in, and breathed out. Don’t freak out! Don’t freak out! “…W-what is it?” She asked softly, her voice wavering.
“…It’s…a gem I think? Like the one on the statue you were staring at. It’s purple and has some sort of metal rim around it…” Brian at this point had stopped pointing, but definitely didn’t stop staring.
Noriko’s eyes shot open. “Brian…look at the back of your hands.” It was an odd, demanding request, but a request Brian decided to fulfill anyways.
He looked at the back of his left hand; nothing seemed abnormal about it.
When he raised his right hand, he widened his eyes in shock when he saw a blue gem in a triangle shape embedded at the back of it. He didn't notice it, in the midst of their stressful situation.
“…H…how did you…“ He couldn’t finish his question he was so baffled.
Noriko did not reply; instead, she pointed to one of the other statues. Brian followed Noriko’s finger, and seeing a similarly colored gem on the right hand of the statue; his heart came to a halt.
What the fuck was going on.
His fear and his worry mixed and transformed into anger. An anger so intense he lost his senses and punched one of the nearby altars to let off steam.
When logic came back to him, he regretted his action; expecting to be greeted with an intense pain at any moment. He did punch marble after all.
But he didn’t feel any pain at all. All he heard were cracks and the shifting of...sand?
Peeking open an eye; Brian saw Noriko’s wary gaze. She slowly backed away from him and hugged herself protectively. Her reaction was unlike the calm and fearless lady she portrayed herself to be.
Then, Brian switched his attention to the fist he had used to punch the alter. He was curious as to why he wasn’t collapsed on the floor; screaming every swear in existence.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noted the altar was no longer there. At least, that’s what he thought at first. Looking down; he saw the crumbled and cracked remains of the altar he punched, along with its collection of jewelry and other shiny objects strewn about the floor.
He completely decimated the altar with one punch.
He glanced at his right fist again, only to see the gem embedded in it glowing.
What the fuck was going on with him!
The sound of footsteps dragged his attention away from his fist, and to the right where Aden and Diantha came running. “Holy shit...” Diantha muttered under her breath; a mixture of horror and awe in her tone. Aden hid behind her, peeking at Brian with fear.
“…I…I didn’t…” He trailed off, staring at his shaking, dust-covered fist. “I didn’t mean to do that. I…how?”
Noriko relaxed her muscles at the insecurity in Brian’s tone. “I’m…not sure. I figured you would know, considering you punched the altar after all.” Slowly, she placed her hand over his fist and lowered it down.
Noriko’s low tone drained some of the tension in Brian’s shoulders. The gem’s blue glow dimmed down to nothing. “Well I don’t. I didn’t even know I could do that…I…What the hell is this…!?” he struggled with having a cohesive thought; a thousand questions piling up as he continued to gaze at the gem on his hand.
An eerie silence followed, and the four of them stood near each other; each processing what they had just witnessed.
Noriko broke the ice; filled with another realization. “Aden, Diantha, please check your left hand and naval.” She commanded softly.
Diantha and Aden did as Noriko told, and checked the mentioned spots. Aden, to his concern, found a red circle-shaped gem on his hand. Diantha, to her shock, found a pink diamond-shaped gem on her navel.
“W…what is…how…?” Diantha muttered to herself in confusion, lowering her pink sweater back down.
Aden’s concern melted away, as he distractedly poked and prodded at his gem in curiosity.
Noriko placed her hand over her face; her eyes tightening and her shoulders stiffening in thought. Eventually, she breathed in deeply, let out a quiet sigh, and resumed a calm facade. “…I…believe it would be best if we think about this later. This has been enough of a distraction already; we should resume searching for an exit.”
Diantha and Brian, after a moment of thought, reluctantly nodded a yes. They needed to get out of this place.
Aden didn’t reply, he was still too busy picking at his gem to pay attention to what the others were saying.
And so, Noriko and Brian passed through another hanging curtain with the same exact design, directly across from the stairs they descended down earlier.
Diantha pushed her hand through the curtains, before turning back to the statues; noticing that Aden was still standing in the same spot; too distracted by his gem to notice them leaving.
“Aden!” She called out for the red-head, who let out a tiny whimper of shock. Diantha beckoned Aden with her hands. “We need to get going now, come on!” She urged with a friendly smile.
“Oh! Ok!” Aden’s rain boots pitter-pattered across the floor as he sprinted to Diantha. Without so much as thinking, he clutched onto Diantha’s arm; letting her lead the way.
Noriko and Brian were waiting for the two by another set of stairs. Like before, one led to the left and another went to the right.
“Perhaps down the right this time.” Noriko decided when Diantha and Aden caught up. “Is everyone in agreement?”
No one spoke against it, therefore the four went down the right staircase; huddled together as they made each step closer and closer to the end of the stairs.
At the final step, they came upon an even larger room; almost the size of a football field it seemed. The entire room was filled with abandoned market stands; old and decaying from age. The four teens huddled together and shuffled through these stands; each of them were discomforting to look at. The place looked…ancient, abandoned and untouched by a human soul for years.
“…Wait…is that?” Brian pointed ahead to a large archway. It showed what appeared to be the night sky.
In under a second the four were racing towards the archway; ignoring the eerie surroundings they passed through.
