He was back in Purgatory. Or Hall of the Lost, as that Victorina had called it. Unlike the first time, no other Player was around except him.
The hall was dim, but not pitch black. Purple night seeped from outside through the thousand arch windows carved out of the yellow ancient walls of the chamber.
Victorina was, as before, under the stone arch in the center of the stage. She sat on a chair before a porcelain-white round table, sipping on a quaint teacup in one hand, holding a saucer in the other. He found her motions hypnotically fluid and graceful, down to the way she tipped her teacup further up as she emptied her drink.
When she noticed Frey from the corner of her eye, she brought down the tea cup and its saucer on the round table before her.
"I didn't realize I have a visitor. How are you?" her voice echoed throughout the empty chamber, as melodious and charming as he heard it the first time.
"I'm not a visitor." he replied, trying his hardest not to swoon over at the woman's spell-like voice. "I don't even know why I'm back here. Did I die again?" he answered, with none of the pleasantries he couldn't afford to indulge in.
"Hmmm..." she put a finger up her chin. "No you didn't. You are merely... sleeping, for the moment.
"That aside, come have a seat." Victorina ushered him to the seat across from her. Frey took the stairs up the stage, walked up to the archway and sat opposite to Victorina.
"So you can watch us without actually being there, eh? Why am I not surprised?" said Frey as he settled on the cold, white-coated metal chair.
"Frey Alcott, is it?" Victorina flashed him a seducing smile. "I am a goddess. I can see what every Player is doing. Can see what every living thing on Eideleir, is doing."
"Right." he looked around the chamber nervously, gathering his thoughts for a moment. He didn't like the place, for some reason, and he was convinced it had to do with more than just petty dislike. It was more of an instinct, that if he stayed for too long in the Purgatory, something would happen to him, or to his soul. Maybe the air feeds on his energy, as his shoulders began to slouch, and as the silence went on between him and the goddess he felt his teeth and tongue loosen.
"I was... I was attacked by a monster." he uttered, breaking the silence of the hall. He remembered what he went through in that back alley. How the thing laughed as it chased him to his death. No, it didn't even need to chase him. It was just toying with him, made him think he could run.
"Yes, a Goblin Hound, wasn't it?" Victorina sipped on her tea cup. "You've done well killing something so ferocious. Did you know, that villages send out ten men just to hunt one?"
"No, I'm not talking about that hound." he shook his head.
"Eh?" mild surprise shone on Victorina's golden eyes.
"I was attacked by a monster. On Earth." Frey continued. "It looked like an octopus, but big, and it had a lot of eyes and it could mimic people's voices. I know, I fell victim to it." his eyes were swimming around as he said this, looking at the ornate teapot on the table one second, noting the poppies and bougainvillea painted across its porcelain surface, before his attention slipped to the teacup Victorina was consoling the next moment. It was akin to getting drunk, not that he'd drank himself silly before, he just assumed that was how it felt. "I assumed you knew, because you were the one who brought us here."
"No," she shrugged. "It is my first time hearing it."
"But I thought you were a goddess?" he raised a brow, or thought he had, since his eyes were half-closing then and he was less aware of what was happening.
"Aren't you a rude little thing?" Victorina snorted. "I'm a goddess of Eideleir, not of Earth. Although it is theoretically possible for a monster to cross worlds, this is my first time hearing a case of an earthling getting attacked by one.
"I mean, it's one thing if a monster managed to cross worlds, but whether it can stay alive on Earth long--given that Earth is a magically-dry world--is another thing in of itself. Monsters, unlike beings with soul, need to suck up magic power constantly to maintain its form. I guess I don't need to explain to you what happens when they don't get enough magic to feed on?"
"So, you're saying," Frey shook his head awake. "the monster should've died of starvation before it could even attack someone?"
"It shouldn't have been able to even take form, in the first place. Or it could have, but it'd look more like a moving black sludge, than anything like a monster." she sighed. "But then again, we're running on the assumption that it really WAS a monster."
Frey tilted his head. "You mean it wasn't?"
"I'm not saying absolutely. I'm just stating the possibility that it might not have been a monster." Victorina's expression changed from factual to one that hinted playfulness. "All these things aside, aren't you playing my game right now? I love my players, but I see them no more than pets. I believe you're being... too hasty, with your advances towards me. I am a goddess, you'll find me not so easy to court."
"... Courting?" his brain barely functioned.
"Was that not your motive for visiting a woman so late at night, in the first place?"
