Frey Alcott woke up in a crumbling, roman-esque auditorium. The chamber was bathed bright sepia by the gold daylight that seemed to flow into the thousand Arch-shaped windows carved into the dusty stone walls of the structure. A circular stage in the center of the room was elevated at least a meter off the sandy ground, and had a strange stone arch in the middle. The arch had large, runic characters chiseled into its craggy exterior.
Along with him was a dozen--no, a hundred people all sitting up from their slumber, each as dazed and flustered as him.
"Where am I?"
"The hell is going on?"
They used different words. Some even exclaimed in languages of countries other than England, but he knew that they all meant to ask the same question running in his head.
What's happening? How did he get there? Frey stared at the arch in front of him as those two questions chased each other inside his head. He tried to recall the most recent memory he had, but for some reason, he was hitting the bedrock of his brain.
A few breaths later, as if an answer to his questions, a rumbling sound like that of an earthquake rattled the air. The stone archway vibrated, its runes filling up with blue smoking light.
No one dared to move. Everyone, even Frey, could only stare in awe at the stone archway trembling more and more violently as the runes on its surface glow with colder intensity.
Finally, the trembling stops. The blue light of the runes flickered off. Everyone was still until one of the crowd, whom Frey took to be an African teen with crew-cut hair wearing green tees and jeans, pointed at the center of the archway.
"Hey, you guys seein' that?"
Frey focused on the archway center. At first he couldn't see anything, but in the blink of an eye, a blue orb of light was then floating at the center of the arch, growing larger by the second, until it was the size of a basketball. Frey was not one to believe in the occult, but the surreal phenomenon before him was oddly convincing.
Clamor began among the crowd. A girl approached Frey. She was a short Asian girl, a little over five feet, had silk white skin and wore a simple black minidress.
"Hey mister." she greeted.
"Do you know where this is?" Something about how calm the girl was unnerved him. Frey glanced around, and all he can see were wide eyes and frightened faces. Yet the girl before him betrayed none of their emotions. Not that he was a psychologist, though nonetheless he found the girl weird. Abnormal.
"No, I'm afraid we're all on the same boat here." he answered with the same calmness in his voice, albeit a little bit forced. Just as he said that, the girl sighed in apparent disappointment.
"Why?" he asked. The girl, he guessed, must be in her late teens, although her face might suggest she be a high school student.
"… *Iya*, it's nothing. It's just that you were a little bit more collected than everyone else so I thought you'd know something. I was watching." she smiled like a sweet, innocent child, a contrast to the maturity she exuded at first.
Yes, weird. He smiled an uneasy smile. He averted his gaze from her, focusing on the blue orb hovering a good 4 feet off the stage floor. "You're calm yourself. How do you manage that?"
Strings of light inside the blue orb swirled slow, spiraling ever inward and gathering at the core. Unreal. Mesmerizing. Until it exploded in a blinding flash of white that would've burned his eyes had he shielded them a second later.
Yelps from everyone around him bounced across the auditorium walls, reiterating with the echoes the shock felt by them.
As the light faded, along with everyone's surprise, Frey slowly opened his eyes. The girl did the same and, as soon as she was aware, pointed forward. "There!" she said, and Frey's eyes followed her finger. A figure stood under the arch, where the blue orb had been.
"Twenty Earth years, has it been? Quite long, I must say." The figure said in leisure. It was a tall woman with long, platinum grey hair, wearing a black magnificent ball gown inlaid with blood-red frills. She was pretty beyond any woman Frey had ever seen, but one thing he found creepy was the teasing smile the woman put on when her gaze met his. Did she know him, by chance? Impossible.
The girl beside him stared intently at the woman who came out of the arch, though nonetheless noticed his gaze. "The name's Airi Ohara, by the way." the girl said without looking at him.
"Oh. Frey Alcott. Nice to meet you-"
"Don't speak too soon." the girl cuts him off cold. Before he could say anything else, the girl ran up to the stage side, perhaps to get a better view of the gowned woman who was then the center of everyone's attention.
"Good day, players." The woman's melodious voice echoed as if through a megaphone. "I am Victorina of Eideleir, and where you are now is one of the great halls of Deira, The Hall of the Lost. Or, put in human tongue, Purgatory."
The people clamored at the familiar word, but Frey, was still stuck on the woman's first few words.
"Good day, players." What did she mean by that? What players? He was getting irritated by the woman's cheerful voice, but more so by the fact that he knew nothing of what is happening. He hated change. He hated not having plans. This situation was his nightmare.
The woman went on. "Before I start with the explanations, I believe it is my obligation to tell you all something of utmost importance.
"Each one of you, is already dead."
The hall went grave silent. Frey's body was like an intricate sculpture of ice--unmoving and cold. He stared at the gowned woman with dead eyes, and when her golden glance met his gaze, his vision went black.