Diantha was abnormally faster than the others. Brian, who was already many feet ahead of Noriko and Aden, was suddenly miles behind Diantha. She had already passed through the archway; clasping onto her knees and trying to regain her breath. A faint glow emitted from under her sweater.
Brian decided that was another thing to put in the 'what the hell' jar.
Passing the archway; Noriko and Aden collapsed onto the ground and gasped for lost breath. Brian himself only needed a moments rest to recover. He caught up with Diantha; who was standing near what appeared to be the edge of a platform, which they were standing on.
Luckily, the platform had a huge stairway they could climb down to reach the ground. That was good.
What wasn’t good was that they appeared to be in a…god what was it called? Ah, he couldn’t remember. All he knew was that there were pine trees everywhere, and lots of snow. The freezing forest they were in showed no signs of stopping; it continued on and on into the horizon.
Brian’s discouragement grew on his face. They were in the middle of nowhere, it seemed. Just great…
Aden and Noriko recovered from the race, and lifted themselves off the ground. Noriko nearly lost her footing, but Aden caught her just in time and helped her to her feet. Then the two walked towards the ledge, and witnessed what Brian and Diantha were seeing.
“Oh no. we’re in a taiga.” Noriko muttered, a hint of worry in her tone.
“A taiga?” Brian raised an eyebrow, turning his attention to the one-armed girl. He didn’t understand her worry. It was just a snowy forest.
“Yes, a taiga. They can get as cold as -50° Celsius."
"In Fahrenheit that is...?"
Diantha rolled her eyes. "Around -58°. You're from the USA, aren't you?"
Brian placed his hands on his hips. "I don't know? The USA isn't the only country that uses Fahrenheit right?"
"Yes it is." Replied both Noriko, Diantha, and Aden simultaneously.
"But that's besides the point." Noriko changed the subject. "The point is none of us are wearing any sort of winter gear and we're in an environment that can give us hypothermia."
“Y-yeah. It’s definitely not very warm, that’s for sure.” Diantha stated the obvious; clinging onto her arms and shaking from the cold. Brian definitely agreed. Although it probably wasn't 'in the negatives' cold, It was freezing outside. He almost didn’t notice that he too was shaking from the frigid air, which blew against his body.
Noriko sighed in defeat “We should go back inside. It’s far too cold right now, but it might warm up in the morning-”
“No way!” Brian interrupted Noriko with a shout. Go back inside the creepy, empty, white temple-looking building they just awoke from? He’d rather turn into an icicle! “I’m not going back in there! I’m not waiting a single second! I just want to hurry up and find the nearest police station so I can go home…wherever that is! Besides, we don’t know if that place is truly abandoned. Who knows what’s still lurking in there that we were lucky enough to avoid!”
“But 'whatever is still lurking in there' is only a possibility. We could certainly handle this weather right now, but what about later into the night? What if it starts snowing? We won’t have a shelter to go to once we stray far enough from this place-”
“Nope! Not doing it! You guys go ahead and stay if you want, but I’m getting the hell out of here!” Brian stomped away in a huff. He ignored Noriko and Diantha’s protests and began his descent down the long, long stairway to the ground below.
As he continued downwards, his mind wandered. He thought of the events he had just experienced. Waking up in a strange place, surrounded by people he didn’t know? Finding out he could crack a piece of marble into dust? Finding some weird gem on his hand?
Yeah, he doesn’t want to deal with anything involving that temple anymore. He just wants to find the nearest bed to sleep in and call it a night.
…The others don’t matter! He doesn’t care about them! He hardly knows them! It’s their choice if they want to be stupid!
He doesn’t care. Not one bit…
Brian reached the last step, and placed his feet firmly on the dirt ground. For some reason, he couldn’t help but look behind him. He wasn’t worried about them! He was just...
Aden stood only a few steps behind him, shaking like a leaf, and giving him a soft smile.
“…What are you doing?” Brian finally asked after a long silence, completely bewildered.
“Following you.” Aden stated bluntly; skipping down the last steps and placing his feet on the ground in front of Brian.
“You are just frighten right?”
It took Brian a good few seconds to understand the mess that was that sentence. “…No, of course not.” He denied, trying to ignore Aden’s piercing gaze. “I’m just following my gut is all, and my gut is telling me that staying in that building is bad news.”
“…Well…but…” Aden said after a few moments of pondering. “You don’t want the loneliness, right?”
Brian refused to answer that question; Instead, he eyed Aden’s face. He could smell their fear. Aden broke his gaze to glance at the ominous forest near them every few seconds.
“Dude, if you don’t want to go into the forest with me you don’t have to.” Brian growled bluntly, giving Aden a glare. “I don’t need your pity-”
“But you have given me so much of the kindness! I need to repay you somehow!” Aden exclaimed; his toned laced with guilt. “If I were to go to the forest, I would be frighten! I would not want to give you the loneliness in there!”
…Brian…smiled at the guy…just once… “…What about Diantha and Noriko? Aren’t you worried about them-”
“I am worried, but Noriko and Diantha have each other.”
“…Why…are you doing this? You don’t know me-”
“Yes I do!” Aden’s smile was sickeningly bright. “I know that you a person filled with kindness. You gave the kindness to me after all.”
A familiar, overly feminine voice in the distance suddenly shouted for the both of them. Brian turned towards the stairway to find an energetic Diantha, along with a reluctant Noriko at a distance.