Aldrich opened his eyes with a strained gasp. He saw stones as big as melons that formed an arch, the stones had mysterious glowing marks and symbols.
Aldrich knew what it was, he knew what was on the other side. He tried to peer through the light curtain but it obstructed his vision. He was mid-fall and his back landed, not too harshly, on paved ground.
Aldrich didn"t have the patience to tend his wounds, he got up attempting to cross through the light door again. Hoping to see Isger again.
But the door disappeared silently like a lie. It disappeared like it was erased from existence. He looked around desperately but it was nowhere to be seen. Instead he felt the stinging, unbearable pain coarse through his body like an overflowing flood.
His shoulder and thigh were still the same, his time in reality almost made him forget his misery here. Well this pain was a quick and effective reminder. The injuries he sustained here remained, it seemed like he had two bodies; one was in the real world and one is here.
He expected, or rather believed that he would return to that bloody corridor were he to sleep again but he found himself in a strange and unfamiliar place.
He found himself looking at a desolate town paved with cobblestones. In some places overgrown plants grew in between the cobblestones, in others the stones were over turned by the plants.
Rubble of collapsed buildings along with silence, soot, ash and fog lay heavy on the land. The fog was especially heavy since he could hardly see ten meters around.
However despite the fog and the sorry state they were in now, he could tell these houses must"ve belonged to nobles or merchants, either way the buildings looked very different than any he had seen before.
Perhaps once upon a time they were magnificent and glorious. The current state of destruction seemed to bury the once-glorious past, yet even then a spec of that former greatness still prevailed.
As he walked apprehensively trying to ignore the pain in his shoulder and thigh he saw that many houses and other buildings had collapsed in on themselves. As he touched the walls of the buildings he was confused as they stonework was seamless.
There was no sign of chisel or imperial paste, as if the walls just grew from the earth and formed this shape on their own. The shapes, from what he could tell were special, most of them were different but each had their own style.
Aldrich"s awe turned into shock as he explored the area, he thought that what he saw at first were the mansion of nobles or merchants but how many nobles lived in this town? This entire street was paved and full of similar mansions...
There was another possibility, one that Aldrich normally wouldn"t have dared to consider. What if... what if these were the houses of peasants?
If not for his recent experiences he wouldn"t have even thought of this possibility. That was just ridiculous, this was probably a central city of whichever place this was so many nobles took estates here. Now that seemed much more realistic.
Another oddity was the boarded doors and windows, they were all sealed with tough wooden planks, from the outside. Aldrich tested a few and they were very sturdy. Seems like they weren"t simply abandoned.
Aldrich wondered where he was? How did such a nice and rich city fall like this? When he looked upwards the fog strangely didn"t obstruct his view.
A sky full of stars and a single moon shined on him. The stars shined with a thousand different colors and looked so close, Aldrich thought if he raised his hand high enough he might catch one.
The stars were close but the moon was even closer and it shined with a disturbing yellowish glow, none would try to touch it. It felt repulsive and disgusting in this beautiful night sky.
Aldrich was looking for someone, anyone but couldn"t find anyone, not that he moves far at all. His wounds were still bleeding, especially his thigh. He needed help.
Suddenly a low growling disturbed the silence and stopped Aldrich in between a three-way intersection. The street was divided to the front, left or right. The growling came from the front.
Aldrich couldn"t see clearly due to the fog. But he could feel and hear a creature moving towards him. It gave Aldrich cause for worry but also hope, as this was the first creature he would come across here. This meant that there are other people here at least he hoped that was the case.
From the street ahead emerged a dog that reminded Aldrich of Dan, Isger"s yellow dog whom he had to leave behind, his fate unknown. Aldrich liked to comfort himself with this childish hope: unknown, still better than dead.
Though this dog reminded him of Dan it had absolutely no right to that comparison. It had a disproportionately huge head, red eyes, protruding fangs and bone claws.
It also looked like it was skinned by a novice butcher-hand. It was a skinned dog that was somehow still alive and kicking.
