Apart from movies, Aidan had never seen a single ghost before. And previously he had thought that it would stay this way for the rest of his life. Aidan was a die-hard materialist after all. But as he saw the spirits of warriors come out of the weird arch, he realized he would have to rethink his previous convictions.
The scariest part about the spirits were their macabre faces with distorted features that looked human and inhuman at the same time. They were a literal embodiment of hate and vengeance.
The Prince had mentioned to him that a big battle happened at this place a long time ago, and Aidan now wondered what made this battle so gruesome and what were these people even fighting for. Most importantly – was it worth it in the end?
As spirits passed through the arch, they would directly advance towards the Prince who was kneeling on the ground. After Aidan saw them slashing away at the poor guy as if he was a Thanksgiving turkey, his first instinct was to drag the Prince away from these crazy homicidal ghosts. But he remembered that the guy had specifically asked him not to interrupt the process no matter what happened.
Well, if the blue-eyed fiend insisted to be stabbed and sliced over and over again as a type of some kind of spiritual practice, who was Aidan to deny him that pleasure?
He had no other choice but to wait when this torturous spectacle would finally be over. And even after the Prince was almost completely covered in bloody wounds, oozing black smoke, Aidan patiently waited.
Until he heard the young man scream his soul out. At that moment Aidan felt his heart almost break into pieces. This was a cry of a person who was in the final throws of agony - and this poor man was about to die a horrible painful death right in front of his eyes. Aidan panicked, not sure what to do anymore, and this was when his body was suddenly taken over by Adnan Minn as if he was in the middle of a battle. Aidan obviously had no idea how to fight or defend somebody against sadistic ghosts, yet General Minn knew in his bones that his body could absorb the pain and protect the young man without harming his spiritual powers. As if in trance, Aidan walked towards the kneeling Prince, whispering to himself like he was possessed:
“Sunshine, hold on. Just hold on a bit. I'm coming.”
Then, without any hesitation or fear Aidan managed to put his hand on Prince's shoulder. This feeling seemed familiar, as if he had done this numerous times before. He felt the horrible agony enter his body and run through his veins like burning poison. But it seemed that Minn's body was able to absorb this poison and in matter of seconds remove it completely out of his system.
Aidan saw the Prince relax, and his screams soon ceased, so he pressed his hand down even harder. It didn't seem to slow the ghosts down in the least – they kept on coming and slashing without a care in the world. But while they did it, Aidan kept taking in every little bit of the pain. The Prince's breathing got more steady, yet he still whimpered a couple of times, his face wet with tears and sweat.
Aidan tried to calm him down:
“Hush, I'm here. It's almost over."
In all honesty he had no idea, if it was almost over and whether it would ever be over for that matter. All he knew was that he would be standing here and taking in as much pain as was required for this young man to be able to survive this trial.
By the time the stream of ghosts finally fizzled out, it was already nighttime. Aidan slowly took his hand away, and instantly felt like throwing up. He walked away from the Prince, his feet unsteady, and retched behind the nearby bushes. When he crawled out, he saw the Prince lying helplessly on the ground. Aidan came up to him and realized that there was a smile on his face.
“It was bad,” the Prince said. “But it's better now.”
“Yes,” Aidan managed a nod.
“You won't leave me?” the Prince suddenly grabbed Aidan by the sleeve.
“I won't,” Aidan sighed, as he carefully freed himself from the tight grasp.
The Prince heaved out a sigh of relief and closed his eyes.
“Hey, Your Highness,” Aidan panicked. “Get up! No sleeping, we need to get the hell out of here.”
But the Prince didn't react to any of Aidan's desperate attempts to wake him.
Great. Now Aidan had to figure out how to transport the royal body away from this cursed place. Because he for sure wasn't going to stay here any longer.
In the end Aidan picked the guy up and put him over his horse like a bag of rice. Riding like that was not extremely comfortable, yet it was preferable to carrying the Prince all the way back to the village. Adnan Minn's body with its superior strength and stamina could probably handle it but Aidan didn't want to waste any time. The Prince was pale, and his pulse was weak – it would make sense to let him recuperate a couple of days. Aidan himself needed a good sleep. And maybe just a sip of that pseudo-rum.
They reached the village just as the sun was getting up – lucky Prince slept through the whole ride, while Aidan was desperately trying to keep himself awake by singing pop songs. If he was driving a car in such condition, he would have definitely caused an accident.
As he rode into the village, Aidan was surprised to see the completely empty streets. He was sure that at least some people would already be out and about at such an hour. But maybe this was a party village and they were all night owls here?
He decided to knock at the brothel door and ask, where they could get some food and maybe shelter for a couple of days. The girls there were really friendly, and he was convinced they wouldn't mind pointing him in the right direction.