"I'm not here... for a night raid. I don't even know, why I'm here. There's so many things I don't know." Victorina heaved a sigh of disappointment, her chest rising and falling as she breathed. In an effort to keep himself awake Frey's gaze darted across the hall looking for something, anything, to focus on, not that he found himself momentarily focused on her chest, no. "Well, I am pleased to have made your acquaintance, Frey Alcott," she put down her teacup on its saucer and rested it on the table. "but I'm afraid, Purgatory isn't a friendly place for your physically-bound soul. Look, if you sleep here, you might never wake up again, you know?"
"That, would probably be bad." he agreed. He rose from his seat with the grace of a drunkard. "I should go... I hate this place. Where's the door?"
"There's no door here. Only me." Victorina ended their conversation with a mutter and a last seductive smile, then snapped her fingers.
The corners of Frey's vision wriggled. The space around him warped and skewed, Victorina's face liquefying into a mix of colors of silver and peach and gold and he closed his eyes, let the transition between worlds, between dream and reality, pass him by.
When he opened his eyes, he was laying alone in a small, dim-lit room. The dream had broken into incomprehensible fragments in his head. The ceiling was made of woven layers of dried grass, and the walls were made of thin wooden logs. There was no lighting except from the rays of golden sunlight peeking from the tiny spaces between the logs of the wall.
He laid on a single sheet of cloth. Hardly comfortable, but it was enough. And no pillows. He was no longer in his shirt and pants. Instead, a loose white robe wrapped his body. What was this kind of robe called again? Kimono? His dirty shirt and slacks lay in a heap on one corner of the room.
Rough bandages covered his arm from the elbow down. He could still feel it throb with pain, but he was safe from blood loss.
He lifted his body up. With only his uninjured arm as support, he found it quite the struggle. His torso still ached all over, he wouldn't be surprised if, under the robe, his body was peppered with bruises. The goblin hound wasn't exactly light. Getting mounted by it was like getting run over by a scooter.
He looked around the room, and couldn't help but feel no one was living in it before him. Apart from the sheet of white cloth under him, nothing in the room suggested that someone used to live here, which made him wonder who could've helped him. Or what, and was he really helped.
Just as he thought that, the sword mark on the back of his right hand, which existence he had completely forgotten until now, flashed bright. It lit bluish-green as though his skin was injected with neon lights, and it was bright enough to paint the wooden walls of the room with its intensity.
He shuffled to his feet and readied his arm guard. He thought back to his fight with the goblin hound, the blade deployed right when he punched the monster.
He look down at the arm guard, then at the flimsy door. He could feel it--footsteps, the breathing of the enemy. As if the mark on his right hand was feeding him information on the threat, whatever it was. He balled his right hand to a fist, and tore the air in front of him with a punch. Within the arm guard was a click, and out of it sprung a blade about one and a half feet long. Sleek and sharp, the silver blade had a double-edged body that tapered slightly until the tip. The blue gem of the arm guard glowed to life, eager for battle.
His mark glowed brighter and brighter, as the detected enemy approached. It took leisurely steps, until it stopped in front of the door. Frey crept toward the door, careful not to make any sound when...
"Oh good, you're awake." the deep voice of a man--his enemy, rung from beyond the wooden door. "Hey can you uhh, open this door? My hands are full."
"Who are you?" Frey shouted.
"Me? Just an old man who found an injured boy deep in the forest sleeping with a goblin hound." the man said with not a hint of seriousness.
Frey went still, then, torn between opening the door and not. The man outside protested.
"Hey, you gonna open the door or what? Actually, this is my house, you know? I would hate to kick down my door."
His mark only glowed brighter, as if telling him not to open the door. He grabbed the door's steel ring. If the man really was an enemy, then he should've just left Frey to die in the forest. He relaxed from his stance. The blade withdrew. He pulled open the door and warm air and daylight poured into the room, and the man, carrying two large bags on both hands, passed by Frey as he entered.
"Man, it's a hundred degrees outside." the man said as he put down his bags on one corner of the room. He was tall and huge, head nearly touching the ceiling. Mid-40s, dark-skinned, wearing white kimono perfectly identical to the one he wore. A katana hung on his waist and, like Frey, the back of the man's right hand glowed strong bluish-green.
"You, you're a Player." Frey uttered in disbelief.
The man, without turning to face him, spoke.
"So, what if I am?"
"The game, is to eliminate other Players, isn't it? Why didn't you kill me?" Frey said.
"Y'know, I really hate it when people talk about killing like it's a damn sport." The man turned. His eyes were ice-blue sharp, betraying his laid-back facade. Frey was never an easy one to scare, but the glare of the man made his hair stand on ends.
"And besides," the man continued, his expression slacking for a bit. "you don't belong in my generation. What would I get by doing that?"