Aldrich loved dogs and could waste half a day playing with Dan and forgetting his chores. Aldrich was confident he could get along with most any dog.
Unfortunately this particular dog didn"t seem keen on playing, judging by its fierce look, the dripping saliva didn"t help either.
Aldrich reached for his waist slowly and was surprised the sword wasn"t there. Aldrich could barely keep walking with all the blood he lost, and without a weapon he had no chance.
Aldrich decided to hide for now and look for an opportunity to escape later. He slowly retreated to left and bumped into a door. He knocked and then he remembered about the boards.
Aldrich decided to try and break in by force, he could not outrun a dog on a good day, with these injuries? Forget it.
Finally he heard something from inside the house. It was a moan. Any response was good enough.
"Hello there, I need help—"
Aldrich was interrupted by a banging on the door from inside. Then more moaning.
Aldrich started to have a bad feeling about this so he started to back off and turned around to witness a chilling scene.
In place of one skinned dog there was now five, and they blocked the right and front streets. Aldrich looked to his left, the only open path and made a run for it.
Aldrich made a run for it. The fog was still a problem but Aldrich had bigger problems behind him he could not afford to slow down. He ran straight ahead.
The insistent barking echoed in the empty streets behind him. Eager and hungry.
Aldrich suddenly stopped, he saw a chunk of the wall to his left had almost fallen in on the street to this side. He passed it and pulled it to his side, fortunately it fell in.
Aldrich heard the barking stop for a moment followed by a crash, he smiled to himself. Even as he felt his vision blur and distort. The blood loss was taking its toll.
Perhaps his mind was playing tricks on him but he saw a house different from all the others around it. And how can it not be? It was the only house with light from the windows and torches lined the fence.
Aldrich was unwilling to pass up a such a chance. As he got closer he heard the barking behind him again, furious this time. But he could also see the door was not barred here.
Aldrich ran through the fence with all the despair of a dying man and banged on the door with the remainder of his strength. But there was no reply.
Aldrich wasn"t even sure he was banging on the door. The barking got closer and closer. Aldrich wanted to keep running but his body was at its limit. He fell to his knees. The dogs were almost here.
The door opened, Aldrich could only keep his eyes open to see the silhouette of an old man before he passed out.
Aldrich awoke to gut wrenching pain, he screamed uncontrollably for a good while before he registered the unfamiliar ceiling he was looking at.
Aldrich looks ahead and is face to face with the man that saved his life. The old man looked really old, he was bald and completely hairless.
Aldrich wanted to talk and move but he felt that everything was heavy, extremely heavy. The old man was looking at him with an appraising look.
Aldrich lowered his eyes to see the source of the pain that woke him, only to see a red ten-sided crystal stabbed into his heart.
"Oh, yeah that would definitely hurt."
Aldrich somehow found it funny that he did all that only to end up like this. He felt obliged to make one last self-deprecating joke.
Funny thing is when he lost consciousness he thought he would return back to the real world with all his injuries healed and wouldn"t have to worry about his wounds here until the next time he went to sleep.
Once against everything went dark.
The next time he woke up he was waken up by an argument. Throughout his life he"s been through arguments some were over important things other not so important. From the sound of this one he guessed it was over a silly thing.
"I"m asking you where are all the crystals?" A grumpy voice asked.
"I told you I don"t know. I injected him with one like we agreed. I want to ask you where the hell are the remaining four crystals?!" Another grumpy voice replied.
"Don"t you dare give me that, asshole! I know you thought it was interesting since he didn"t die, you wanted to try another one."
"I did so what? Didn"t you think the same too?"
Aldrich opened his eyes, this time easier than the first time. He looked to his right where the voices were coming. To the old man.
"Alright! I only injected him with one more that"s all."
"Lair, ever since I"ve known you, you"ve been lying and lying!!"
Strange thing is, the old man was alone, no one was there with him, he was looking at a tall mirror in the wall and shouting arguments at his own reflection.
He was arguing with himself.
"Fine! Shit, I gave him two. You like that? What about you?"
"I also gave him two! Whatever, isn"t he still alive? Who cares?"
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