Aidan got off the horse, making sure that the Prince didn't fall off and then made his way towards the familiar building. Strangely, nobody answered his knock. He tried again but to no avail. Aidan shrugged and pushed the door.
“I'm sorry for bothering you at such an early hour,” he said, as he entered.
Nobody responded, and as soon as Aidan took a look around, he immediately understood why.
A rope was thrown over the ceiling beam, and there was a line of motionless bodies hanging from it. All already cold - the madam, the girls from yesterday and also a couple of men.
Aidan covered his nose and mouth and left the house. For a while he just stood there, taking deep breaths and trying to process what he had just witnessed. Horrible suspicion rising, Aidan knocked at the tavern nearby.
He went inside and was yet again greeted by numerous hanging corpses.
Whatever happened here, for some reason Aidan was almost sure that there was magic involved. He was no expert but he was willing to bet that the whole village wouldn't suddenly decide to commit mass suicide just out of nowhere. Unless they were all in some kind of doomsday cult. But Aidan doubted that.
If he remembered correctly, the next village was within a day's ride. Aidan knew, he wouldn't be able to make that journey now, neither would the Prince. They had to stay here at least for a bit, however grim it seemed.
Aidan went inside the brothel again, trying not to look at the swaying bodies, and climbed up the stairs to the room where he and the Prince had stayed previously. Thankfully, it was corpse-free.
Aidan brought the Prince inside and placed him carefully on the bed. This was when he realized that the guy was burning up. Aidan sighed and decided to go scavenge around for some fresh water, food, and towels.
The same horrid scene greeted him at every single house he went to.
After a couple hours he had everything he thought he might need, so he returned to the room, where the Prince was sleeping. Aidan put a cold compress on his head and tucked him under several blankets. Luckily the wounds the guy got from the ghosts had already miraculously healed up, so at least there was no need for an antiseptic.
Oh what would Aidan give now for some over-the-counter fever medication! He truly didn't appreciate the comforts of modern life enough, when he had the chance!
Aidan looked at the Prince, peacefully breathing and thought about going to another room to sleep but... he just couldn't bear leaving the poor young man alone with his fever. What if he needed something? What if his condition became worse? So Aidan settled in on the floor, covering himself with one of the blankets he found lying around.
It wasn't very comfortable but as soon as he closed his eyes, he fell asleep immediately.
Suddenly Aidan was nine years old again, sitting under the kitchen sink and hoping his father would forget about his existence just this once. Unfortunately, he wasn't so lucky - only a couple minutes later he was forcefully pulled out from underneath the sink.
“You useless piece of shit,” his father shouted into his ear and dragged him out of the house.
It was snowing that day, and Aidan only had a T-shirt on. He tried to get up but he was suddenly so dizzy, and his eyes couldn't focus – it seemed, when he fell, his head hit a rock. Aidan curled up, trying to keep himself as warm as possible, while the snowflakes continued falling onto his face.
“I'm sorry, are you cold?” a voice whispered into his ear. Aidan turned towards it and saw the Prince standing over him.
He wasn't in his backyard anymore. It was rather a very unfamiliar place. Aidan tried to move but soon realized that he was completely incapacitated. His arms and legs were chained to the wall, and every single movement he made brought stabbing pain with it. The more he struggled, the more his wrists and ankles bled.
“Where am I?” he shouted, and thankfully the sound of his voice woke him up from his nightmare.
Aidan wiped the cold sweat off his forehead - he was still in the village brothel, he was still in Adnan Minn's body. And the Prince was peacefully sleeping on the bed beside him.
But something felt off.
The pain from the horrible dream still lingered.
Aidan furrowed his brow and carefully rolled up his sleeves. He almost wasn't surprised when he saw the scars on his wrists. And they were exactly the same ones that Aidan used to have on his own original body.
“I guess, I can never get completely rid of those,” Aidan thought to himself. He had no idea why the scars would reappear but he didn't have time to think about it. He winced through the pain and slowly got up. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep anymore.
Aidan changed Kai's compress, poured some water into his mouth and was about to go downstairs to take care of the bodies. Whatever happened here, these people deserved to be buried with dignity.
“Where are you going?” he heard a weak voice behind him.
The Prince was awake.
“I need to do something. You rest for a bit longer, then we'll talk, Your Highness,” Aidan responded calmly. There was no need to shock the poor guy right off the bat.
To his great surprise, the Prince suddenly started crying.
“I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,” he sobbed. “I deserved all that pain. And much more. You didn't have to... take it on. That's not why I brought you here. Please, believe me!”
Aidan had nothing to say to that, so he just kept standing there quietly, feeling numb, as he watched the Prince fall apart.