“An outfit…” Aiv’s bared teeth transitioned more fully into a smile. “Not everyone has a set of clothes that becomes part of their soul, Goddess.”
After all, though there was the sense that his nudity was something that should be swiftly rectified, there was also a sense that told the white-haired youth that there was nothing in particular to be embarrassed about. Humans were born naked, after all, and clothing served more for comfort and protection than anything else. Strange, the thoughts that boiled in his mind now, as the goddess placed her claws against his neck. Once again, Aiv forced his gaze to remain level, burning in every detail of her eyes into his mind, trying to see through her pupils into the divine mind-vessel. His heartbeat, something so alien and nostalgic, drummed into his ears, but…that was all.
She pulled her arm away, dust spilling between her hands, before a white robe settled over his body. White. A bad color for individuals who would be stained in blood sooner or later. Black would have been preferable. A black, coarse material, as opposed to this almost weightless garment.
Nevertheless, Aiv nodded. “You have my gratitude, Nera. I find it a shame as well, that you would find it necessary to hide your own beautiful body. We wisps may be more inclined towards exhibitionism if our patron were to lead by example.”
Whatever response such an audacious statement may have garnered though was torn away by the aggression of one wisp that had stayed quiet the entire time. Aiv blinked at the exchange, for once bearing witness to the cold anger that Nera held within. Not the façade of a foul monster, but a more…human anger. Dark emotions and vicious words, instead of merely obliteration. Green eyes slid over to the blot of blood on the floor.
“So that’s the threshold,” he muttered, before vaguely listening to the cumbersome explanations of what had just occurred. A Stigma that served as an anchor to this dreamland, a conduit for their souls. Timed to those words, Aiv saw it within himself once more, a scar forming over the purity, a creamy yellow. Was that his soul then? A speck of color on a blank canvas? What sort of painting would be made as he recalled more of himself? The white haired youth shook his head, casting aside such philosophical thoughts. Their mission, his mission, had to be prioritized now, and his emerald eyes widened as Nera performed her sword dance, all grace and music, a gentle cadence that picked up. Others were captivated, engrossed by the display, but his own eyes burned the basic motions into his brain. For all the fragments of memories in his mind, nothing told him how to fight, so a dance would have to be the foundation.
Her feet slid against the ground, silent despite how they should have rasped against the stone floor. The edge of the blade remained aligned to the direction of her swing, even as the silver sword curved. Her shoulders remained lax despite her swift movements, and a noticeable amount of control was evident with every movement.
Even when the sword flew out of her grasp, flying right towards him, Aiv felt no danger at all. If he died, the Goddess had wasted her eternity. If he lived, it was obviously just another part of the performance. And so, it was.
The silvered shard pierced into his body, into the lump of black that resided within him.
And, for an instant, Aiv became a wisp once more, even the imprints of his past life stripped away as a transient eternity passed, the shard pushing out of his core as it took a taste of his sins.
He placed a calloused hand against his chest, before taking a long, deep breath. Steeling the resolve. Ascertaining the contents’ wholeness. The names still escaped him, and no new images came up. Status quo was maintained, even after the essence of the Goddess did its survey of his sins. Even without seeing it, Aiv felt tendrils lick his back, his neck, black slime pulling itself towards him. His green eyes darted around to the others. A massive claymore. A great bow. All archaic weapons. Recognizable.
It wouldn’t be that bad.
So he turned, and was greeted with a squirming, black mass that stood taller than himself. Too short for a polearm, too thick for a staff. Too dull for a blade, too evenly-balanced for a mace. Just a…cylinder. Dark vapours coiled around his right arm, sinking into his skin, anchoring itself to the blood in his veins. A lifelong companion now, this cumbersome pillar of corruption.
“What a shitty partner,” Aiv smiled, right as the segmented blades of Isabelle’s weapon flew into the side of the black pillar.
He blinked. Narrowed his eyes. And then couldn’t help but laugh as the ditzy red-haired psychobitch fell into the abyss, soon followed by the scarred one with the strange eye. Horrifying screams followed both as the Dreamreaper finished her explanation on the dimensions they’d be traversing through. A nightmare realm, filling with horrible figments of a dead world’s imagination, serving both as guardians and as monsters to the realm of the Goddess of Dreams.
“Well,” he said, with a nod, “Next time I visit, let’s play, Nera.”
More plunged into the abyss, and Aiv soon strode down the staircase as well. The maw of the abyss, the possibility of death, the knowledge of plunging into nightmare-tar, none of those thoughts held him back as he walked in. No, ultimately, there was only one.
Yup. Definitely felt like human sacrifice.
God, what a horrible sensation.
Aiv’s eyes snapped open, seething with a hatred and disgust that dissipated as they took in the new surroundings around him. He clenched his fists, worked his jaw, and jumped up on his feet, white robes stained by the slime. The once comfortable fabric now clung to his skin, but he was happy enough just to be able to move once more. A fear so great that it suppressed his movements was acceptable, but being unable to move due to some strange law upon the reality that he had been shoved into? Now that was absolutely irredeemable. Others around him were coming to, but what stood out to him the most was the man-sized cylinder that continued to follow him like a shadow. One step to the side caused it to soundlessly shift. So it would move in accordance to his own even if he didn’t carry it, huh?
Convenient. Much more so than what he had in the…
Another half-thought formed and disappeared. Another irritated click of his tongue.
Turning his attention to the dilapidated mirror of Nera’s own realm, Aiv found no old bones in the dimly lit room. Her worshippers, it appeared, were either eaten whole or fully converted into monsters by the world’s sickness. Fair enough. Eyes closed, his ears failed to pick anything up in the distance as well, no whimpers of agony or hisses of hatred trailing from the broken down passageways that were before them. And the stench of mold and decay masked any blood that could have guided in by a stagnant wind.
So it’d be walking after all. Two lights from two passageways, while the others remained unilluminated. And yet, there was a shadow there, obscuring one with her slim frame.
Walking up behind the fanged woman, Aiv peeked past her from the side, before saying, “For someone so eager to explore, you’re strangely cautious.”
A pause, and then a grin.
“Got second thoughts after diving down the hellhole, kid?”