Act I: Red
Chapter 1: Cold Opening
The air was fake.
That was the first conclusion the sitting, pale man came to. He was breathing normally, and it tasted no different from the air he was accustomed to, but the sensation was vastly different. It was as if everything around him was bathed in a thick coating of cloudiness and nonexistent fog. And it irritated him. It also didn't help his headache.
The man in question was sitting on a forest floor with one leg crossed over the other as he stared forward at a tree. It was only a few inches in front of him, so he removed his black glove and placed a hand on its bark, finding that it felt genuine. Still, though, he was unconvinced that it was any more real than the air coolly swimming in his lungs. A sigh escaped as he put the glove back on and then felt for the large, black katana latched to his back.
Okay... so this place allowed me to remain armed, he thought while he continued to feel for his personal affects; his dark-colored clothes, a small, title-less book attached to the back of his belt, a red, metal insignia that was sewn to the right side of his neck... nothing had been removed from his person. He just had that obnoxious headache.
After spending the next few minutes surveying the ground – which only consisted of grass, weeds, dirt, and rocks – the man finally stood up and took his hungry gaze to the sky. Meeting his expectations born from what he discovered not seconds ago, the sky was completely normal. It was blue. It had a sun. The sun was bright. The only part that was missing was any sort of cloud, but that was hardly something to raise suspicion. He'd seen cloudless days. This was nothing new. Unless, of course, there were never any clouds for this land, this worldscape he had inexplicably found himself in had no day or night, and that it was a perpetual dreamstate he was forced into for whatever twisted reason the creator had in mind.
Getting ahead of myself, he thought with another sigh, returning his sight to ground level. After thinking about what he just mused, however, he slowly reached into one of the pouches hanging from a pant leg and pulled out an even smaller book, only this time with a black cover and a pen attached to the spine. He opened it in front of him; inside were scribbles of various notes and thoughts he recorded during many of his travels, and this place was no exception to keep the rest of it empty. The first thing he wrote:
1. No clouds.
He kept the book open for a few seconds as he stared at his slightly feminine handwriting, wondering if he should add his first thought to the list, since it technically wasn't an observation. He shrugged.
(And the air might be fake.)
He then closed the book and returned it to its proper pouch, now deciding that an even more involved test was in order – to see if it was possible to get to a location either within the forest he was currently in, or outside of it completely. Luckily, his headache was not severe enough to impair his motor skills, and thus he was able to walk in a straight line.
Once again, there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. It was exceedingly quiet, leading him to assume that there was no wildlife; however, he didn't write this down just yet because the assumption was so sweeping and based on a single bit of evidence that could have meant a slew of possibilities that it fell in line with his previous thought about the air. So instead, he just kept walking alongside the towering oaks (at least, he assumed they were oaks), going at a slower pace as he obviously wasn't in a rush for anything and he wanted to take in every experience and sensation so as to not miss any details.
He walked for several minutes. As expected, and much to his disdain, there was nothing to indicate where exactly he was and, more importantly, why he was there to begin with. And it was at this moment wherein his mind the thought manifested that he stopped; for lying upon the forest floor was the body of what the pale man perceived to be an unconscious woman. His own figure didn't drop the tension it had previously, since he wasn't sure what to expect. She could have been a local or wound up in the forest the same way he had. And with that thought, he wondered if it was dangerous to assume one or the other without confirming the disposition of the locals completely, assuming there were any.
He took the time to study the figure; she had a dark shade of blonde hair, was clad in brown, kempt leather armor, as well as various other articles to add to her attire, and at her waist was a dagger. He took a few steps closer, stopping for a few seconds before kneeling down. There was nothing more significant about the person. It was obvious she was human, as he was, but, curiously enough, much of her equipment appeared to be that of a different culture. If he had to guess, the dagger and some of her attire were elven.
As before, the man pulled out his notebook and was about to jot down the observation – but then he abruptly stopped. The woman's eyes had opened, just a crack, as if she was merely waking up from a deep slumber. The black clad man did not move, still holding his notebook aloft, watching in silence and with curiosity.
