Sky-high, rusting gates rose into view, emitting such bone-chilling glory that had Jayden filled with dread.
As their steady steps padded their way to the fortified town, his heart gave a short convulsion beneath his chest.
Aqua had left him no chance to dispute, or protest. She'd taken his hand in hers and within seconds, Mather was driving the car he came in, back to where he came from, him sitting awkwardly in the back beside a fuming princess.
He couldn't even change out of his tuxedo.
Jayden shook his head, fiddling with the top of his tie as he struggled to loosen it. He released it in exasperation and let out a short sigh, watching Aqua survey the chain lock binding the gates shut.
She pressed her hand amidst the chains, her delicate fingers igniting a light blue spark that was nimbly sucked back into her palm. The rays simmered against the lock, slowly absorbed by the oxidized metal.
In literal instants, a snap sounded, followed by an eerie, defeaning scrape that had his ears pounding.
Jayden blinked twice in disbelief, his gaze fixated upon the now wide open entrance. Surely, he thought his eyes were deceiving him, but at the direct contact with a creature similar to a decomposing human, two realizations dawned upon him.
One, he was doomed.
Two, he was doomed.
Crippling fear seized him. The more he looked around, the more creatures began appearing. Though, easily passing through him and paying him no mind, his body fell in complete paralysis, rejecting the idea of moving forward.
This wasn't like anything he'd seen before. In movies, yes, but never in real life. The furthest he's been was probably the dream he had of a zombie at the age of ten, nothing more.
Aqua stopped in her tracks. "Mather, you go open up the castle, we'll follow," she ordered, her riddance of the guard making her turn her whole attention to him. "Aren't you coming?"
Instead of an answer to her question, he replied with another, "This... is the supernatural?"
"Technically, no." She shrugged. "Only a part of it."
"What you did. Just now... "
"Didn't you already experience this with Igujin? Ask her." She threw her hands in exasperation, clearly wanting to make it to the castle. Specifically, get her hands on that book. Mulling over it, he did remember she once told him she doesn't like questions. But this wasn't a moment for him to take that into consideration. After all, they were connected and he needed to know everything if he was to be involved.
"What are you exactly?"
"A princess." She smirked. "Now, come on, get moving."
His pace fell in sync with hers. "No, I meant, what are you in the supernatural world? A vampire? A ghost?... A zombie?"
"Woah, you think I'm a zombie? What a sweet talker you are." She rolled her eyes.
He didn't know why he smiled. If anything, he should've felt regretful since he kind of offended her. But then again, Aqua didn't seem to be the type to care. However, he still felt the need to elaborate. "Not looks-wise, that's for sure."
In all his years of life, he'd seen many women who harbored almost the same features as her. Hair that's of ebon falling down in waves, a fair complexion, a feminine yet defined jawline. But no matter what, not one of them matched up to her charm. Or her eyes.
Her eyes were on a whole different tier.
Just by one look, it was obvious they were indicators of a magical being. Given that it was genetically impossible for a human to bear such electric blue orbs. That's something he should've noticed when they first met, but didn't.
Even after all the fantasy movies he'd seen.
They neared the castle and his eyes helplessly wandered. He couldn't focus one bit on how majestic and grim the building looked. All that occupied his mind were those creatures that suddenly began looming around him.
They were human-like. Possibly even, were human at some point. But... dead?
"Don't stare. As long as you do nothing, they do nothing." Aqua stared ahead, seeming to have sensed his discomfort.
He inched closer to her. "What are they?"
"Souls. Filthy souls."
"Can you ever respond with an explanation? All the info you give me is no more than two words. That's if you don't ignore me." He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. He wasn't usually like this. The panic was getting to him. His instinct screamed at him to run away and leave this cursed place but he knew he wouldn't even get past Aqua.
"I don't like questions," she said, stepping into the castle while he stayed back and gaped at her.
"Don't you think I deserve answers though?"
She turned to him, "Let's go, Jayden."
Once again, his question fell upon deaf ears, reminding him exactly why he didn't want to comply. However, staying outside was out of the question. This town was creepy, nothing like his. It appeared as if it was of another era. A greatly ancient one.
He passed through the rosewood doors to the castle, and reluctantly followed, keeping himself a step back from her. His eyes studied every part of the empty place. It seemed deserted, the dark walls chipping, barely decorated as only a few vintage mirrors were unpleasantly scattered across. Such a shame its vastness wasn't exploited well.
Aqua sneaked a glance at him then looked to the floor with a simple shake of her head. She felt the need to let him in; he was already tangled up into this world. Even if she preferred to deny it, Jayden was going to become a part of her life. Especially after she's readied herself to free this town. She'd have nowhere to stay. And the hotel was her only choice, since she couldn't stay for long away from him. Stupid Igujin.
They walked up a couple flights of granite stairs till they reached Aurelia's room. Only when they entered did Aqua decide to speak. "Help me, will you?"
"I would if I knew what you're looking for."
She rolled her eyes, "Search the desk. For a book. I'll take the closet."
"A book, huh?" He smiled, kneeling down for the bottom drawers. "What's it about?"
"I'll tell you..." She creaked open the doors to the closet. Rummaging through it, she whispered to herself, "Just when we find it."