It didn't take long for the human girl to wake up completely, and when she did the sight of a pale, dark clothed man kneeling over her was the immediate subject of her attention. Much to his surprise, she did not immediately jump away or try and attack him; instead, she only stared at him with an unreadable expression, as if she was studying him herself. The man was, however, quite able to see that her hand had reached for the dagger at her side.
"Did you kidnap me?" she asked straightforwardly.
The single question was enough to confirm that this forest might not be her home, or at the very least, that she did not intend to wake up on the ground in the middle of a wooded area. The man's dry, dead pan expression did not change as he formulated his response as...
"...No." His voice was grating to the woman; it was hoarse and gravelly, but in an unappealing way. Responsively, she swallowed for him while waiting for him to elaborate.
It became obvious that he wasn't going to.
"...Okay..." was all she said, which she followed by gripping the dagger harder. "Then what am I doing here?"
"...I don't know. What was the last thing you remember?" the man asked, once again speaking in a voice that caused her to wince slightly. Her eyes then went to the notebook in his hands and lingered.
"You doing some sort of experiment?" she asked.
He too glanced to the book, but returned to her.
"...I'm not," he answered.
"Then what's going on? Why am I lying on the ground next to you?" the woman asked more firmly.
The man then pushed himself up and offered a hand. "...I was hoping you'd tell me."
She got up on her own after several seconds of hesitating, not understanding the situation; however, from his response, she quickly came to the conclusion that he most likely was not involved in her current predicament. Or at least, he hadn't orchestrated it... to her knowledge, anyway.
"Hoping?" she asked as she stood up and took a few steps away from him. "Are you saying you're lost too?"
A sigh escaped his lips.
"...I've been avoiding answering anything as I did not want to mislead your own experience," he answered monotonously. "What is the last thing you remember before waking up?"
She stared at him oddly, as his stiff demeanor was both awkward and strange. If he really did want answers, as much as she did anyway, he wasn't exactly selling himself. Regardless, his question was a valid one, especially since she found herself having to struggle to recall any memory.
"Um... I... don't really know..." she started, closing her eyes and gripping her forehead in frustration. "Argh, why can't I remember anything? I mean... pictures... something like... a dream, I think... yes, I remember having some sort of dream just before..."
"...What was the dream about?" he asked.
She opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it again, looking at him strangely.
"Hang on, are you telling me you didn't have a dream?"
"...I'm not confirming or denying anything yet until I have gleaned what I can from you," he answered robotically. As he spoke he jotted something down in his notebook. The woman scowled.
"You are experimenting on me."
"Then why are you asking me all these questions, expecting answers, and giving none?" she asked more irritably.
"...I explained this already."
"Then give me your name. That won't 'mislead' me, will it?" she asked sternly, crossing her arms.
"...I cannot do that."
The woman groaned.
"And why not?"
"...It relates to something I am unwilling to explain," he stated. "Even if I was, it is meaningless to you in every conceivable sense."
She finally threw her hands up into the air and turned around. "Fine. Get your answers somewhere else, then, since I'm going to do the same."
The man frowned.
She slowed down to a stop, but didn't turn back to face him. "What?"
"...I need your own name."
No answer came from her at first, but to his confusion the woman just began to laugh. "You're kidding. You won't tell me anything, including your name, but you expect me to tell you everything?"
"...I need it to record you as an instance within this land," he once again answered in the most straightforward yet bizarre fashion the woman had ever heard. Because of this, she turned her head to face him. Where originally she saw a cold, strict man prodding her with questions, her perspective turned into seeing him as just sort of a lost, incommunicable child that clearly had no idea how to exchange information properly. An amused, mischievous half grin spread across her face.
"Sakiya," she answered before continuing to walk.
The man quickly wrote this down in his notebook, and when he finished, he looked back up to her. His blank expression remained unchanged, as did his demeanor.
"...You can refer to me as a stranger, for now," he stated in a louder voice. Sakiya stopped for a second, but continued to walk afterwards.
Glossary - Day 1
- The Stranger / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Sakiya / Race: Human / Status: Active